Read & React: NBC Launches Investigation into Online Gun Sales
February 09, 2012
If you happened to tune into NBC's Today with Matt Lauer this morning you probably saw what the Peacock is calling "an undercover investigation" into gun sales online. The segment above, which was aired to promote investigative correspondent Jeff Rossen's new show "Rossen Reports," was deemed to have exposed how simple it is for criminals and even terrorists to purchase deadly weapons in public places with no questions asked.
Rossen recruited Steve Barborini, a former supervisor for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and went undercover to bust what are legal gun sales between private citizens.
The undercover buyer, using a hidden camera to record the deal, makes references to being wary of a background check in efforts to make the seller seem negligent. Then Rossen does his best "To Catch a Predator" routine as he storms into the picture to confront these online salesmen.
It certainly makes for some compelling TV.
After presenting his case for the existence of this powerful and dangerous loophole, Rossen turns to Senator Charles E. Schumer for an explanation on just how explosive the compiled evidence will be when made public.
Schumer was joined by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly earlier this year in introducing legislation that would provide greater reporting to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) for individuals with mental illness, domestic violence records, and drug abusers, by increasing the penalties for states that fail to adequately turn over records for those who are prohibited from owning a gun.
The bill, S. 436 , would also require that all gun sales, including those by private sellers, be subject to a background check, effectively ending the gun show loophole.
The bill, which has stalled in Congress since its inception, is covered during the tail-end of the piece in the interview with Schumer and seemingly presented as a way to prevent what NBC calls "a bazaar for criminals."
"The NRA is one of the most powerful lobbies in Washington, and despite the overwhelming evidence that we should do something, the odds of us being able to do something are not high," Schumer said.
While Schumer and Bloomberg claim to support Second Amendment rights in their fight to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, the NRA's opposition to their the bill and the pair's organization Mayors Against Illegal Guns has been consistent.
The NRA claims Schumer's bill "dispels any doubt about the goal gun control supporters have had in mind ever since they began harping about 'closing the gun show loophole' more than a decade ago."
In the report, NBC's Rossen makes a number of slanted statements that shed light on the motivation behind the investigation and the network's support of S. 436.
Rossen says in his dulcetly-toned voice over that "34 people are murdered every day in gun violence, with many of the weapons traced back to private sales" while evoking the story of a woman murdered by a stalker with a gun purchased online. NBC's version of hard evidence.
Jitka Vesel was killed by a Canadian man who crossed into the U.S. and purchased a firearm online that he then used to commit the murder. The man would not have passed a background check at any gun store in the U.S.
In the segment's final hoorah, one saddened relative goes so far as to suggest that had there been tougher legislation on online gun sales, Vesel would be alive today.
Where do you fall in this debate'¦with the NRA or Sen. Schumer? Did NBC go too far in sensationalizing this story?