- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 16, 2007

A gun-rights group planning a “Bloomberg Gun Giveaway” in response to lawsuits against two Virginia gun shops by the New York City mayor must modify the contest to comply with state law, Fairfax County officials said yesterday.

In response, the Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL) is now doubling the number of guns it plans to give away and opening its contest to anybody who shows up at tonight’s meeting.

The VCDL organized the gun raffle to raise money for the gun shops being sued as well as to poke a thumb in the eye of New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who the league thinks has unfairly targeted legitimate gun dealers. Mr. Bloomberg has called the giveaway’s organizers “sick people.”

Customers received raffle tickets for every $100 they spent at the two stores, Bob Moates Sport Shop in Richmond and Old Dominion Gun and Tackle in Danville. The drawing will be held in a Fairfax County government building in Annandale.

But yesterday, Commonwealth’s Attorney Robert F. Horan Jr. told the league that such a raffle would be illegal under the state’s gambling laws. To comply with the law, the contest must be open to anybody who attends tonight’s event, even if they never spent a dime at the two gun shops.

The prizes themselves — a Para-Ordnance handgun and a Browning Varmint Stalker rifle, each worth about $900 — are legitimate under state law, Mr. Horan said.

VCDL President Philip Van Cleave said the original drawing will now be postponed so it can be revised to comply with state law. A new giveaway will be held tonight with the same guns as prizes. Anybody who shows up at the meeting will get a ticket for the drawing.

Mr. Van Cleave said he is satisfied with how everything turned out, though he thinks county officials opposed to guns unfairly targeted the group.

“If the drawing were for anything other than a firearm, this would have been a nonissue,” he said.

Fairfax Supervisor Penelope Gross, who has expressed concerns about the giveaway, said the revised plan is even worse because the giveaway is now open to anybody who walks off the street. Mrs. Gross, whose district includes Annandale, worried that the meeting could spin out of control.

“People have told me that folks will be coming from all over the state,” she said. “The government center is not FedEx Field. … I think they have created another problem because they have to be able to control their meeting.”

New York City officials have sued more than two dozen gun dealers from Georgia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Virginia in federal court. The lawsuits were filed after private investigators went into the stores with hidden cameras and simulated an illegal straw purchase — in which one person fills out the paperwork and buys the gun for somebody else.

In the stings, a man and woman entered the gun shop, and the man asked all the questions about the gun while the woman wandered off. When it time came to finalize the purchase, the woman filled out all the paperwork.

Justice Department officials have said that the private investigators conducting the stings may have been breaking the law themselves and that none of the gun dealers caught in the stings would face federal prosecution.

Virginia Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell and Mr. Bloomberg have also exchanged barbs over the stings, with Mr. McDonnell warning the mayor, a fellow Republican, that they are unwelcome and will be illegal under a new Virginia law.

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