POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Aug 01, 2012
New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s attacks on the gun industry are legion, and familiar far beyond the boundaries of the city he runs. They were heard again just hours after the shooting massacre in Aurora, Colo., in his calls for tightened gun control.
So it may come as a surprise to some that in June, New York City sold more than 28,000 pounds of the Police Department’s spent shell casings not to a scrap metal company, as it has in the past, but to a Georgia ammunition store. The store, Georgia Arms, routinely buys once-fired shell casings, reloads them with bullets and sells them to the public.
The store sells bags of 50 bullets, at about $15 each; per Georgia’s gun laws, no questions are asked and no identification or registration is required. It is a transaction that could not occur in New York City, where it is illegal to possess ammunition without a license to own a gun, and where obtaining a license to own a gun is harder than in most other states.
The sale of shell casings to Georgia Arms is perfectly legal and not uncommon; other police departments sell their used casings. And many of its “factory loaded” bullets, as the second-generation rounds are known, are sold in bulk to police agencies for use on their own firing ranges. They are less expensive than new ammunition.
Yet the sale illustrates that no matter how loudly a city administration protests against illegal guns and calls for stricter gun-control regulations, the hodgepodge of gun laws around the country limits the options, allowing ammunition that cannot be sold in one place, like New York City, to be sold easily elsewhere.
Bloomberg’s national coalition, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, ranked Georgia as having the 10th highest rate of crime-gun exports in 2009. In 2006, New York sued 28 gun dealers who had sold guns used in hundreds of crimes in the city. Eight of those dealers were from Georgia.
Georgia Arms sells ammunition online; its 1,000-round boxes are called Canned Heat.
The mayor’s office, for its part, was unapologetic when informed of the sale; indeed, it seemed to applaud it.
John Feinblatt, the mayor’s chief policy adviser and the lead architect of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, said Bloomberg stood behind the sale and would allow similar sales in the future.
“He believes, as do all members of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, that our purpose is to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, not keep guns or ammunition away from law-abiding citizens,” Feinblatt said. “There’s a big distinction between legal dealers and illegal dealers and criminals and law-abiding citizens.
“We’re about crime control. We’re not about gun control.”
Feinblatt said dealers in guns and ammunition in Georgia should not all be painted with a “broad brush” because of those who have acted illegally. He said he did not know whether any background check was done on Georgia Arms before the sale.
The sale to an ammunition store appears to be new ground for the city. The previous four sales of shell casings dating to 2010, based on the data available Tuesday, were to scrap metal companies in New York state. In all cases, the shells were sold to the highest bidder. There has been one sale of shell casings since the Georgia sale, and it was to a scrap metal company.
The shell casings come from the Police Department’s firearms and tactics section in Rodman’s Neck in the Bronx, where officers shoot on a firing range. At the end of a shooting session, officers gather their spent shell casings and drop them in large barrels. When enough barrels are filled, they are given, like much of the city’s scrap and surplus, to the city’s Department of Citywide Administrative Services, which buys, manages and maintains property for the city.
An invitation for bids for 28,800 pounds of “once-fired assorted caliber cartridge cases” was advertised in the publication The City Record for several days in May and June. Georgia Arms bought the cases for $69,696 on June 5, according to the department.
In past sales, the scrap metal companies paid a bit less, $59,040 to $67,680, for loads of casings, said Julianne Cho, a spokeswoman for administrative services.
Georgia Arms does not sell guns, only ammunition and supplies. It has not been the subject of any criminal investigation, said Wayne Smith, a special agent in charge with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. The company has bought casings from the U.S. military.
It is in rural Villa Rica, Ga., about 40 miles west of Atlanta. A sign on the door reads: “No solicitors means no solicitors. Remember this is an ammunition company.” Bullets marked “factory loaded” are under a glass counter for sale to walk-in customers. A clerk behind the counter said he did not know how much of the store’s supply came from New York.
The owner of Georgia Arms, Larry Haynie, did not respond to calls and emails requesting comment.
Buyers of handgun ammunition must be at least 21, but beyond that, the requirements are few.
“Be standing in front of the counter and breathing,” said Jerry Henry, executive director of GeorgiaCarry.org, which says it fights “to reclaim and expand our right to bear arms.”
“They sell an awful lot of reloads at gun shows,” Henry added. “They sell whatever they can, just like the rest of us, trying to make a dollar.”