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'Don't Lie for the Other Guy' Campaign Comes to Tampa Bay

You may have seen the billboards by now: They have a photo of a guy in handcuffs with the caption "Don't Lie for the Other Guy." It's part of a media blitz of the Tampa Bay area as a consortium of law enforcement agencies attempt to battle illegal gun purchases.

The national campaign to battle purchases of guns that are then given to people who can't buy weapons legally, has been going on for about 15 years. Now, a month-long awareness campaign to combat these "straw purchases" has been kicked off in Tampa Bay by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Regina Lombardo is the special agent in charge of ATF's Tampa field division. She said the recent massacre in California by two supposed Islamic radicals couldn't have happened without someone else buying their weapons.

Credit Steve Newborn / WUSF News
Regina Lombardo, special agent in charge of ATF's Tampa field division, speaks before police chiefs and federal law enforcement officials at Bass Pro Shops in Brandon

"On a national level, the most recent shooting in San Bernadino, California - that's a true example of providing false information, as the shooter - in that particular case - the firearms were purchased by a friend," she said during a press conference at Bass Pro Shops in Brandon.

The campaign is being waged on billboards and television and radio ads, with the roughly $300,000 tab being paid for by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a trade association based in Connecticut.  

Lawrence Keane is the group's senior vice president.

"This campaign comes to Tampa for the month of January as part of an ongoing national effort to help prevent illegal straw purchases of firearms," he said.

Simon Gaugush is assistant U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida.

"If people think that these straw purchaser crimes are victimless crimes, they're absolutely wrong," he said. "And if they think that they're maybe not a convicted felon, or they're not one of these other prohibited persons that they're not going to get prosecuted by the United States Attorney's office, they're also wrong."

Anyone convicted of illegally buying weapons for other people can face up to 10 years in jail and a fine of $250,000.

Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.
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