After years of controversy, Colosimo’s to close

By Troy Graham - INQUIRER STAFF WRITER Philadelphia Inquirer - 09/23/2009
image

From left, Rabbi Linda Holtzman of Mishkan Shalom Synagogue, Thomas Swain, Clerk, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, Bryan Miller, executive director of Cease Fire New Jersey, The Rt. Reverend Allen L. Bartlett Jr., and Mrgr. Michael J. Carroll, of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia, hold a press conference in front of Colosimo's gun center on Monday. (Michael S. Wirtz / Staff Photographer)

Philadelphia gun-store owner James Colosimo plans to close his decades-old shop, which has been targeted recently with antiviolence protests and federal inquiries into its business practices.

Since protests this year, the Buruea of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives has filed a notice to revoke Colosimo's federal license to sell firearms, said Colosimo's attorney, Joe Canuso.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Attorney's Office accused the store of selling 10 guns to people employees "knew or had reason to believe" were illegal straw buyers.

Canuso said today that his client would not contest the effort to revoke his license. He said Colosimo was mulling whether to fight the criminal charge, which was filed against his corporation and carries maximum penalties of five years' probation and a $200,000 fine.

Colosimo waived his right to a grand-jury hearing, and the charge was filed in a criminal information, which often means a defendant plans to plead guilty.

"Mr. Colosimo just wants to get things resolved so he can move on with his life, so to speak," Canuso said.

By the time Colosimo makes his first appearance in court, he should have a date for closing his store, Canuso said.

"There will be something soon," he said.

Bryan Miller, from the interfaith, anti-gun-violence group Heeding God's Call, said data had shown for decades that Colosimo's, at 10th and Spring Garden Streets, had sold a "disproportionate number" of guns used in crimes.

"Every bad guy in Philly knew where to go to get a gun," he said. "Gun traffickers in the region will be mourning the closing of Colosimo's, but law-abiding citizens should rejoice."

Twelve members of Heeding God's Call were arrested in January after two days of protests inside and outside Colosimo's shop. All 12 were acquitted of a series of misdemeanors.

The protesters targeted the store after Colosimo refused to sign a voluntary "code of conduct" to cut down on gun sales to criminals. Colosimo argued that he already participated in nine of the 10 measures outlined in the code.

Colosimo acknowledged at the time that a significant number of guns sold in his store were used in crimes, but he attributed that to the high volume of his business.

Despite the criminal charge, Canuso said, Colosimo's never knowingly sold to a straw purchaser - a person who buys a gun for someone barred from owning a firearm, usually because of a criminal conviction.

"I can say that without fear of contradiction," he said.

Canuso said the criminal charge originated merely because of bad record-keeping.

"He's been in business for a long time and had a lot of inventory go through there, and he apparently had some discrepancies," he said.

The criminal information says Colosimo's sold 10 guns to three different straw buyers between 2004 and 2007. The court papers do not say how authorities determined that the guns were bought illegally, and the U.S. Attorney's Office declined to comment today.

Canuso said those guns had not been used in crimes.

"I have never heard anything like that," he said. "If they had a direct connection between a gun used in a crime and Colosimo's, you would have heard about it." Colosimo's has been in business for "at least 40 years," Canuso said.

"His best customers have been mostly police officers," he said. "He's sold police guns and equipment for as long as I've been around."

Canuso said his client didn't harbor any ill will toward the protesters who singled out his store.

"While he didn't necessarily enjoy having them outside his shop . . . he understands what their reasoning is," he said. "He feels he didn't do anything illegal."

Contact staff writer Troy Graham at 215-854-2730 or tgraham@phillynews.com.

Link to Article