CNN's Chernoff Fails to Find Pro-Gun Voices for 'Gun Show Loophole' Report

Allan Chernoff, CNN Correspondent | NewsBusters.orgCNN correspondent Allan Chernoff highlighted New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s hidden camera operation against gun shows in several states on Thursday’s American Morning, but omitted any sound bites from gun rights supporters. Chernoff featured two clips from Bloomberg and one from NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly, but only read an excerpt from a statement by the NRA.

Anchors Kiran Chetry and John Roberts introduced the correspondent’s report, which ran 11 minutes into the 6 am Eastern hour. Chetry summarized that the mayor’s “undercover sting operation in three states appears to catch gun show dealers selling weapons to buyers who admit that they could not pass a background check.” Roberts continued that Bloomberg claims that “this so-called gun show loophole is making it easier for criminals to get their hands on weapons.”

The CNN business correspondent began with the aim of the “sting operation” at the gun shows: “What the city is trying to do here is to get Congress to make it tougher for private dealers to sell guns illegally.” After running a clip of the footage taken at one of the gun shows, Chernoff read his own summary of what Bloomberg’s operation apparently found: “It’s illegal to sell a gun knowing the buyer may not pass a background check. But on hidden camera, gun shows in Ohio, Nevada and Tennessee- it happened 19 out of 30 times. The undercover buyers were hired by New York City.”

Chernoff played his first clip from the New York City mayor, and noted how “firearms dealers are regulated. But at gun shows, people who make what the law calls ‘occasional sales’ from their collections can sell without a license. And sometimes, as the investigation illustrates, they ignore the law.”

The correspondent then played his second clip from Bloomberg, followed by the excerpt from the NRA statement: “Mayor Bloomberg has long called for a crackdown on illegal gun sales. The National Rifle Association, though, says the mayor, who is running for re-election, should be helping enforce existing laws, rather than holding news conferences. ‘Bloomberg’s priorities are clearly media first,’ said the NRA.” The sole clip from Commissioner Kelly came near the end of the report.

After Chernoff pointed out how “Congress has had bills to address this issue for over a decade, but that legislation has gotten nowhere,” Roberts asked the correspondent, “It’s really fascinating what the mayor set up here. It’s something that...an investigative journalism show would typically do- you know, hidden cameras out at gun shows. Can you really do this?” Chernoff first recounted how the New York City mayor did something similar three years ago, which led to civil lawsuits against some of the gun dealers, but continued by spouting Bloomberg’s pro-gun control talking points: “The mayor is saying- look, this is our business because people bring those illegal guns to New York City and can use them- just trying to make the streets safer.”

What both Chernoff nor Bloomberg fail to point out is how a very small percentage of guns used by criminals come from gun shows. The NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action cited a 2001 study from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, based on interviews with 18,000 prisoners, which found that “fewer than 1% of U.S ‘crime guns’ came from gun shows.” The NRA-ILA also quoted a 2006 FBI study of criminals who used firearms against law enforcement officers: “None of the [attackers’] rifles, shotguns, or handguns...were obtained from gun shows or related activities.” More recently, a joint study by the University of Michigan and the University of Maryland (which was not cited by the NRA above) found “no evidence that gun shows lead to substantial increases in either gun-related homicides or suicides.” Those details don’t seem to deter gun control advocates and their sympathizers in the mainstream media from pushing further restrictions on gun rights.

The full transcript of Allan Chernoff’s report from Thursday’s American Morning:

KIRAN CHETRY: A undercover sting operation in three states appears to catch gun show dealers selling weapons to buyers who admit that they could not pass a background check.

ROBERTS: It was commissioned by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who says this so-called gun show loophole is making it easier for criminals to get their hands on weapons. The city has got no legal authority over the dealers, but a copy of that report is being sent to every member of Congress.

Our Allan Chernoff is following the story- and so, it looks like Mayor Bloomberg was out to prove something here- not necessarily clamp down on the law, but just wake people up to say this is going on.

ALLAN CHERNOFF: He certainly is trying to prod Congress- no doubt about that. What the city is trying to do here is to get Congress to make it tougher for private dealers to sell guns illegally.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE 1: So no background check, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE 2: Yeah, that’s right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE 1: Good, because I couldn't probably pass one (off-camera laughter).

CHERNOFF (voice-over): It’s illegal to sell a gun knowing the buyer may not pass a background check. But on hidden camera, gun shows in Ohio, Nevada and Tennessee- it happened 19 out of 30 times. The undercover buyers were hired by New York City.

NEW YORK CITY MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: What you saw- just saw was willful disregard of the law, and it happened again and again and again.

CHERNOFF: Firearm dealers are regulated. But at gun shows, people who make what the law calls ‘occasional sales’ from their collections can sell without a license. And sometimes, as the investigation illustrates, they ignore the law.

BLOOMBERG: This is real. This translates into people getting killed- children, adults, police officers, civilians.

CHERNOFF: New York City conducted a gun show sting three years ago, and even brought a civil lawsuit against some gun sellers. Mayor Bloomberg has long called for a crackdown on illegal gun sales. The National Rifle Association, though, says the mayor, who is running for re-election, should be helping enforce existing laws, rather than holding news conferences. ‘Bloomberg’s priorities are clearly media first,’ said the NRA [through Andrew Arulanandam, NRA’s director of public affairs]. New York and 15 other states require buyers to have a background check before they can purchase a handgun at a gun show.

NYPD COMMISSIONER RAY KELLY: There’s simply no reason why there shouldn’t be background checks at gun shows.

CHERNOFF: Now, city officials are hoping to prod Congress to act to close what it calls the gun show loophole.

CHERNOFF (on-camera): Congress has had bills to address this issue for over a decade, but that legislation has gotten nowhere.

ROBERTS: It’s really fascinating what the mayor set up here. It’s something that an- an investigative journalism show would typically do- you know, hidden cameras out at gun shows. Can you really do this?

CHERNOFF: It’s not the first time.

ROBERTS: Not for law enforcement purposes, but just demonstration purposes.

CHERNOFF: They did this three years ago, and they actually brought civil lawsuits against some of the gun dealers and put a couple of them out of business.

ROBERTS: Wow.

CHERNOFF: Yeah, they’re serious- I mean, the mayor is saying- look, this is our business because people bring those illegal guns to New York City and can use them- just trying to make the streets safer.

ROBERTS: He did create a media empire. (Chetry laughs) So, you can take the mayor out of media, but you can’t take the media out of the mayor. All right, Allan, great story. Thanks so much.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center