I-Team: Some Private Gun Sellers Arming Criminals

Ed. Note: The national debate about gun violence and gun control has generated strong emotions on all sides following the recent tragedies in Connecticut and Colorado. Should Americans' Second Amendment rights be restricted in the interests of public safety, or is gun violence something that no law could curb? This is Part 6 of Guns of Nevada.

LAS VEGAS -- By most estimates, 40 percent of guns in the United States were sold without a background check.

Figures to quantify how many of those were later used in criminal activity vary widely depending on the source.

However, some guns sold by private sellers do end up arming criminals.

There is wide debate about whether guns sold without background checks truly impact crime.

Some research suggests that crooks are more likely to get guns from the streets than from a gun show. But that doesn't mean weapons sold at gun shows don't end up at violent crime scenes, such as the 2010 fatal shooting at the federal courthouse in downtown Las Vegas.

A prospective juror with a cell phone camera records the sound of gun fire at the Lloyd D. George Federal Courthouse.

As law enforcement mobilizes to stop the shooter on the morning of Jan. 4, 2010, Johnny Lee Wicks charged into the courthouse with a shotgun and opened fire.

He wounded a federal marshal and killed 72-year-old court security officer Stanley Cooper.

"It looks like seven marshals returned fire on him," said FBI special agent Joseph Dickey in 2010. "The shootout started in the main foyer entry into the courthouse, spilled out into the front area and then over into Las Vegas Boulevard and he was actually killed across the street."

Investigators believe a dispute over Wicks' social security benefits motivated the attack, but little has been revealed about how the ex-felon came to possess the gun.

Using records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, the I-Team traced the recent history of the 12-gauge pump action shotgun to a gun show in 2008 in Kingman, Ariz.

Tom Chittum, a special agent-in-charge for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said he couldn't comment on the Wicks case.

"Criminals who know that they cannot possess firearms do not go into gun stores and buy them," Chittum said.

He added that generally private sales, such as those at gun shows, are a frequent source of firearms for those who can't legally own them.

"Whether it's exploiting straw purchasers to avoid the background checks or whether buying them from private sellers who are not required by law to conduct those background checks," he said. "Criminals have found a way to arm themselves."

Through law enforcement sources, ATF records and the seller himself, the I-Team has confirmed that Robert Bruce Daly sold the gun used in the courthouse shooting.

Daly can be seen during an undercover sting by the city of New York to highlight the so-called gun show loophole.

According to ATF records, Daly conducted business as a private seller, meaning he was not required to -- and did not -- perform a background check.

Though Daly said he remembers telling the ATF about the buyer -- someone other than Wicks, he said -- ATF documents note he couldn't recall any specifics and kept no record of the sale.

Following the courthouse shooting in 2010, Daly was convicted of unlicensed firearms dealing.

Daly told the I-Team that the ATF linked 30 of the guns he sold without background checks to violent crimes across the country.

Gun Store owner Bob Irwin said he supports background checks for all gun sales, provided they don't come with a cost. He rejected the idea that private sales somehow promote violence.

Federally Registered Weapons in Nevada Grow 20 Percent

"Hundreds of guns are sold at gun shows and one guy shot up the courthouse," Irwin said. "We're doing the same thing on the national level, kids shot at Sandy Hook (Elementary School), which is an absolutely horrible event. I still can't get my head around it. But most people who own guns didn't do that.

"It's kind of a false flag."

In sharp contrast to an ATF report naming gun shows as the second leading source of weapons for gun traffickers, a federal study often cited by gun rights advocates concludes that less than one percent of prison inmates got their guns from a gun show.

Despite the lack of consensus, it's clear that Wicks, an ex-felon, armed himself without a background check.

Daly told the I-Team he supports legislation to require a universal background check and regrets that he didn't do more to scrutinize his customers.

Coming up Friday at 5 p.m., the I-Team looks at Nevada's gun laws and discovers why the Old West was not as wild as we might think.


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