Bailey’s Straw Purchase: It’s not about bullying, It’s about breaking the law

By Alan Gottlieb

Boston Globe columnist Steve Bailey is having a hissy fit about finding himself in the same uncomfortable position he has wished upon so many law-abiding American gun owners; he’s being investigated for violating a federal gun law, when he believes he did nothing wrong.

He thinks it is no big deal that some 20 months ago he accompanied John Rosenthal, head of Stop Handgun Violence in Massachusetts, and two other men, to a New Hampshire gun show, where he admits giving money to one of his companions to buy a handgun. He acknowledged that he asked a gun dealer at the show whether he could personally purchase the gun, and was turned down cold because he lives in Massachusetts.

Bailey handed $240 to a man identified as Walter Belair, a New Hampshire resident, after the dealer allegedly stated it would be legal for Belair to purchase the gun. Bailey then expensed the purchase price to the Globe and wrote about it in November 2005, omitting these important facts. Bailey and Rosenthal made a big deal of this escapade during a July 10 chat on WRKO-AM with talk host Tom Finneran, both contending the dealer knew it was a straw sale.

The Second Amendment Foundation (SAF), which I founded more than 30 years ago, and others called for an investigation because what Bailey described was arguably a straw purchase, and that’s a felony. Bailey is miffed because on the day we asked for the investigation, and his dismissal from the Globe for this ethical breach, agents with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and a Manchester police officer tracked down Belair at work, showed him a search warrant and subsequently confiscated the gun.

Bailey complained that “intimidation is the stock in trade of the National Rifle Association and all the NRA knock-offs out there. Dare to say we need fewer, not more guns in this country, dare to say we need a uniform system for monitoring gun sales in this country and you become a target to be hunted down…Count me as a proud member of the gun lobby’s hit list.”

Portraying himself as a martyr for gun control extremism does not trump the fact that Bailey is being investigated for violating a federal gun law. His on-air braggadocio brought that down, and being disingenuous about it is flimsy. The “gun lobby” doesn’t dispatch federal agents to investigate people. The audio of his broadcast provided ATF with probable cause, and SAF doesn’t issue search warrants, judges do.

This is the kind of treatment to which he and Rosenthal think other Americans – those who own firearms and buy or sell them at gun shows – ought to be subjected, but not them. Bailey somehow thinks that just because he’s an anti-gun columnist, he should be immune from the law. Welcome to the world of gun control that people like you created, Steve. Like it so far?

None of this would have happened if Bailey hadn’t bragged on the air what actually transpired in New Hampshire. He never offered these details in his column, but in a fit of bluster on live radio, he essentially confessed to having committed a crime, with Rosenthal – the consummate elitist gun control fanatic who was a founder of the American Hunting and Shooting Association (which should clarify where that organization truly stands on gun rights) – as an accomplice.

Bailey’s worst enemy in all of this isn’t the so-called gun lobby. It’s his own big mouth, fed by a giant ego and an overdose of monumental stupidity. He argues that gun shows need tougher regulation. He may provide the example of how that might work.