A group called Mayors Against Illegal Guns, which claims L.A.'s Eric Garcetti and several other Southern California municipal leaders as members, today said that buying and selling guns online represents a huge loophole in the government's attempt to regulate weapons sales. It looks like website classifieds are the new gun shows.

As the nation absorbed yet another mass shooting tragedy, this one in Washington, D.C., the group said vast online sales have allowed otherwise ineligible criminals to get handguns and rifles quite easily:

The group looked into a gun-classifieds site called armslist.com between February and May and found that it exposed more than 25,000 criminals to possible arms sales (the actual exchanges could not be confirmed, apparently).

Mayors Against Illegal Guns says the site is the place to be for gun nuts, with sales increasing from 12,000 in December 2011 to 83,000 last month.

The private-party gun sales that happen there can forgo federally required background checks and thus allow folks not allowed to have firearms, like felons, to get what they want, the organization says.

The private-sale loophole had been the domain of the gun show, where private buyers and sellers could get together.

But mayor's group found that 1 in 30 online buyers it could track down had records that otherwise would have prevented them from buying a gun in a retail environment. It says in a statement:

The share of criminals purchasing guns on Armslist.com is nearly four times higher than the share attempting to purchase guns at licensed dealers.

In California, the state says, …

… it is illegal for any person who is not a California licensed firearms dealer (private party) to sell or transfer a firearm to another nonlicensed person (private party) unless the sale is completed through a licensed California firearms dealer.

But it's not clear how the law would be enforced after the fact if you got your gun online.

In the meantime, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg had this to say:

In the digital age, convicted felons, domestic abusers and other dangerous people who are legally barred from buying guns can do so online with little more than a phone number or email address. As our investigation shows, thousands of criminals and other prohibited purchasers are doing just that. It's time for Washington to take immediate and critical steps — and get serious about this issue.

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