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Bloomberg Persecutes Cooperative Shop Owner: $60,000 Fine For Selling Lighters Shaped Like Guns

June 4, 2013 by  

Fred Shayes, owner of a small tourist shop in midtown Manhattan, is going to have to go out of business if Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s office doesn’t let up.

The city came after Shayes after discovering his store was selling small, toy novelty cigarette lighters – little trinkets that cost less than $10 apiece – that had black handles, silver casings and red tips at the ends (you know, to let people know the tiny gun-shaped device pointed at the end of your cigarette isn’t, in fact, a real gun). Each lighter is about three inches long and fits easily into the palm of an adult’s hand.

But in New York City, toy guns can’t be silver and black. They have to be plastic-looking, in bright colors like blue or red or neon. In other words, they have to look more or less like the world’s first successfully-fired 3D printed (real) gun, the Liberator.


Credit: GUNS.COM

The minute the city notified Shayes his tourist knick-knacks didn’t conform to code, he got rid of them.

“The day the inspector came, he said, ‘This is illegal,’” Shayes told the New York Post. “I took it off the shelf right away. I sent it back, and I showed them the invoice that proved I returned it.”

Fair enough, you might think. But cooperating with the Bloomberg administration doesn’t get gun sellers very far – even the ones who aren’t really selling guns. That’s because Bloomberg thinks toy guns are culturally dangerous and is waging a campaign to end toy gun sales. “We are working hard to make sure these fake guns stay out of kids’ hands,” he boasted in reiterating the city’s Public Safety Law. “Anyone thinking of selling fake guns should take this as a clear warning: it’s time to get rid of these dangerous toys. If you attempt to sell illegal fake guns, our Administration will come after you, and use whatever resources we have under the law to punish you.”

Shayes is finding that out the fun way. Even though he cooperated with the city’s Department of Consumer Affairs from the beginning, he was fined $60,000. Then he appealed the fine, and lost. Now he has a petition before the Manhattan Supreme Court to block the fine.

“We don’t have the money,” he said. “I would have to take a loan out from the bank to pay that.”

Ben Bullard

Reconciling the concept of individual sovereignty with conscientious participation in the modern American political process is a continuing preoccupation for staff writer Ben Bullard. A former community newspaper writer, Bullard has closely observed the manner in which well-meaning small-town politicians and policy makers often accept, unthinkingly, their increasingly marginal role in shaping the quality of their own lives, as well as those of the people whom they serve. He argues that American public policy is plagued by inscrutable and corrupt motives on a national scale, a fundamental problem which individuals, families and communities must strive to solve. This, he argues, can be achieved only as Americans rediscover the principal role each citizen plays in enriching the welfare of our Republic.

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