New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s war on gun owners received a major hit yesterday, courtesy of the U.S. Justice Department, but Bloomberg is so far refusing to back down. A letter by Michael Battle, director of the executive office for United States Attorneys at the Department of Justice, has been made public and it paints a blistering attack on Bloomberg’s actions over the past several months.
Back in May of 2006, Bloomberg announced he was suing 15 out-of-state gun dealers for allegedly conducting “straw purchases”, or illegally selling a firearm to one person knowing that’s actually going to be used by someone else. At the time Bloomberg announced his lawsuits, he’d already refused requests by the firearms industry to work alongside one another to stop straw purchases.
Instead, Bloomberg sent civilian private investigators into gun stores across the country, and had the investigators pose as straw purchasers. Bloomberg never informed the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives about the sting operations, and when the stings were announced, several law enforcement officials said as many as eighteen active law enforcement investigations were put in jeopardy.
For months the ATF was silent on the matter, but recently disclosed that an investigation into Bloomberg’s actions was taking place. Now the Battle letter, first made public by the New York Daily News, details the problems with Bloomberg’s attacks on firearms dealers.
According to the Daily News, none of the gun dealers Bloomberg is suing broke federal law and took part in straw purchase transactions. The letter also took Bloomberg to task for conducting these stings "without proper law enforcement authority," though there is no indication that BATFE or the Justice Department would seek to file charges against Bloomberg or his civilian private investigators. Instead, the letter warns that Bloomberg’s operations could put the city at risk of legal action.
Reaction from the firearms community was generally positive. The National Rifle Association’s Chief Lobbyist, Chris Cox said, “It’s a stern and appropriate warning to Bloomberg and his administration and his cronies that they’re doing something that’s probably illegal and certainly outside of their realm of their responsibility.”