In a letter sent to City Hall last week, Michael Battle, director of the Executive Office for United States Attorneys, said the Department of Justice would not seek any charges against the dealers because the city's findings do not show evidence that would warrant criminal prosecution.The federal response comes in the wake of Bloomberg's high-profile crusade against illegal guns. Last year private investigators hired by the city infiltrated more than a dozen out-of-state gun dealers and using hidden cameras, videotaped the sale of several guns through illegal "straw purchases."A "straw purchase" refers to a situation in which a customer talks to a store clerk about purchasing a gun, but has another person present who undergoes a required background check and fills out the necessary paperwork to complete the purchase. The investigation's findings have resulted in lawsuits being brought by the city against the 15 gun dealers documented participating in such purchases.The Department of Justice also announced last week that it was looking into whether or not Bloomberg acted out of his legal authority when he hired a private firm, the James Mintz Group, to investigate the dealers.The mayor's office was unfazed by the federal determination, however. John Feinblatt, Bloomberg's criminal justice coordinator, said the decision does not affect the civil litigation being brought by the city against the gun dealers and pointed out that sending gun dealers to jail was never a part of their plan."Our goal has always been to get dealers whose guns most frequently end up in the hands of criminals to play by the rules," Feinblatt said. "Our goal has never been to send dealers to jail or drive them out of business."Pro-gun groups, such as the Second Amendment Foundation, lauded the federal decision, calling it "a significant victory" against Bloomberg's "anti-gun antics.""We were adamant early on that this vigilante attack on gun dealers by Bloomberg and his posse of private investigators went way beyond his legal authority. Now it appears the Justice Department believes likewise," SAF founder Alan Gottlieb said.A spokesman for Bloomberg, however, maintained that the administration had done nothing wrong by conducting the investigation."We reserve the right to conduct sting operations in the future," the spokesman said. "We believe everything we have done is well within the law."Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e-mail at news@times
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