The Knox Report
From the Firearms Coalition
The Bloomberg Dilemma
By Jeff Knox
(January 5, 2007) New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg is at it again. He recently filed federal civil suits against 12 more federally licensed firearms dealers in South Carolina, Georgia, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. In his well-publicized effort to “stem the flow of illegal guns” into New York, Bloomberg hired private detectives to enter gun shops around the country to covertly video gun dealers making “questionable” sales. He then files civil suits charging the dealers with knowingly and recklessly contributing to New York’s crime problems by selling guns to crooks. These suits are intended to either drive the targeted dealers out of business or to force them to agree to oversight by a court-appointed “special master” that essentially opens their books to the New York City mayor’s office. Dealers can expect Bloomberg’s antics to continue for the next couple of years, as the city’s $800,000 contract with the detective agency runs through 2008.
The “special master” settlement exposes not only the dealers’ finances and inventory, but their customers names and the guns they purchase to the mayor’s office. Anyone purchasing a gun at one of these shops in the future, and probably everyone who purchased guns there in the past, will be added to Bloomberg’s own personal gunowner registration list. Gunowners who value their privacy will likely go elsewhere to make their firearms purchases.
The alternative is for the dealers to fight Bloomberg in the courts. But that is an expensive proposition, and probably a losing one, since the cases are being filed in the court of blatantly anti-gun, Judge Jack Weinstein – the same judge who has repeatedly refused to dismiss harassment suits against firearms manufacturers, even after passage of the Lawful Commerce in Arms Act. Unfortunately, civil suits are not like criminal charges; the dealers can face civil liability even if they broke no law – which they did not.
When faced with the virtually unlimited resources of New York City and the expense in time and lawyers’ fees, not to mention the emotional strain, it is not surprising that many of Bloomberg’s victims are rolling over and accepting his “deal.” A number of grassroots groups have started “Dealer Assistance” funds and are encouraging their members to patronize the shops that are refusing to surrender. The NRA, while very vocal about their anger toward Bloomberg, seems to be providing little in the way of material support. This in spite of the fact that these civil suits would appear to fall clearly within the guidelines spelled out in the Lawful Commerce in Arms Act which was NRA’s flagship legislation for some six years.
At the crux of the issue is whether the dealers – or anyone involved – committed a crime. There is no doubt that some of the surveillance tapes appear to show store employees making sales under questionable circumstances. But there is a difference between questionable and illegal. The “straw man” deal that Bloomberg’s private detectives were “simulating” was perfectly legal as long as the person who filled out the paperwork and actually owned and controlled the firearm did not turn the gun over to an unqualified person. The only way to prove that anything illegal occurred in these cases would be for the purchaser and/or the disqualified person for whom the gun was purchased to admit their crime. They would have to confess under oath to knowingly committing a federal felony.
If a crime did not occur, the dealers are protected by the Lawful Commerce in Arms Act. If a crime did occur, then all of the participants – the dealer, the “straw man,” the illegal recipient, and the man that hired them to engage in the felonious act – should face prosecution.
The Virginia Citizens Defense League has been circulating a letter calling for the prosecution of Mayor Bloomberg and his lackeys. The BATFE has indicated some frustration with the Mayor’s invasion of their turf and his refusal to share his “evidence” with them. Several of the targeted dealers have announced counter-suits against Bloomberg for defamation and harm to their businesses. Whether any of these, or the combination of all of them, will end this mess is doubtful. Mayor Bloomberg seems to picture himself on a valiant crusade to rid his city of the weapons of crime. If he destroys a few innocent, hardworking people’s lives along the way, it’s just collateral damage. As with crusaders before him, the order of the day is, “Kill them all and let God sort them out.”
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