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The ATF's data, meanwhile, showed that almost 60 percent of trafficked guns come from less than 2 percent of dealers. So Bloomberg took the next logical step: If the suits against manufacturers weren't working, it was time to go after those dealers who seemed to be at the root of the trafficking problem.
"The manufacturers were the much bigger fish," says Webster. "The lawsuits against dealers were an easier case to make."
And the city felt it had very good evidence against Adventure Outdoors, in particular. It had a witness, Shanika Davis, who, in 2004, was convicted of a felony for making a straw purchase from Adventure Outdoors on behalf of a New York City gun trafficker. The woman testified that the trafficker directed her purchases through a cell-phone conversation held within earshot of the sales clerks. Proshansky says he's uncovered 19 prosecutions of illegal gun purchasers who bought from Adventure Outdoors over the past decade or so—the highest number of prosecutions connected to any dealer that was sued.
But Wallace claims that the multiple prosecutions demonstrate just how vigilant and careful he is when selling guns: He says at least six prosecutions came about because he alerted ATF agents to suspicious activity in the store. (Testimony from ATF agents that Wallace says would support his claim, however, wasn't heard because Wallace pulled out.)
"If the city had just come to me and said, 'Jay, we have a problem,' I would have done something," he says, adding that he cares more about guns getting into the wrong hands than the publicity- obsessed and "agenda-driven" Bloomberg. "After 30 years in the business, I know so much more than they do. It's like a child telling the teacher what to do."
If Wallace ever does face off against Bloomberg in court, it'll be on Wallace's home turf in Georgia, where, as Cecilia explains in her Birmingham accent, the New York mayor "won't have his judge to protect him." Wallace has countersued Bloomberg for defamation and libel in a federal court in Atlanta.
Wallace says he's motivated by an unshakable faith in the American justice system. But it doesn't hurt that he has friends in high places.
Representing him in the countersuit is his buddy Bob Barr, the Libertarian presidential nominee and former Republican Congressman. A few weeks ago, Wallace's allies in the Georgia State House passed a law, House Bill 89, which makes it a felony to knowingly deceive a firearms retailer—a reaction to Bloomberg's undercover investigators, whom Wallace is also suing. (The same bill allows Georgians with a permit to carry a firearm in many public places, such as restaurants, buses and subways, and state parks. Asked about the law, Wallace says that sometimes the South is pictured as the Wild West, with people swaggering around with guns in their holsters. It's not the right image, he clarified, because the firearms have to be concealed.)
Besides the Second Amendment Foundation and the NRA (which donated $1,000 to each of the dealers sued by Bloomberg), Wallace has received support in the form of dozens of smaller donations, including $50 from a soldier stationed in Iraq, who wrote him an e-mail saying: "Your fight is as important to the cause of freedom as the fight of my brethren against the terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan."
On their final afternoon in New York, the Wallaces caught a ferry to the Statue of Liberty. "I get shivers just looking at it," Wallace said as he and Cecilia stepped onto the tourist-swarmed island. There wouldn't be time that day to go to Ellis Island, where Wallace hoped to look up his Lithuanian-Jewish "warrior" roots, the source of his chutzpah.
Peering out from the ferry's window, Wallace inquired about the origin of the cannon armory on Governors Island. His love of guns is as much the love of a collector and a history buff as it is that of an avid hunter. Among the hundreds of guns he keeps in safes in his home is an original Civil War–era Henry single-action repeater (Wallace says the technology gave the North the war) and a cap-and-ball pistol from the Revolutionary period.
The Bloomberg lawsuit has only caused Wallace to delve more deeply into history. He spends hours poring through the Library of Congress database, seeking clues to the founding fathers' constitutional vision, especially when it comes to the Second Amendment. He recently found a 1788 letter from James Madison to Thomas Jefferson that he thought was particularly relevant. "It describes what's happening to me today, with the government getting powerful and then stomping on an individual's rights and persuading people to think it's a good idea for the moment. Go read it," he said. "Those were some smart people."