In ‘Unprecedented’ Deal, City To Oversee Georgia Gun Dealerships
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In what Mayor Bloomberg is hailing as an “unprecedented” agreement, the city will pay for a court-appointed supervisor to monitor the activities of two Georgia gun dealerships that his administration sued as part of its fight against illegal firearms.
The supervisor, called a “special master,” will have broad powers to scrutinize the dealers for compliance with gun laws, including access to records, the ability to install video cameras in their shops, and to conduct undercover surveillance.
In announcing the accord yesterday, Mr. Bloomberg said the settlement was unlike any ever won by a city or state. “The agreement will achieve exactly what we wanted,” the mayor said.
The settlement comes two months after the Bloomberg administration filed suit against 15 out-of-state dealers that it alleged had sold guns to people knowing they would be illegally passed on to others. Since then, one of the dealers, Adventure Outdoors Inc. of Georgia, has countersued the mayor, claiming in a $400 million complaint that Mr. Bloomberg and other city officials had slandered the business and broken federal law.
The two Georgia dealerships that settled with the city, A-1 Jewelry and Pawn Inc. and AAA Gun & Pawn Brokers, are owned by the same family. Officials said the owners called the city after being served with the lawsuit and asked what they could do to avoid a protracted and expensive legal battle.
“We don’t feel like we’ve done anything wrong, but they made such a great offer, it was hard to turn down,” the owner of AAA Gun & Pawn, Greg Driggers, said. He is the son of Earl Driggers, who owns A-1 Jewelry and Pawn.
The lawsuit followed an undercover sting operation that linked more than 500 guns used in crimes in New York to the 15 dealers, whom Mr. Bloomberg has labeled “the worst of the worst.”
Under the settlement, the special master will have oversight powers over the dealerships for three years, a period which would be extended if the businesses break the law. The agreement also establishes escalating fines for violations and provides for the training of gun store employees.
Critics of the mayor’s high-profile effort to rid the city of illegal guns say he is running afoul of the Second Amendment. Mr. Bloomberg, however, says his mission, which includes the formation of a nationwide coalition of mayors, has nothing to do with the Constitution and everything to do with public safety. “This is about law enforcement, plain and simple,” he said. The mayor said he hoped the agreement would pressure the other 13 dealers to come to the table.
Not likely, the lawyer representing the gun dealer who is suing the city, Bob Barr, said. A former Georgia congressman and an opponent of gun control, Mr. Barr said he would never recommend such a settlement. “For any company to willingly agree to yet another level of regulation, certainly outside the normal stream of commerce and laws, baffles me,” he said. “I think they are asking for serious problems down the road.”