LAWFUEL – The Legal Newswire –
Two More Gun Dealers Enter into Settlements Consistent With Prior Agreements
Judge Finds City Has Right to Hold Dealers Accountable for Harm Caused To New Yorkers
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg today announced that two additional gun dealers named in the New York City’s lawsuits against 27 dealers caught selling illegally have agreed to settlements with the City, bringing the total number of gun dealer settlements to 14. The settlements were announced two days after Judge Jack Weinstein ruled in Brooklyn federal court that New York’s courts have jurisdiction to hear these lawsuits and that the City has demonstrated that the dealers in the suit are responsible for funneling into the City “large quantities of handguns used by local criminals to terrorize significant portions of the City’s population.” The Judge set a January 7, 2008 trial date. The two dealers, John’s Gun & Tackle Room of Easton, Pennsylvania, and Franklin Rod & Gun Shop of Rocky Mount, Virginia, have agreed to settlements providing for a Special Master selected by the City and appointed by the court to monitor their firearms sales activities. They have each also agreed to submit to close monitoring of their records and inventory, which may include videotaping of their sales activities and continued undercover surveillance. The Special Master will ensure that each dealer is in full compliance with all laws regulating the sales and purchase of firearms. Both dealers were among the 15 gun dealers named in the New York City lawsuit filed on May 15, 2006 in the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of New York. A similar lawsuit filed on December 7, 2006 named 12 additional gun dealers.
“These settlement agreements, along with Judge Weinstein’s recent ruling, are major steps forward in our fight to get gun dealers to obey the law and stop selling the guns that end up being used to kill our citizens and police officers,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “More than half of the dealers named in our lawsuits have found our settlement terms are acceptable, because the terms are fair and reasonable. And I hope the others will come around soon. If all dealers more carefully follow federal laws, we can significantly reduce the black market for illegal guns and significantly improve public safety.”
“We applaud all of the settling dealers for recognizing that they play a role in keeping the public safe,” said Corporation Counsel Michael A. Cardozo. “We will continue aggressively to pursue the Mayor’s illegal gun initiatives to further ensure the safety of New Yorkers.”
The Special Master will have broad powers to monitor the gun dealers, including unlimited review of firearms-related records, which include trace requests and multiple handgun sale reports, as well as the ability to conduct unrestricted inspections of all firearm inventories. Employees will receive enhanced training to ensure these dealers conduct legal firearm sales and identify and refuse to sell to straw purchasers – those who buy guns for others who may not be eligible under federal law to purchase them.
“For too long the small group of irresponsible gun dealers that supply a majority of the guns used in crimes have escaped the attention of law enforcement and the criminal justice system,” said John Feinblatt, the Mayor’s Criminal Justice Coordinator. “This innovative litigation holds those who are providing these lethal instruments accountable, and, whether in the court room or through settlement agreements, we will compel them to obey the law.”
“All too often, New York City police officers have paid with their lives in their efforts to take guns off of our streets,” said Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly. “Others have endured the complications and difficulties of life-long injuries. It’s encouraging to see gun dealers who accommodated the flow of illegal guns in the past are being held to account.”
The agreement also establishes a penalty structure for non-compliance – including straw sales and other violations of federal, state or local firearms laws. Each dealer will post a bond. Fines incurred for each violation will be deducted from the bond – with the added requirement that the dealer replenish the original bond amount upon each violation. Fines for each violation vary in each individual settlement and range from $1,000 to $10,000 for a first violation; $2,000 to $15,000 for a second violation; and $3,000 to $20,000 for a third violation. The agreements will expire after three consecutive years without a reported violation. At least every three months, the special master will certify whether the dealers have met their obligations.
The 27 gun dealers named in the two lawsuits are located in five states – Georgia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Virginia. The gun dealers in the lawsuits sold guns in violation of federal statutes and in ways that are directly against industry standards. The lawsuits seek no money damages but ask that the Court appoint a Special Master to monitor the dealers and require them to submit to enhanced training. The dealers were targeted because of the large number of New York City crime guns that were traced back to them shortly after sale and the dealers’ willingness to sell guns in a simulated “straw purchase.”
Of the 13 dealers who have not settled with the City, nine are from the first complaint: Adventure Outdoors, Smyrna, Georgia; The Gun Store, Inc., Doraville, Georgia; Peddler’s Post, Washington Ct. House, Ohio; Gallery Distributing, Mount Penn, Pennsylvania; Woody’s Pawnshop, Orangeburg, South Carolina; Mickalis Pawnshop, Summerville, South Carolina; Webb’s Sporting Goods, Madison Heights, Virginia; Old Dominion Guns & Tackle, Danville, Virginia; and Patriot Services, Richmond, Virginia. Four are from the second complaint: Gwinnett Pawn Shop, Norcross, Georgia; Toccoa Pawn & Variety, Toccoa, Georgia; Trader World, North Charleston, South Carolina; and Bob Moates Sport Shop, Midlothian, Virginia.