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Gun-show operators agree to new rules

Twenty-six gun show operators in New York State have agreed to put in place new rules designed to prevent the sale of guns to customers who can’t pass criminal background checks, State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced Friday.

The organizations, including at least seven that operate gun shows in Western New York, reached voluntary agreements with the State Attorney General’s Office to follow a set of model procedures that grew out of Schneiderman’s 2011 investigation of gun shows in the state.

Highlights of the new procedures include notifying dealers at the show that they must complete a background check before any guns change hands, tagging each weapon sold at the show to make it easier to confirm the required check was performed and making an effort to ensure illegal gun sales aren’t made outside the gun show building.

“The cooperation we have seen shows that public safety does not need to be divisive or a partisan issue. Gun show operators around the state have voluntarily agreed to adopt simple procedures that increase the safety of New Yorkers without infringing upon the Second Amendment rights of gun owners,” Schneiderman said in a statement.

In the 2011 gun show probe, undercover investigators were able to buy semiautomatic rifles here and across the state without undergoing a criminal background check. The undercover agents were able to buy the weapons even after telling sellers they had domestic-violence histories.

Ten dealers were charged with illegal gun sales following the eight-month investigation that included visits to gun shows in Erie and Genesee counties. Nine pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges, and one was found guilty after a trial.

The attorney general’s office used the threat of future sting operations to win cooperation from gun show operators in enforcing the model procedures.

Schneiderman last November announced that Niagara Frontier Collectors, which hosts shows here, was one of the first to cooperate with the new rules.

They’re now up to 26 operators, and the rules should be in place for at least 55 gun shows this year, Schneiderman said.

In addition to Niagara Frontier Collectors, local operators include: Bontrager Real Estate and Auction Services in Genesee County; Daniel A. Carter Auction Co. and York-Penn Shows, both of Cattaraugus County; New York State Arms Collectors Association, Genesee County; RL Mason Auction, Allegany County, and Williston Auctions, Erie County.

The gun show operators also agree to post signs alerting dealers and customers to the background check requirement; limit the number of entry and exit points at the show to make it easier to determine whether a check has been performed; and request law enforcement patrols in the parking lots of the shows to discourage illegal sales.

The background check requirement is included in a 2000 state law and predates the controversial New York SAFE Act, a set of gun laws recently signed into law.

Schneiderman’s office is handling the prosecution of the first defendant charged under the SAFE Act, Benjamin M. Wassell, a Silver Creek resident who is accused of illegally modifying two assault-style weapons before selling them to an undercover officer.