Bloomberg attacks again......
Three Va. gun shops named in NYC suit
Out-of-state effort to control crime again targets illegal firearm sales
BY REX BOWMAN
TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF WRITER Dec 8, 2006
New York City is trying to curb its violent crime by once again going after gun dealers in other states, including Virginia.
New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced yesterday that the city has filed suit against 12 gun dealers in five states -- including three gun shops in Virginia -- in an effort to stem the flow of illegally purchased guns into the city.
Bloomberg filed a similar suit in May against 15 gun dealers in the five states -- Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Georgia and South Carolina -- alleging that they illegally sold guns that ended up in the hands of people who committed violent crimes in New York.
The Virginia gun shops targeted by the latest suit, filed in federal court in New York, are the Bob Moates Sports Shop in Midlothian, the Franklin Rod & Gun Shop in Rocky Mount and the Town & Country Pawn Shop in Roanoke.
When told of the lawsuit, Dan Heckman, owner of the Rocky Mount store, said he knows of no improper sales at his shop. "Everything we sell, we have to call the state police about."
Richard Hill, a salesman at Bob Moates, echoed Heckman. "You can't fudge" gun sales, he said.
"Everything going through here has to match up. . . . We have to put it though the state police and FBI criminal computer."
Hill said the law says the stores can't sell handguns to out-of-state residents. They can't control what someone with Virginia identification does with their purchase once they've left the store, he added.
He said his boss, Bob Moates, has been selling guns for about 50 years. "It's not something you'd jeopardize over some little something," Hill said.
According to Bloomberg's office, private investi- gators working in teams of two traveled to the 12 gun dealerships this year and carried out "straw purchases." One of the investigators made all the inquiries about buying the gun, then had the other one fill out the required federal forms to pass the background check.
The investigators' approach was meant to mimic the way felons, who can't own guns, buy them anyway by having a friend fill out the paperwork.
Between 1994 and 2002, New York City police recovered more than 300 crime guns traced to the 12 dealerships, according to Bloomberg.
Of the 15 dealerships targeted in the first suit, six have reached settlements with the city, according to Michael A. Cardozo, New York's corporation counsel.
"We are confident that, like many of those in the first suit, the dealers identified today will recognize that the city's effort is all about public safety, not interfering with lawful business," Cardozo said in a written statement. "We hope they will work with us to that end."
Contact staff writer Rex Bowman at firstname.lastname@example.org or (540) 344-3612.
Times-Dispatch staff writer Mark Holmberg contributed to this report.