NYC Mayor Agrees to Follow Virginia Law in 'Gun Stings'

By Randy Hall | July 7, 2008 | 8:32 PM EDT

( - New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is under federal investigation regarding "rogue sting" operations against gun dealers in five states outside his jurisdiction, has agreed to abide by Virginia law when undertaking any future operations in that state.

"We will continue to use creative and aggressive strategies and, in Virginia, that would include contacting the Virginia State Police," said Jason Post, a spokesman for Bloomberg, after a clash with the state's attorney general, Robert McDonnell, over the mayor's practice of using undercover agents to root out dealers who sell guns illegally.

In a news release Friday, McDonnell said he was pleased that the mayor's office "is now fully committed to contacting the Virginia State Police with public safety concerns in Virginia." That, he said, "is the traditional and appropriate course of action."

The Virginia attorney general added that such cooperation will also be "the only legal course of action" after the July 1 implementation of HB 2653, a new state law that passed the House of Delegates unanimously and the state Senate by a vote of 30-10. It was later signed into law, without amendment, by Gov. Tim Kaine.

That legislation makes it a felony "for any person, except for a law enforcement officer in the performance of his official duties or other person under the direct supervision of the law enforcement officer, to attempt to solicit or otherwise entice a firearms dealer to transfer or otherwise convey a firearm other than to an actual buyer."

McDonnell said the new law "is meant to ensure that there is no disruption of ongoing criminal investigations, no targeting of law-abiding gun dealers and no usurpation of Virginia law enforcement authority to enforce the laws of the Commonwealth."

"The Virginia State Police and our other law enforcement agencies do an excellent job enforcing firearm and other laws," he said, and "I will be delighted to work with New York officials to help address legitimate criminal justice matters."

Cybercast News Service previously reported that Bloomberg has claimed "guns are flooding into the city from states like Pennsylvania and Virginia."

In an effort to halt this flow, the mayor sent private investigators with hidden cameras into Virginia gun stores to try and make illegal purchases.

In September 2006, the Second Amendment Foundation called on U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to investigate Bloomberg's "rogue" operation, and last February, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) confirmed that the agency was "investigating the matter."

While the city has filed suit against 27 gun dealers as a result of its efforts - including six in Virginia - Bloomberg's tactics led the state General Assembly to pass the new law, which was intended to halt any further stings conducted without the involvement of Virginia or federal law enforcement officials.

The situation intensified late last week, when Bloomberg's spokesman accused his fellow Republicans of defending "rogue gun dealers."

"Mayor Bloomberg wants the same things that every elected official should want - to protect the rights of law-abiding gun owners but also keep guns out of the hands of criminals," Post said. "Attorney General McDonnell feels otherwise."

"It is not the job of the mayor of New York to enforce the criminal laws of Virginia," McDonnell fired back. "We don't tell Mayor Bloomberg how to enforce the laws of New York."

But after Bloomberg's concession, McDonnell called his counterpart, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, to discuss ways the states' law enforcement agencies could work together on public safety issues. He also pledged the ongoing cooperation of Virginia officials to fight criminal activity of mutual interest to both jurisdictions.

Elsewhere on Friday, Bloomberg's "rogue gun stings" were the target of the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), which called for reauthorization of the Tiahrt Amendment - federal legislation that "safeguards law enforcement and criminal investigations by restricting access to firearms tracing data to only those in law enforcement."

In a letter sent to members of Mayors Against Illegal Guns - a group Bloomberg helped found despite drawing fire from pro-gun activists - NSSF Senior Vice President and General Counsel Lawrence Keane called on the mayors to "join with ATF, the Fraternal Order of Police and the nation's law enforcement in reauthorizing the Tiahrt Amendment."

"The best argument" for doing so "is Mayor Bloomberg himself," Keane wrote, because he used tracing data for his "string operations and, as a result, "actually interfered with as many as 18 ongoing criminal investigations, jeopardizing the lives of law enforcement officers, informants, witnesses and others."

Instead, "Mayor Bloomberg's allies in the gun ban lobby, i.e. the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence that represents the City of New York in its litigation against members of the firearms industry, want access to this sensitive law enforcement data to advance their political agenda," he said.

"When it authorized restrictions on public access and use of gun trace data, Congress correctly understood that this sensitive information was a crime-fighting tool always intended solely for use by law enforcement and that, in the wrong hands, it could be recklessly misused," Keane added. "Those legitimate concerns are still valid today."

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