An Outrage In Virginia
By Neal Knox
WASHINGTON, D.C. (Jan 10) - As the fight gears up in Congress over increasing the powers of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and on the eve of an all-out state legislative fight to limit Virginians to one handgun purchase per month, a politically ambitious U.S. Attorney has "made an example" of a family run gun store in Richmond.
Those three events are closely connected.
BATF has released a three-page "study" that says Virginia dealers are the source of 40 percent of the seized New York City handguns which "could be traced".
The U.S. Attorney in Richmond, Richard Cullen, says an "astonishing" 27 percent of the guns traced to New York came from that one Richmond gun store.
During her sentencing, Hilda Weiss, the co-owner of that store, told the Federal judge that she had never done anything wrong except for pleading guilty to BATF and Cullen's charges of gun control act violations.
She also told the court that she had actively been cooperating with BATF for more that four years. Not only had she complied with the long-standing requirement that all multiple handguns sales be reported to BATF within 24 hours, she had immediately reported to BATF agents /by coded telephone beeper calls/ whenever anyone purchased three or more handguns.
That service to BATF was not required by law, and it was done at considerable personal risk, leading to threats of retaliation from those prosecuted.
When she asked her main BATF contact, Irvin Moran, whether she should stop making multiple sales, particularly to people he and other agents asked her to watch for, she told me he said "No, no. Just be sure they tell you they're buying the guns for themselves."
About three months after Virginia Police Supply quit selling more than two guns per customer last May, she and her husband were charged with making strawman sales. /Somebody didn't want them to quit./
The best evidence that Mrs. Weiss is telling the truth is U.S. Prosecuter Cullen's own statement that a fourth of the traceable guns seized in New York came from Virginia Police Supply.
Obviuosly, if due to Mrs. Weiss' efforts the BATF and law enforcement agencies were able to keep the guns under surveillance from her parking lot all the way to New York, those guns would show up among the 453 Virginia guns reported traced to New York by BATF in 1991.
Though that was 40 percent of the 1,129 guns /traced/, the known Virginia guns were only 3.3 percent of the 13,759 handguns seized by the New York City police. If 27 percent of those 453 guns - about 122 guns - came from the Weiss shop, what happened to the several hundred other mass purchase guns that Mrs. Weiss sold with the encouragement of BATF?
Mrs. Weiss received a sentence of five months incarceration, plus five months house arrest, plus $30,000 fine.
She also received a life sentence of guilt for the death of her husband, a retired Army Lieutenant Colonel, who killed himself two days after he was not allowed to withdraw his own guilty plea.
"If I hadn't cooperated with them, he would still be alive," she tearfully told me yesterday. "We pleaded guilty only because they threatened to charge our son, who has his whole life ahead of him."
"My husband killed himself because he wanted to end the nightmare for me. But the nightmare keeps going."
The BATF has released a transcript which appears to involve Don Weiss in a knowing strawman sale, but I won't believe it until an unbiased person verifies it. As the court found in another mom and pop gunshop strawman case in New Mexico a dozen years ago, BATF's transcript was phony.
In any event, the case is moot, for Don Weiss is dead. And Hilda Weiss is going to jail.
This case smells.
CBS "60 Minutes" blasted BATF tonight for sexual
harassment of female agents, and official retaliation against complainers. A
BATF agent told Mike Wallace, "The people I put in jail have more honor
that the top administration in ATF."
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