- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 9, 2007

RICHMOND — Attorney General Bob McDonnell has warned New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg about a new law that would prevent the mayor from sending undercover private investigators to buy guns in Virginia.

Mr. Bloomberg, a Republican, has sued 27 out-of-state gun dealers in attempt to reduce the flow of illegal guns into New York. Between 80 percent and 90 percent of the firearms used to commit crimes in the city are initially purchased out of state, according to police.

City officials say the dealers have supplied hundreds of weapons used in New York City crimes. The lawsuits, which name dealers in Georgia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Virginia, ask the courts to require monitoring of the shops’ sales. Twelve have settled.

“While I understand that you are attempting to take steps that you believe may enhance the public safety of the citizens of New York City, such laws are Virginia’s duty to enforce,” Mr. McDonnell said in a letter to Mr. Bloomberg, a fellow Republican, last month apprising him of the law, which takes effect July 1.

Wearing hidden cameras, investigators tried to make “straw purchases,” in which one person fills out the legal forms and buys a gun for someone else. The practice is prohibited by federal law and typically is used by those who cannot own firearms legally, such as convicted felons.

The new state law makes undercover gun purchases by non-law-enforcement entities a felony. Mr. McDonnell said the law “strikes the proper balance between ensuring effective law enforcement and protecting the rights of law-abiding firearms dealers” and the Second Amendment rights of Virginians.

“Law-abiding Virginia gun dealers certainly do not deserve to be targeted by private agents intentionally misleading them as to their intentions and motives,” said Tucker Martin, a spokesman for Mr. McDonnell’s office. “This is a courtesy to the mayor. Prior actions of his are now felony offenses in the commonwealth, and he knows this.”

In the letter, Mr. McDonnell also mentioned a recent letter from the Department of Justice to Mr. Bloomberg that states “such activity is counterproductive to legitimate law-enforcement efforts to police illegal firearm trafficking and has potential legal liabilities.”

Mayoral spokesman Jason Post said the office will continue to “develop innovative and aggressive ways to keep New Yorkers safe.”

“We wish that Attorney General McDonnell was as aggressive in enforcing the laws that prevent illegal guns from getting in the hands of criminals as he was in enforcing the laws that protect the gun lobby,” Mr. Post said.

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