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Gang Members Get Guns At Gun Shows

Gang Members Get Guns At Gun Shows

By Ben Hall. CREATED May 21, 2013 - UPDATED: Mar 11, 2014

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - A Nashville gang member told NewsChannel 5 Investigates that he often went to local gun shows to buy guns.

Jonathan Gutierrez said he and other gang members went to gun shows with large amounts of cash and had no problem buying guns despite having a criminal record.

He spoke to NewsChannel 5 from inside a high security prison in West Tennessee where he is serving life in prison for killing a rival gang member.

"I do regret the life I lived," Gutierrez said.

He said he joined a gang when he was nine years old, and by the time he was 13, he tattooed "Brown Pride" around his neck.

A few years later, he was convicted of shooting a rival gang member to death in what he called a war waged on the streets of Nashville.

"Where did you get the weapons that you used?" NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked.

Gutierrez responded,"Most of the weapons that were used were coming from the gun show."

Gutierrez said at age 15, he and other gang members went to local gun shows with cash and were easily able to buy four to six guns each visit.

"Anybody will sell you a gun," Gutierrez said. "I mean no matter what, if you want a gun and you show them the money, and tell them you want to buy it, he's going to definitely sell it to you."

Gutierrez said he bought most guns in the gun show parking lot, after going inside the show and picking out which guns he wanted.

Licensed dealers must run background checks, but private sales at gun shows require no background check.

NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked, "What if you had to go through a background check?"

Gutierrez responded, "I guess we wouldn't be buying none."

However, in the bitter gun control debate, opponents claim expanding background checks will undermine the constitutional right of people to keep and bear arms.

"We will never back away from our resolve to defend our rights and the rights of all law abiding American gun owners," said Wayne LaPierre at the NRA's convention.

"This amendment would start us down that road of registration. It would open, not close loopholes," said Senator Charles Grassley (R) Iowa, on the floor of U.S. Senate during the debate over expanded background checks.

However, supporters of expanded checks argue it should not be so easy for criminals to get guns at gun shows.

Undercover videos from New York investigators have shown in past years how easy it is to buy a gun at a gun show even when buyers admitted they couldn't pass a background check.

"So no background check right?" asked the undercover investigator to a salesman at a Smyrna gun show.

"No," the seller said.

"That's good because I probably couldn't pass one," the investigator said.

"It's an individual sale, breath deep," the seller responded.

While Gutierrez said it was easy to get guns at gun shows, he believes little would change if the so-called loophole were closed.

"If they do pass the law you're still going to get a hold of a gun," Gutierrez said, "There's always someone out there that will sell you a gun."

He even took a page out of the NRA's book.

"It's not guns killing people. It's people killing people."

Gutierrez said he has no doubt gang members go to gun shows now and buy guns that are used on the streets of Nashville.

He said it's one of many easy ways for criminals to get guns.

Gutierrez admitted his gang also stole guns, but said sometimes gang members got arrested doing that.

He said they never got arrested buying guns at gun shows.

Ben Hall

Ben Hall

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Ben Hall is a veteran reporter at NewsChannel 5. He has covered the state legislature, presidential campaigns and is presently part of NewsChannel 5's award-winning investigative unit.