Colosimo's gun shop closing is imminent

Vernon Clark - Philadelphia Inquirer - 09/29/2009

Colosimo's gun shop, a Philadelphia store targeted by antiviolence protesters, will close by tomorrow under a plea agreement reached in federal court.

James Colosimo, the store's owner, entered a guilty plea yesterday before U.S. District Judge Timothy Savage on behalf of Colosimo's Inc. on charges of making false statements and failing to properly maintain firearms-transaction records.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Reed said the plea was made on behalf of the corporation, not of Colosimo individually.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Tomika Stevens said the store, at 933 Spring Garden St., sold 10 guns to three people who employees should have known were "straw" purchasers. A straw buyer is someone who purchases a gun with the intention of transferring that weapon to a person prohibited by law from buying guns, such as a convicted felon.

Reed said investigators were able to determine that "people working on behalf of Colosimo's were selling guns to individuals who certainly should not have received them because they were, under law, prohibited persons."

In addition to the closing, Colosimo's Inc. faces a fine of up to $200,000. Reed said prosecutors asked the court to issue a fine of at least $10,000. Sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 6.

"In Philadelphia, just in the last week, there were over 50 shootings. There have been 220 people killed in this city this year, and those guns are often obtained through straw purchases," Reed said. He said none of the guns in the Colosimo's case were linked to any shootings. But, Reed added, "we know historically that guns that are straw-purchased are used in the most heinous crimes."

The store had been the focus of weekly antiviolence protests by the interfaith group Heeding God's Call, which urged Colosimo's to sign a "code of ethics."

One of the leaders of the group, the Rev. Isaac J. Miller, rector of the Church of the Advocate at 18th and Diamond Streets, hailed the store closing and the guilty plea.

"I think it is absolutely great news," Miller said.

Contact staff writer Vernon Clark at 215-854-5717 or vclark@phillynews.com.

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