AP: Stings on Ohio gun shops questioned

The Associated Press is reporting federal officials believe private investigators hired by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg to conduct undercover sting operations on gun shops in Georgia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Virginia could be breaking the law, and the dealers caught making illegal sales in the stings will not face criminal prosecution.

From the story:

    “Although a decision has been made not to move forward with case filings in these matters, there are potential legal liabilities that may attach when persons outside of law enforcement undertake actions typically reserved for law enforcement agents,” Department of Justice spokesman Bryan Sierra said Thursday.

    That legal risk is “particularly acute when such persons misrepresent that they are the actual purchasers of the firearms,” he said.

    City officials have sued more than two dozen dealers after hiring investigators to pose as buyers attempting straw purchases, in which one person fills out the paperwork for the gun but is buying for someone else. The scam is often used by convicted felons and others barred from owning firearms.

    The city argues that the shops are responsible for many of the illegal weapons that end up in New York, and the suits have led seven dealers to agree to more scrutiny.

Click on 'Read More' for the entire story.

Again, from the story:

    Some of the gun sellers have asked a judge to dismiss the lawsuits, saying the city is out of bounds because the dealers are not doing business in New York.

    The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives announced in May it was examining the city’s evidence against the gun dealers and reviewing whether the city acted legally in setting up the stings.

    Sierra said the circumstances surrounding the purchases “do not rise to a level that would support a criminal prosecution.”

    He said his statement echoed a Department of Justice letter that was sent to the administration of Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The details of the letter were first reported Thursday by the Daily News.

    Bloomberg has been a vocal proponent of wider tracking of illegal guns and has joined with mayors of dozens of U.S. cities to lobby Washington legislators on the issue.

    Gun rights advocates have been critical of the city’s sting operations, and the Second Amendment Foundation issued a release Thursday calling the Department of Justice’s findings a “significant victory.”

In its coverage of these developments, the NRA reports that mong the numerous problems with this illicit campaign, Michael Battle, DOJ's director of the executive office for United States Attorneys, cited the Mayor's use of persons "without proper law enforcement authority" and efforts that "interrupt or jeopardize" criminal probes.

When asked if the Bloomberg administration plans to stop conducting the sting operations, Deputy Mayor Ed Skyler said, "Not necessarily."

From the NRA press release:

    In hailing this recent development, NRA-ILA Executive Director Chris Cox noted, "NRA has always maintained that Mayor Bloomberg overstepped his boundaries and possibly broke the law in conducting these sting operations, and we expressed our concerns to BATFE immediately. NRA is grateful that the bureau has reviewed the matter and concluded that no action is warranted against these firearms retailers. NRA hopes that Mayor Bloomberg heeds the BATFE's stern warning that he and his administration could face potential legal liabilities if they continue their disregard of current federal law and the safety of law enforcement officers. If Mayor Bloomberg was serious about reducing crime, he would focus on prosecuting violent criminals in his city, instead of resorting to media stunts and press conferences."

The Second Amendment Foundation's Alan Gottlieb also weighed in on the news of the investigations:

    "Bloomberg's house of cards is starting to crumble," Gottlieb stated. "This underscores why SAF called upon Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to investigate Bloomberg's rogue operation last August, and why we were delighted to learn earlier this week that ATF is conducting a thorough investigation of this enterprise.

    "It is both sad and revealing," Gottlieb added, "that more than 150 mayors around the country have been drawn into Bloomberg's folly by joining his anti-gun mayors' coalition. That group's launching pad was this bogus gun sting, which is now imploding. Every one of these city leaders is now linked to this misadventure. These mayors let their anti-gun bias, rather than good sense, lull them into joining and supporting what is becoming a colossal blunder, and now might be a good time to reconsider that participation."

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