Libertarian Candidate Claims NYC Mayor Defamed Gun Store
September 16, 2008 - 3:24 PMNew York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg defamed a Georgia sporting goods store when he labeled it one of several "rogue gun dealers" putting firearms on his city's streets, Libertarian presidential candidate Bob Barr argued Tuesday to a federal appeals court.
Barr, a former Republican congressman from Georgia, is pursuing a $400 million libel lawsuit against Bloomberg and New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.
Taking a break from the campaign trail to argue the case himself, Barr claimed New York officials damaged the reputation of Adventure Outdoor Sports in Smyrna when they suggested the shop violated federal gun laws.
Tuesday's hearing at the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was the latest salvo in a two-year-old legal battle that began when Bloomberg sued 15 firearms brokers in five states, including Georgia.
Bloomberg said they were selling weapons that ended up in the hands of New York criminals. Barr, an ardent gun rights supporter and former National Rifle Association board member, fired back with a libel lawsuit on behalf of the store a few months later.
Tuesday's arguments centered on whether the lawsuit should be handled in state or federal court. Bloomberg's attorneys want the case thrown out or to stay in federal court, because it applies to whether the gun stores violated federal laws.
But Barr originally filed the case in Cobb County Superior Court and wants the case to end up back in state court because the comments were published in Georgia.
"That's where the harm occurred," Barr said.
Bloomberg's lawyer, Peter Canfield, argued Tuesday that the mayor has immunity under New York law for remarks made in his capacity as an elected official. But Barr countered that even though the comments were made at a press conference in New York, a weaker Georgia law on immunity should apply.
Bloomberg's 2006 lawsuit cracking down on gun dealers eventually grew to include 27 shops. Many have settled with the city. Four have shut down and three have persuaded the city to drop them as defendants. The owner of a South Carolina gun store named in the suit also countersued Bloomberg, claiming slander, but later dropped the suit.
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