FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 15, 2006
MAYOR BLOOMBERG ANNOUNCES THE FILING OF FEDERAL LAWSUIT AGAINST ROGUE GUN DEALERS
15 Gun Dealers in Five States Are Named in Federal Lawsuit Following Sting Operation
Lawsuit Follows Mayor Bloomberg’s State of the City Commitment to Cross State Borders To Fight the Flow of Illegal Guns into the City
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, joined by Corporation Counsel Michael A. Cardozo, Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly and Criminal Justice Coordinator John Feinblatt, today announced that New York City has filed a lawsuit in the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of New York against 15 gun dealers identified as selling firearms in violation of federal law. The lawsuit seeks injunctive relief intended to halt the dealers’ illegal practices, and to recover money damages. The 15 gun dealers named in the lawsuit are located in five states – Georgia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Virginia – and were targeted because of the large number of guns that have been traced back to them following crimes committed in New York City. Based only on the incomplete data available to the City, more than 500 crime guns recovered by the New York City Police Department have been traced to these 15 gun dealers between 1994 and 2001. In his January State of the City speech, Mayor Bloomberg pledged to target dealers who sell guns illegally and hold them accountable for their actions.
“Today, we are sending a clear message to rogue gun dealers across the nation: straighten up and follow the law – or face the consequences,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “We can’t afford to allow out-of-state dealers to sell illegally – too many people die every year because they do. This lawsuit is major step forward in our efforts to keep illegal guns out of our City. By and large, most gun dealers respect and follow the law, but the small group of dealers that do not should be held accountable – not protected by the disastrous legislation being considered in Congress. It’s time to hold these dealers responsible for their illegal actions – and that’s exactly what this lawsuit intends to do.”
“The gun dealers named in this lawsuit have sold guns in violation of a number of federal and state statutes, and the lawsuit asks the Court to prohibit these illegal gun sales, appoint a special master to monitor the dealers, and require sellers to submit to mandatory training,” said Corporation Counsel Cardozo. “The lawsuit also seeks compensation for the cost of abating the nuisance created by these defendants, compensatory damages to
Over the past six weeks, investigators from the James Mintz Group, a private investigative firm employed by the City, traveled to five states to confirm what gun trace data had already shown probable – that these gun dealers were violating federal laws governing firearms sales. The investigators, in teams of two, entered gun stores and followed a scenario commonly known as “straw purchasing” – where one individual makes all of the inquiries into purchasing the gun, and then the other individual, completely uninvolved in the sale process, fills out the required federal forms to pass the background check. Federal law prohibits licensed dealers from selling firearms to individuals when they have a reasonable belief that the firearm being sold is not for the person who purports to be the purchaser. A 2002 U.S. Department of Justice publication describes “straw purchasing” as follows:
“Straw purchases are one of the most frequent methods used to divert firearms out of lawful commerce, where they are a heavily regulated commodity, and onto the street, where they are available to anyone. Convicted felons will simply use a friend, a family member or a girlfriend to buy a gun for them. The felon provides the money for the gun, selects the gun, and directs the purchase. The straw purchaser just fills out all the required paperwork, posing as the buyer.”
All 15 dealers named in the suit sold a gun to a team of undercover investigators, who wore hidden cameras during their sting operations. Of the stores that they visited, one-in-three dealers refused the sale, confirming the fact that dealers know and understand the law. Even in the face of obvious “red lights” that should have immediately ended the discussion between dealer and customer, including that the straw purchaser did not participate in the transaction until the time came to fill out the federal forms and did not pay for the gun, two-thirds of the targeted dealers sold to the straw purchaser.
The 15 dealers named in the suit are:
“These gun dealers are the worst of the worst,” said Criminal Justice Coordinator Feinblatt. “They represent a small group of immoral and irresponsible dealers who are knowingly breaking the law and causing irreparable harm to innocent New Yorkers. When it comes to this group of bad apples, we will be relentless. It is our duty to make sure that they no longer get a free pass for the terrible human cost they inflict on our City.”
“Too many New York City police officers have paid with their lives to allow flagrant straw purchases to continue unchallenged,” said Police Commissioner
The law firm of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman will field a team of ten pro-bono litigators to appear on behalf of the City and assist in the litigation.
“This litigation has the potential to improve the safety and security of every New Yorker, by helping staunch the flow of illegal guns into the city,” said Ken Taber, chair of the New York litigation group of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP.
Mayor Bloomberg is using a comprehensive three-pronged approach of stronger enforcement, new legislation and innovative litigation to combat illegal guns. Enforcement efforts include creating specialized Gun Courts, which have resulted in longer sentences for gun offenders, working to introduce gun shot detection cameras that will discourage the use and possession of illegal guns, and establishing a “debriefing” protocol for every felony gun defendant, which is helping law enforcement agencies learn more about the identities of gun traffickers. The Mayor is also seeking new City and State legislation to close loopholes and increase penalties for illegal guns, and to require gun dealers to do more to protect against lost and stolen guns.
The Mayor is also actively opposing federal legislation that would protect irresponsible gun dealers by limiting access to trace data and preventing law enforcement agencies from holding them fully accountable. Recognizing that illegal guns are a national problem requiring national leadership, Mayor Bloomberg, together with Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, recently hosted a Mayors’ Summit on Illegal Guns that was attended by more than a dozen mayors from across the nation, from Seattle to Dallas to Philadelphia. The nonpartisan group of mayors discussed cutting-edge policing and legal strategies, identified opportunities for greater coordination in combating the flow of illegal guns, and signed a statement of principles to guide their efforts going forward.
Stu Loeser/Jordan Barowitz (212) 788-2958
Kate O’Brien Ahlers (Law Department)
Paul Browne (Police Department)
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