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June 10, 2010

West Virginia Governor Signs Bill to Protect Against Illegal Sting Operations of Firearms Retailers

West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin (D) has signed Senate Bill 1005 into law making it a crime to knowingly solicit illegal gun sales and to conduct illegal sting operations such as those conducted by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.   

Mayor Bloomberg, misusing firearms trace data incorrectly, targeted more than 60 federal firearms licensed dealers across the country for unauthorized and ill-advised sting operations. The mayor sent civilian private eyes into these targeted retail stores to attempt to illegally purchase a firearm. The private eyes attempted to demonstrate "signs" indicative of a strawpurchaser and “trick" the dealer into selling the firearm. If a dealer proceeded with the sale, the mayor filed suit.

In May of 2006 New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg filed suit in a Brooklyn Federal Court against 15 out-of-state federal firearms licensed dealers (FFLs). In December of 2006, Mr. Bloomberg filed a second lawsuit against 12 additional firearms dealers. He alleged in his suit that those out-of-state firearms dealers are "rogue" dealers, describing them as "the worst of the worst" and blaming those dealers for the criminal misuse of guns in New York City.

In a strongly worded letter, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) rebuked the City of New York for engaging private investigators in stings of out-of-state federally licensed firearms dealers. The DOJ was critical of the city's actions, saying the private investigators were "without proper law enforcement authority" and that future such action carried "potential legal liabilities." The DOJ also warned that the city's actions "however well-intentioned, could interrupt or jeopardize ongoing criminal investigations." In fact, ATF officials publicly confirmed that New York City's actions did in fact interfere with as many as 18 ongoing criminal investigations. ATF officials also acknowledged that they would investigate whether the city's private investigators broke the law.

Demonstrating the importance of the legislation Gov. Manchin signed into law was New York City Deputy Mayor Ed Skyler's response to the Justice Department's warning; Mr. Skyler promised that New York City would not necessarily stop conducting such stings.


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