NEW YORK — Weeks after the shooting in Tucson, sellers at an Arizona gun show allowed undercover investigators hired by New York City to buy semiautomatic pistols even after the investigators said they probably couldn't pass a background check, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Monday.
"After Tucson, you would think that people, particularly at a gun show in Arizona, would have been much more careful in enforcing the law," he said.
Bloomberg has authorized similar sting operations around the country as part of a push for tougher federal laws to help keep guns off the streets of New York.
But in the sensitive aftermath of the shooting Jan. 8 that killed six people and critically wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, the mayor was questioned about the time and place of his hidden-camera investigation, a $100,000 operation conducted almost clear across the country.
"Let me get this straight: From New York City, they are going to send people to Arizona to look into this?" said Arizona state Sen. Ron Gould, a Republican. "They might take a look a little closer to home if they are concerned about guns getting in their state."
The Crossroads of the West Gun Shows, the operator of the Phoenix gun show where the investigators made their buys on Jan. 23, issued a statement Monday saying all exhibitors at its shows are required to follow state and federal gun laws.
The private investigators, wearing concealed videocameras, were sold the 9mm guns even after telling two separate sellers they probably couldn't pass background checks.
The investigators also obtained a Glock gun and 33-round extended magazine similar to those authorities have said Jared Loughner used to open fire on Giffords outside a supermarket.
While many sellers at gun shows are not required under federal law to perform background checks, it is illegal for them to sell a weapon if they have reason to believe the buyer wouldn't be able to pass one, Bloomberg said.
Bloomberg, who heads a national coalition of mayors advocating stronger gun control, said that without mandatory background checks, gun shows had become "magnets for criminals," and called for federal action to close what he said were dangerous loopholes in the law.