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CNN Investigates: Unlicensed Gun Dealers

The prosecutor, however, pressed for prison time. Wince-as-a-cop-sur-voyage, he argued.

But there was one issue on which both sides could agree: Wince was about to be

It's "unconstitutionally vague," the defense attorney said.

"I'm not a big fan of the statute," the prosecutor conceded.

Both men were referring to the Firearms Owners' Protection Act, a decades-old federal statute originally proposed by the National Rifle Association that dictates who is a license to sell guns, and who is not.

The The problem of unlicensed gun dealing in America, a CNN investigation found.

Unlicensed dealers are a go to source of firearms for criminals and others across the country. [1


 Mary and Terry Hunt, Washington, DC, and Richard Wince, former Washington, DC, police officer, were charged with unlicensed gun dealing.

Last year a gun sold by an unlicensed dealer was used in the slaying of an off-duty police commander in Chicago. Sheriff's deputy and the wounding of two California Highway Patrol officers.

"The crime they are committing is a White-collar crime, "Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said of unlicensed dealers, in a recent interview.

attention in the national debate on guns. Even successful prosecutions sometimes result in wrist-slap punishments because of defendants have no previous criminal record, CNN found.

A common refrain from Second Amendment advocates does not require any new gun control laws; it just needs to enforce the ones already on the books. But the Firearms Owners' Protection Act is widely viewed as being a tool, according to current and former ATF agents and prosecutors interviewed by CNN.

"It's a huge problem," Jill said Snyder, a recently retired supervisory agent with ATF.

The impact of unlicensed gun dealing would be greatly reduced CNN.

That's the goal of a bill passed by the House last month.

Engaged in the business

Laws on the purchase and possession of firearms vary from state to state. State and local jurisdictions can enact and prosecute these laws are more restrictive than federal law, but not less so. When it comes to dealing with firearms, federal law requires all dealers, regardless of the state they live in, be licensed by the ATF. CNN focused on the federal law because of the fact that it is used in the country.

Under federal law, licensed dealers are required to conduct checks on prospective buyers domestic abusers or people who are mentally unstable.

They are also required to maintain records in a crime

But an ordinary citizen who decides to sell a weapon or weapons, does not fit the definition of a dealer, faces no such requirements under federal law.

 Three years after DC holdup, victims still suffer while unlicensed gun is free-cut

The statute says "engaged in the business" requires selling a license. "Engaged in the business" means devoting "time, attention and labor to dealing with firearms as a regular course of trade or business with the principal objective of livelihood and profit through the repetitive purchase and resale of firearms."

The law states

The law places no difference between a person engaged in the occasional gun sales or collectors or hobbyists who makes "occasional sales."

Assistant US attorney Peter S. Duffey, who has successfully prosecuted Wince, has been criticized as being the last-year ex-officer's sentencing hearing.

"I do not understand why they could not set a number," Duffey told U.S. District Court Judge Ms. Hannah Lauck.

The law that sought to establish guns that was enacted in 1986 after complaints by the gun lobby that the National Gun Control Act, passed two decades earlier assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, Attorney Gene. Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., What Overly Broad.

Firearms advocates accused the ATF

Jennifer Baker, spokeswoman for the National Rifle Association, defended the current law, which it is clear to prosecute people for dealing guns without a license.

The fact that some are unlikensed sellers do get prosecuted Baker said.

"There's no such thing as unlicensed gun dealers," Baker said.

Thomas Chittum, a veteran ATF supervisor who is so attorney, said that's much easier said than done.

 Thomas Chittum, deputy assistant director of field operations for ATF, is said to be unlicensed [...]

He said the vague wording in the statute and the requirement that defendants willfully violates the law make cases difficult enough.

"In my opinion, they have the most challenging prosecution that ATF has," he said .

Because unlikensed dealers typically do not file their sales, it is impossible to quantify how many guns pass through their hands each year. Whatever the number is, he said, "it's not small."

The ATF routinely warns suspected unlicensed dealers that they may be breaking the law.

CNN filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Bureau in June seeking, among

Hidden in plain sight

The ATF has not provided any of these statistics hidden in plain sight, peddling weapons on the internet, at gun shows, parking lots, from the trunks of their cars.

They are in some cases the most unlikely of suspects: Police Officers. Federal agents. A fire department captain.

These defendants were among those

In some cases, suspects have made clear that they were aware of the black-market gun sales associated with them, but chose to ignore them. [19659002] "The [ATF] is really watching us," a suspect in Wisconsin told a purported gun buyer he did not realize what was undercover agent, according to an affidavit filed in federal court. "I'm nervous as shit."

"As far as you know, you did not buy it from me," the suspect added.

In Maryland last year, a suspected dealer is undercover agent of an illegal machine gun without a serial number, according to federal court records.

"You can not get more into this than you can for cracking six-year-olds," he said of the automatic rifle, which he later sold for $ 750 cash.

Often, when they are suspicious they are confronted by ATF they deny they are dealers. Rather, they claim to be a collector or hobbyist.

That's what Wince, the former Washington, DC police officer, told ATF agents. He was pleaded guilty and sentenced to a year in prison.

