(NEW YORK) -- More than six in 10 private gun sellers agreed to sell a firearm to a buyer who said he probably couldn't pass a background check, according to a report released Wednesday by New York City officials as part of an undercover investigation.
"Our investigation indicates illegal online sales are a problem that's national in scope," said Mayor Michael Bloomberg at a press conference Wednesday.
Federal law prohibits felons, domestic abusers, drug addicts, and the mentally ill from buying firearms, and federally-licensed firearms dealers are required to conduct background checks and keep paperwork on their buyers. But unlicensed private sellers -- who account for about 40 percent of U.S. gun sales -- do not have to conduct background checks on their buyers. They are prohibited, however, from selling firearms to someone they know to be a prohibited purchaser.
These private sellers have found a safe place to conduct their business in the online market, where sellers' identities are not required and transactions are often not recorded, according to the report.
In the last 15 years, a large percentage of firearms sales in the U.S. have moved online, through sites like GunBroker.com, which reported about $1 billion in sales in 2009 -- up from about $12 million in 2000. The site has over 1.8 million registered users. Many sales on sites like GunBroker.com are, "largely unregulated and undocumented," according to the report, making it difficult to calculate the exact number of online gun sales.
But investigators are certain the online market is vast. This year, on 10 websites alone, investigators found more than 25,000 guns for sale, according to the report.
The report, called "Point, Click, Fire: An Investigation of Illegal Online Gun Sales," documents the findings of city investigators who tried to determine whether unlicensed private sellers advertising firearms online refuse to sell to buyers who could not pass a background check.
Members of the 15-person investigative team posed as illegal purchasers, asking sellers to meet in person to exchange guns for cash. Investigators recorded telephone calls with the sellers, and used concealed cameras to videotape their in-person interactions where guns were exchanged for cash.
Investigators looked at 125 online private sellers in 14 states who advertised on 10 websites, and 77 agreed to sell a gun to a buyer who could not pass a background check.
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