A major loophole in NYS gun lawsEyewitness News Exclusive
(New York - WABC, Oct. 18, 2007) - An Eyewitness News undercover investigation reveals just how easy it is, and perfectly legal, for anyone to get their hands on a deadly firearm -- no background check needed, no drivers license even needs to be shown.
The Investigators Jim Hoffer has more on this exclusive story.
New York state has some of the toughest gun laws in the nation. But after the gun scare at St. John's University in Queens, we decided to take a closer look at the law as it applies to a specific type of rifle -- one that panicked a campus and nearly killed a state police trooper.
Hoffer: "You get a whole kit? .. do you sell a lot of these?
Gun clerk: "Yes"
In the time that it takes to purchase a pair of socks, one can buy a deadly rifle.
Eyewitness News went undercover at Dicks Sporting Goods store in Upstate New York and with less information than is needed to borrow a library book, we bought a 50-caliber black powder hunting rifle. We just counted out the cash, about $200 and walked away with a brand new, highly powerful weapon.
So, 10 minutes inside this store, I was able to get a gun identical to the one the St. John's student had. I got this with no questions asked, no background check, no identification needed -- all perfectly legal. Let's make no mistake, this isn't a toy, it's a very lethal weapon.
A weapon's expert with the Harrison police department demonstrated for us its power.
Sgt. Michael Olsey: "Highly accurate, really very powerful able to take down large North American game.
Hoffer: "Even a bear?
Sgt. Olsey: "Bear, grizzly, black bear ... you name it."
"I didn't really see him, all I saw was the barrel of a gun and he shot me," said state trooper Amanda Reif.
State police trooper Amanda Reif has felt the power of the black powder rifle when she was shot by one last summer while responding to a domestic call.
"This one hit my vest and it mushroomed, it was the first shot. The second shot just hit a little higher," she said.
She has battled back from near death spending hours each week in rehab. The gunman whom she was able to shoot and kill was a convicted rapist -- a felon who obtained the rifle because of a gaping loophole in New York state's gun laws.
That is, blackpowder firearms are considered "antiques" because they are muzzle loaded. State and federal gun laws do not include antique firearms, so they are exempt from any permits or background checks.
"I'm not anti-gun by any means, I grew up with weapons and I believe everyone should be able to carry one if they're legal to possess one but you shouldn't be able to have ready access to them like that," Reif said.
Just a few weeks ago, a St. John's student with a history of psychological problems had ready access to a black powder rifle, buying one with no questions asked and then creating a panic when he walked onto campus with the gun loaded.
But to expose the enormity of this loophole, The Investigators purchased another black powder rifle, this time on the Internet. In just four days, it was delivered directly to my house all for under $200 dollars.
"Any convicted felon can just walk into a store, purchase this weapon and be on the street in 10 minutes ready to ... kill," Olsey said.
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly is not happy about the antique gun loophole. He says it should be done away with immediately.
We have a call into the governor's office to see what can be done about it.
If you have a tip about this or any other investigative story, give our tip-line a call at 877-TIP-NEWS.