If the New York City Council has its way and a spate of stringent gun-control bills become law, a son of the 83-year-old Reverend Sun Myung Moon could be held financially liable for the deaths of gunned-down New Yorkers.
Kook Jin (Justin) Moon, 33, is the founder and chief executive of Kahr Arms, a Rockland County–based firearms manufacturer that has become the darling of gun enthusiasts in recent years. According to a former church member quoted in a 1999 Boston Globe article, Mr. Moon founded Kahr Arms after he graduated from Harvard University in 1992 with an infusion of $5 million from Dad, who peppers his own teachings with talk of peace. The company makes guns that are sleek and stylish, petite but powerful. It’s an unusual combination, one that Mr. Moon began brainstorming as a senior at Harvard, and it has earned Kahr a place beside Glock and Smith & Wesson. But it has also won the company some less welcome notoriety: The Daily News reported this summer that the gun used by Othniel Askew to kill Councilman James Davis in the City Hall Rotunda on July 23 was a Kahr M-40.
On Friday, Sept. 12, the City Council’s Public Safety Committee will host a hearing on six bills that aim to clamp down on gunmakers. Three of the bills would impose civil penalties and punitive damages on manufacturers whose weapons kill or wound innocent New Yorkers.
“The goal is to get manufacturers to clean up their act and change the way they do business,” said Councilman David Yassky, the lead sponsor of several bills. “I believe if we pass this, you will see the major players in the industry moving to a code of good conduct within months, because they simply can’t afford the exposure to liability.”
The idea to hold gunmakers responsible for gun crimes is hardly new. The City Council penned several such laws in early 2002, but they were stalled in committee-victims, perhaps, of the complacency about falling crime rates, said Mr. Yassky. Then one of the Council’s own died at City Hall in a burst of bullets from an illegally purchased handgun, and the legislation got a new life.
“When something like this happens, it focuses you,” said Councilwoman Christine Quinn, whose Manhattan district is home to the national headquarters of Reverend Moon’s Unification Church, located at West 43rd Street just off Fifth Avenue. “The thought that what happened in City Hall, which was so personal to all of the Council members and the Mayor, could circle back to an institution that’s based in my district only further drives home the need for New York City to do everything we can to try to limit the number of guns that are out there.”
While the bills won’t be decided for several months, the odds seem to be stacking in their favor. Speaker Gifford Miller has quietly given his blessing to the measures, according to sources on the City Council, and Mayor Bloomberg also seems supportive. That leaves only the U.S. Congress, which is weighing legislation to immunize gunmakers from liability-which would, of course, render the City Council’s efforts moot.
“It’s anyone’s guess who’s going to win at this point,” said Jim Kessler, policy and research director of Americans for Gun Safety, a Washington-based advocacy group. “But New York’s the most important city in America. Everyone loves to see what New York does. I think people will notice.”
Mr. Moon, however, sees little connection between the murder of Councilman Davis and the need to limit the number of handguns.
“I think the idea of making a manufacturer liable for the criminal misuse of its products is ludicrous,” he wrote in an e-mail interview. “It’s akin to saying that auto manufacturers and alcohol producers should be liable for drunk driving …. We are not responsible for the criminal misuse of our product.”
Justin Moon-who, according to Harvard’s alumni directory, lives in Rockland County-began his love affair with firearms at an early age. As a small child, “toy soldiers and toy guns were my favorite playthings,” he told American Handgunner magazine, and later he loved “reading about weapons of all sorts.” At 14, his brother took him shooting for the first time, and by 18 he was licensed to carry a gun in New York State. As an economics major at Harvard, Mr. Moon told The Observer , he “studied, mostly, and did not have much time for other activities.” Still, he nurtured a dream of joining the firearms industry, and when he graduated in 1992, he partnered with Saeilo, a manufacturing subsidiary of his father’s financial empire, and began designing his signature compact gun. He gave the company its German-sounding name, he told American Handgunner , as a nod to that country’s “engineering prowess and quality.”
Mr. Moon is Kahr’s majority stakeholder, according to the company’s administrative director, Randall Cassaday. In his free moments, Mr. Moon likes to hunt, shoot and practice jujitsu. He also plays an active role in the Unification Church where, as one of Reverend Moon’s 13 “True Children,” he is in the enviable position of being born without original sin.
Yalies Go Hungry?
Capitalism is raw right now at Yale. Ever since more than 2,000 clerical, dining-hall and maintenance workers went on strike as the school year was starting, resulting in protests and over 100 arrests, most of the well-appointed dining halls in the residential colleges where most students take their meals have been closed, and students have been prowling the mean streets of New Haven for some grub.
On a recent afternoon outside of the post office, on a busy corner usually reserved for newspaper boxes and jaywalking students, a man stood behind a food cart selling falafel and humus sandwiches as fast as the line of Yalies could place their orders. He also flashed a menu from Mamoun’s Falafel Restaurant, where he works. He started the cart business after the strike; business at the restaurant itself, he said, was up about 15 percent.
A woman in a maroon Jeep Cherokee pulled up. “Oh, Mamoun’s!” she said. “I thought you were Jorges’ partner. We’re around the corner at Funky Monkey. My husband has a cart on Chapel Street.”
Meanwhile, Marc Woll, owner and chef of Gastronomique, a tiny take-out restaurant too small to contain a single table, was also benefiting from the strike. “Business has tripled,” he said. “It’s been almost hard to handle.”
Mr. Woll offers a Gastronomique meal plan. You pay $350 to eat 30 meals in 30 days. If you use the plan for 10 dinners, you get one for free-which comes to about the same price as buying all your dinners in Commons, the only campus eatery currently open. And no one wants to eat at Commons-it’s cash only, and there’s a highly verbal picket line out front. At least five Yale students have signed on with Gastronomique’s plan.
“The business we’re doing is almost unbelievable,” said Mr. Woll.
A skinny assistant chimed in from the counter: “You said ‘God bless the strikers.’”
“God bless the strikers,” said Mr. Woll.
Two Yale juniors, Andrew and Chris, arrived for dinner.
“I haven’t gone shopping. I’m mostly going out,” said Andrew.
“Or just not eating,” said Chris.
“Yeah, I’ll just skip a meal,” said Andrew. “I don’t really think much of it.”
“I don’t eat breakfast.”
“I don’t eat breakfast either. There’s no really good breakfast place and it’s so expensive, I just don’t bother.”
Because the campus meal plans are pre-paid, Yale has been sending students rebate checks each week. Andrew and Chris said the rebate checks don’t cover the cost of eating off-campus.
“But everyone’s bitching and moaning, so I don’t want to bitch and moan, too,” said Andrew. “It’s better food than in the dining hall.”
Indeed, conditions are far from dire: The residential colleges are providing meals once or twice a week with their own funds, and coffee and soda machines have been adjusted in many of the campus buildings so that drinks are dispensed for free.
But there has been some disruption of dating etiquette.
“The trouble with the strike is that it’s blurred the boundaries between date and non-date,” said Ana, a junior. “You can no longer differentiate between what is a date and what’s not a date by saying, ‘Let’s go to the dining hall.’”
Ana added that she wanted The Observer to know she has a boyfriend.