Gotham 'gun shop' appears as ruse to preach anti-firearm message

A "gun shop" that suddenly appeared in the heart of Manhattan last week only to close its doors after two days was actually an elaborate ruse by a pro-gun control group that sought to lure potential customers in order to make their anti-firearms case.

States United to Prevent Gun Violence set up the "Guns with History Gun Shop" on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, and pretended to offer for sale guns used in high-profile crimes. The phony sales pitches were really part of a "social experiment" -- pretexts for telling customers about the dangers of gun proliferation in unconsummated transactions recorded by hidden cameras, according to the group. In one such conversation, the bogus clerk shows a replica Bushmaster assault rifle like the one Connecticut State Police said Adam Lanza used in the Sandy Hook school massacre.

"It’s a great gun to carry in your purse, like that gal from the Walmart, her two-year-old son reaches into her pocketbook, pulls it out, shoots her.”

— GWH Gun Shop 'clerk'

“Collectors love this one," the actor states in a video the anti-gun group posted on YouTube. “Adam Lanza’s mom had this in her collection, too, until he took this and several other guns and killed her and then went down to Sandy Hook and killed 6 teachers and 20 innocent children. Twenty little kids…Gone like that.”

Pro-gun advocates called the effort a misleading stunt.

“This is a tasteless PR stunt designed to further an anti-gun agenda, and it’s out of touch with reality," NRA spokeswoman Jennifer Baker told "As gun ownership has risen to an all-time high, violent crime has fallen to a 43-year low, and the firearm accident death rate has fallen to the lowest that it has been in over a hundred years. A clear majority of the American people support the use of firearms for protection and put more faith in gun ownership rights than in gun control."

Another critic blasted the fake gun shop, calling it "the most disgusting and outrageous stunt" gun control "extremists" have cooked up to date.

"These people won’t be happy until all law-abiding citizens are disarmed," added blogger Kimberly Morin in a post on

The replica weapons displayed at the store bore tags linking them to specific crimes, while a sign in the front window beckoned passersby with a sign saying, “First-time gun buyer? We are here to help you.” Several purported customers were shocked when they learned of the stories behind each of the guns.

“A very handy gun,” the clerk says in another segment as he shows a 9-mm. semiautomatic to another customer. “Easy to use. It’s a great gun to carry in your purse, like that gal from the Walmart, her 2-year-old son reaches into her pocketbook, pulls it out, shoots her.”

Officials for SUPGV local New York office say that the stunt was cleared with the city, through the office of Mayor Bill de Blasio, and that they applied for filming permits. All the guns within the shop were props and no ammunition was on hand.

Julia Wyman, executive director of States United to Prevent Gun Violence, said the effort was part of a campaign to educate prospective first-time gun buyers.

“Our aim is to ensure those looking to purchase a firearm are aware of the potential risks [and to promote responsible gun ownership],” Wyman said. “Often gun purchasers wrongly believe guns will keep them safe when, in fact, a gun in the home greatly increases the risk of homicide and suicide. This sets the record straight so consumers can make an informed choice to buy a firearm or not.”

New York's city and state gun laws are among the nation's strictest. Residents of the five boroughs are required to apply for pistol licenses through the NYPD and must obtain special permission if they want to carry the weapon on their person. Rifles and shotguns also must be registered within city limits.'s Perry Chiaramonte contributed to this report.