Gun Trafficking

A New Roadblock on the “Iron Pipeline”

On March 14, 2015, Brooklyn resident Michael Bassier stepped off a bus in New York City carrying a bulging black duffel bag. As he walked down the street, the hood of his sweatshirt partly obscuring his face, Bassier called his ex-girlfriend.

“Listen, I’m walking through Manhattan, right? I’ve got two MAC 10’s on me, a SK assault rifle, and four handguns and I’m walking through New York,” he told her.

“I’m selling them the right way and the wrong way. When I’m out of state, like in Atlanta and Georgia and all that, it’s all legal, it’s fully legal. But in New York it’s completely illegal. So when I bring shit up here and sell it up here, that’s illegal.”

In the conversation, recorded by law enforcement, Bassier outlined how many illegal guns get to big cities despite their stricter firearms regulations. Criminals exploit a weakness in gun restrictions by buying guns in states with looser regulations and bringing them to places like New York City, which has some of the toughest gun laws in the country.

But prosecutors in Brooklyn and Manhattan are trying to plug that hole. That’s why some of Bassier’s associates are, like him, in jail. The Brooklyn District Attorney extradited two people from Georgia and two from Pennsylvania who allegedly helped Bassier obtain weapons from firearms stores, pawnshops, and websites.

By the time he was arrested—in September 2015—Bassier had allegedly brought 112 guns, including 20 assault weapons, to New York on buses and in cars, and sold them to an undercover detective in Brooklyn. In one year, Bassier made $130,000 from the sales. Now, Bassier is behind bars awaiting a May 26 court appearance at the Kings County Supreme Court in Brooklyn. He faces up to 25 years in prison.  more >

“I’ve got two MAC 10’s on me, a SK assault rifle, and four handguns and I’m walking through New York.”

Want to Buy a Gun Without All the Paperwork? Go Online.


New York City has some of the toughest gun laws in the country. Residents are required to get a permit to purchase and own a gun, and all buyers – whether they shop at a store or arrange a private sale – have to go through a licensed firearms dealer and get a background check.

For unscrupulous buyers, however, the internet can provide a quick and easy way to get around the restrictions. On websites like, prospective buyers can browse through thousands of ads for guns and ammunition and contact the sellers directly. A New York state law passed in 2013 requires sellers to ensure that all buyers undergo a background check through a federal firearms dealer even if they arrange to purchase the gun online, but there is no oversight to make sure they do so.

“Websites like make it far too easy for dangerous people who want guns to do harm or who want guns to traffic,” said Lindsay Nichols, a senior attorney at the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence in San Francisco. “It makes it way too easy for them to get guns and to sell to people who want to get guns.”

In 2011, investigators in New York City found over 25,000 guns for sale online, and the Department of Justice has estimated that there are at least 4,000 websites offering firearms. Gun control advocates say these online sites provide ample opportunities for criminals to obtain weapons.


NY City Lens decided to see just how easy it would be to purchase a gun online without a permit and without going through a background check. A reporter set up an e-mail account on Sunday, April 24, and posed as a prospective buyer on

Of the 22 sellers who responded to the reporter’s inquiries, the majority refused to sell the reporter a gun without going through a licensed firearms dealer. Most sellers also refused to sell the gun when the reporter asked if she could buy it for someone else or have a friend buy it for her, which is known as a “straw purchase” and is illegal under federal law.

Within four days of setting up the e-mail account, however, NY City Lens had arranged to purchase two rifles in a way that would have violated New York law, and had been told how to get an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle without a background check. The reporter agreed on prices and meeting places with the sellers, but did not continue the conversation beyond that.  more >

What is a Gun?

Semi-automatic? Assault Rifle? Twelve gauge? A primer

Most of us know, basically, what a gun is. If you look up the word in the dictionary, you might find something like, “a weapon incorporating a metal tube from which bullets, shells or other missiles are propelled by explosive force.” Got it.

But what about all those terms you see in the newspaper or on TV that further define these weapons—words like “semi-automatic,” or “high-caliber,” or “12-guage”? What’s the difference between an assault rifle and a machine gun? Mastering such terms is essential for following the national debate on gun control, which is why NY City Lens built this primer on the basic types of guns and the terminology that sets them apart.   more >