VA gunshow operator considering class action
From CNS News: the operator of the RIchmond-area gunshow that had the ATFE/State Police stake it out and run investigations of its buyers, based on their instant-check forms, is considering a class action lawsuit.
"The email address, firstname.lastname@example.org, has been activated to receive messages from those who believe ATF or other law enforcement officials improperly violated their privacy or tried to discourage them from making lawful firearms purchases at the C&E shows."
CNSNews.com) - The owner of a gun show targeted by federal law
enforcement for a half dozen undercover enforcement operations may join
with some of his customers in filing a federal class action civil rights
lawsuit against the agencies that participated in the operations.
Virginia State Police (VSP) records obtained through a Freedom of
Information Act (FOIA) request by Cybercast News Service confirm that
the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF)
conducted "Task Force" undercover surveillance and enforcement
operations in connection with six gun shows in Richmond, Va., between
July of 2004 and June of 2005. Richmond City and Henrico County, Va.,
police also assisted in at least some of the events. Steven Elliot,
owner of C&E Gun Shows, noted that all of the shows listed on the VSP
records were hosted by his company.
"More people have had their rights violated at my shows than at
Annette's show," Elliot said, referring to colleague Annette Gelles, who
owns the Showmasters Gun Show, which was the target of another ATF Task
Force operation last month.
"They've been pulled over when they left the building and had their guns
taken away from them," Elliot continued. "In one case, we had a guy with
a valid concealed-carry permit who had his gun confiscated. He had to go
to ATF headquarters the next day to pick that gun back up."
As Cybercast News Service previously reported, Richmond and Henrico
police officers, acting under instructions from ATF agents, conducted
"residence checks," going to certain gun buyers' homes to confirm their
residence information. Records obtained through another FOIA request of
the Henrico County Police Department support the allegation that some
officers shared confidential information about gun buyers with their
relatives and, possibly, with neighbors.
"There are a whole lot of people now starting to speak up about things
that went on and happened to them and some of the stuff that just wasn't
right that ATF did, along with other law enforcement people," Elliot
said. "Some are starting to talk and some don't want to talk."
The VSP documents also list 43 guns as "confiscated," a figure that
"How many of those guns stayed confiscated and how many were actually
returned to their rightful owners?" Elliot asked. "We know of at least
Attorney Richard Gardiner is an expert on federal firearms laws. He
previously told Cybercast News Service that the behavior Elliot
described would potentially rise to the level of civil rights violations.
"I think you would have an action against the state and local agents or
officers for violation of your federal statutory rights," Gardiner said.
"You can recover against individual federal agents for violation of your
constitutional rights but not your statutory rights."
Elliot and Gelles are seeking co-plaintiffs for a likely lawsuit against
all of the law enforcement agencies involved in the ATF Task Force.
"We have talked with a lawyer and we are considering legal action,"
Elliot said. "I've got some of the best lawyers, I think, that are
available for us for this."
The email address, email@example.com, has been activated to
receive messages from those who believe ATF or other law enforcement
officials improperly violated their privacy or tried to discourage them
from making lawful firearms purchases at the C&E shows.
"I'm going to talk to my lawyer, also, within the next week or two to
try to get enough people involved in this who think they've had their
civil rights violated to file a class action lawsuit," Elliot explained.
"If we do it, then I'll have a system in place to turn these people over
to our attorney to see if their case is actually valid and justified."