Two gun control organizations set up a faux gun store in Manhattan’s Lower East Side stocked with hidden cameras and guns that were illegal under state and city law for the purpose of gun violence education.
The front, simply named “The Gun Shop” specifically had window advertisements aimed at first time gun buyers. Once inside the space, shoppers were confronted with mannequins dressed in tactical gear, a gun counter and a wall of firearms ranging from military surplus SKS rifles to submachine guns. Those interested in items were told that the gun in question had a unique and interesting history that included violence.
“Collectors love this one,” said the bearded gun store attendant, holding an AR-15 prop gun to a shopper in a video released by the organizations. “Adam Lanza’s mom had this in her collection too. Until he took this and several other guns and killed her, then went down to Sandy Hook and killed six teachers and 20 innocent children.”
New Yorkers Against Gun Violence set up the store front for two days while States United to Prevent Gun Violence – who made news earlier this month with a public service announcement featuring celebrities such as Snoop Dogg for the ImUnloading campaign, directed at 401K investments containing firearms stocks – was responsible for the video.
“The people who came in were actually seriously considering buying a gun,” New Yorkers Against Gun Violence Executive Director Leah Gunn Barrett told the Washington Post. “We thought that showing the guns and their histories and getting people to think twice about owning a firearm would be an instructive thing to experience.”
The firearms, like the store itself, were all fake and a New York Police Department official was on site to monitor operations.
In addition to the storefront, a spoofed commercial gun sales web portal, Guns With History went live at the same time. The site continues the vein of the brick and mortar gun store’s presentation by putting a violent history on each of the firearm’s price tags.
“This weapon has the perfect combination of automatic firepower and compact size,” reads the tag for a 9mm UZI submachine gun before referencing a 2014 accident that claimed the life of a firearms instructor in Arizona. “Every year it attracts countless people to gun ranges. One of them brought his 9-year-old girl along for the fun. She’ll never forget it, because she unintentionally shot and killed the gun instructor who was trying to teach her.”
Ironically, many of the firearms displayed both in the storefront, website and in the ad spot, are not legal in their presented condition under New York’s SAFE Act, which mandates a number of cosmetic changes.
Although the guns were stage props as detailed by the groups, it should further be noted that in New York City it is illegal to possess even rubber and plastic props without the formal authorization of the police commissioner.
Firearms ownership in the city is intensely regulated and concealed carry permits virtually non-existent.
The Big Apple itself has very strict may-issue permitting policies for either residents or non-residents who intend to bring their guns to the largest city in the U.S. These include an extensive application process, interviews, letters of reference and up to $432 in fees that are non-refundable if applicants are not approved. According to a 2011 report by the New York Times, there are approximately 4,000 license holders in the city of 8.3 million who have one of the special grades of “limited carry,” “business carry” or “special carry” permits that allow them to take their guns on the city’s streets.
Even with firearms being so highly restricted in Gotham, New Yorkers have suffered 184 shooting victims since the start of the year, which represents a 22 percent increase compared to last year at this time.
The storefront and accompanying video release brought condemnation from the country’s largest gun rights organization.
“It’s appalling that the gun control lobby exploits tragedy to further a political agenda,” reads a statement from the National Rifle Association. “This video reveals their true agenda, which is to ban guns. If gun safety was their main concern they would use their resources to educate people about the safe and responsible use of firearms instead of producing expensive videos to scare people and spread lies.”
Update 3/18 11:58 EST
The New York State Rifle and Pistol Association is calling upon state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to investigate the producer of the video for potential violations of state and local laws.
“First off, the firearms and accessories hanging in the background do not appear to comply with either New York City law or the so-called SAFE Act,” said NYSRPA President Thomas King in a statement.
“Second, it felony violation of the Sullivan Act for a person to posses a handgun anywhere in New York without a license. The video clearly shows individual ‘customers’ handling various handguns and doing so in an unsafe manner,” King said.