 Gun-dealing cop sentenced to jail in federal prison

It's the argument retired mechanic Paul D. Boltz tried to make a search warrant on his home in Ohio. He did so, despite the fact that he had sold 1,800 guns "which generated over $ 694,000 in gross income."

"The defendant was involved in selling a large quantity of weapons, over time, without any background check whatsoever, "the prosecutor wrote in a sentencing memorandum. "Ultimately, this activity presents a significant risk to the public."

Boltz, then 65, pleaded guilty in 2017 to deal with firearms without a license, a felony, and surrendered 136 guns to authorities. He received no prison time. Instead, he was sentenced to five years of trial and fined $ 40,000. Attempts to reach Boltz through his attorney were unsuccessful.

There is no indication in Boltz's court file that they were later linked to crimes. But, often, authorities say, when unlicensed dealers are selling a high volume of weapons, they are only a matter of time.

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"Shame on them," Acevedo said.

Because defendants in unlicensed gun dealing cases must be shown to have violated the law, their cases sometimes begin with a warning

Kenneth Cherry received three warnings, one from the licensed dealer who was legally selling him guns and one from his own brother, who works in law enforcement.

Still, five years after the initial warning from the ATF in 2012, Cherry continued to sell guns at Georgia and Tennessee.

In 2017, the ATF sent an article to Cherry at his home in northern Georgia. Sitting in the living room were two metal gun safes, fully stocked with dozens of weapons. In the drawer of a nearby coffee table a blue book on the value of guns, according to an affidavit filed by ATF agent.

Cherry has been acknowledged to have been given an application for a gun dealer's license earlier, but said he did not want one.

Cherry's defense attorney wrote in a sentencing memo to the judge that his 70-year-old client had spent his entire time life as "a law-abiding and productive citizen" and what "deeply upset about his situation, and has felt that his poor judgment has jeopardized his ability to assist his family."

Cherry's punishment? Three years on probation – with the first six months spent in home confinement.

His attorney declined comment. Attempts to reach Cherry himself were unsuccessful.

Joseph Michael Gill in Arizona, the prosecutor, told the judge in a sentencing memorandum that Gill was "selling large numbers of firearms to whoever would purchase them;" including "a member of a drug trafficking organization."

Assistant US Atty. Phillip N. Smith said Gill betrayed his oath and undermined the DEA's "all for personal profit."

"Individuals who illegally sell firearms," ​​Smith wrote, "Pose a clear and present danger to society as a whole." [19659002] The prosecutor implored US District Judge Raner C. Collins sends a message by putting the disguised agent behind bars.

Gill's defense attorney asked the judge for probation, citing his client's "model career in law enforcement" and "otherwise spotless record."

He was sentenced to five years of probation for felony unlicensed gun dealing and fined him $ 15,000. Like Cherry, he is spending the first six months in home confinement, "at the discretion of the probation officer." Gill declined comment through his attorney.

Operating with impunity

Most cases of unlicensed dealing not only go unprosecuted, but undetected, Snyder said, who led the San Francisco Field Division of the ATF until she retired last year.

"Unfortunately, we work backwards with these cases," she said.

John Stewart Davis, an Army veteran living in Montana.

Some black market dealers were able to operate with apparent impunity for years , sold guns illegally for decades before he was finally caught. When agents raided his home in 2015, they seized 354 weapons, including multiple machine guns and a "Street Sweeper" shotgun, according to court records.

During the investigation Davis allegedly boasted to undercover agents about selling "$ 200,000 worth of stuff" at a gun show in Spokane, Washington, according to court documents.

 How to check background work


Hey, gave. So he gave gave. He also gave his name to the guns the purported buyer a cover story.

"If you do not get caught," the 71-year-old gunsmith said at the time, according to court records, "say you bought them [off] … some

At Davis's sentencing hearing in October 2016, the prosecutor sought a prison term of at least eight years based on his conduct, including obliterating serial numbers and illegally possessing short- barrel shotguns, both of which are called for enhancements under federal sentenced cing guidelines. "

Davis' defense."

Davis' defense. "Paulis L. Stewart wrote:" Davis' defense Attorney asked the judge for a sentence of probation.

Only recently, after learning from the ATF, that he ended up in the possession of Somebody that was not a good guy,

Davis then spoke briefly on his behalf.

"Now I'm starting to realize, yeah, I was wrong, "he told US District Court Judge Dana L. Christensen.

The judge noted that Davis once had a federal firearms license back in the 1980s and asked for it.

"I'm just not good at jumping through hoops and doing." all the paperwork, "he said.

" That's probably to protect myself, "Davis said.

Christensen said he was mindful of Davis' military service, his clean record, and his obligations as a family man.

"I thought they might misuse it." ] "The problem, he said, was the parade of drug defendants."

"All of those matters are on the front of my mind and make this, quite frankly, a difficult case for me." Mr. Davis at gun shows or at gunsmith shops, and many of these firearms have obliterated serial numbers. "

It was defeated, the judge said that Davis only recently realized that he was buying his guns. Davis to four years in federal prison – less than half the time the sentencing guideline is recommended.

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