New York City sent teams of private investigators posing as gun buyers to stores in 5 states, catching 15 dealers making illegal sales, reports the New York Times. In the two-month sting, which the city and gun control advocates said was the first of such wide scope, teams of operatives wearing hidden cameras traveled to Georgia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Virginia to make straw purchases, a violation of federal law in which one individual submits a background check for a gun that is clearly to be used by someone else. All 15 dealers, whose guns have been linked to more than 500 crimes in New York City from 1994 to 2001, improperly sold a gun to the private investigators, officials said. The evidence is to be used in a lawsuit against the dealers filed yesterday in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn and is being shared with federal law enforcement agencies.
The lawsuit seeks monetary damages from the 15 dealers and the appointment of a special master to monitor their sales closely. City officials said they might also ask the court to shut the gun businesses down. The evidence collected is being shared with the Justice Department and with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, an agency that Mayor Michael Bloomberg has said has been “asleep at the switch” in policing gun sales. “Our opponents never tire of telling us that we ought to be going after the people who break the law with guns,” Mr. Bloomberg said. “Well, O.K. You asked for something; you got it.” Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, said the NRA opposed straw purchases. “They’re against the law,” he said.