Outfit your own private army in Arizonaby Hugh Holub on Feb. 20, 2011, under border issues, drug smuggling, mexican drug cartels, politics
Need to outfit your private army…a drug cartel…a crime syndicate?
Arizona appears to be the place to go to buy a five hundred AK47s if you can afford them.
And if you plan to smuggle your arsenal into Mexico, you can even count on ATF looking the other way.
Interesting Arizona Republic story:
by Robert Anglen on Feb. 20, 2011, under Arizona Republic News
A man approaches the counter at a Glendale gun store and asks for five AK-47 rifles.
Three days later, he returns and buys seven pistols. Two weeks later, he buys 20 more AK-47s.
Over the next several months, federal agents say, the same man, Uriel Patino of Phoenix, will return to Lone Wolf Trading Co. 18 times, buying a total of 42 handguns and 190 semiautomatic rifles.
Patino tells store clerks that all 232 guns are for his personal use.
But federal authorities say Patino was acting as a straw buyer of guns for the Sinaloan drug cartel in Mexico when he purchased guns from Lone Wolf and other stores between November 2009 and August 2010.
He has been charged with multiple counts of conspiracy, money laundering and lying on federal firearms applications.
For advocates of tougher gun control, Patino’s purchases represent a shortcoming in federal and state laws that allows people to buy as many rifles as they can carry out the door at a time – without any report to law-enforcement agencies.
Licensed gun dealers must notify federal and local authorities anytime a person buys two or more handguns in the same week. But for so-called long guns, there are no similar reporting requirements.
“Long gun” is a term used by authorities to describe almost any rifle, including semiautomatic weapons such as the AK-47, which are distinctive for their ability to fire many shots quickly.
The manufacture of some of those weapons was banned in the United States from 1994 to 2004 under the so-called assault-weapons ban.
Some states limit the sale of multiple rifles or ban the sale of any assault weapon, but Arizona has no such restrictions. Buyers must pass a federal background check, but the decision to sell dozens, even hundreds, of rifles to the same customer is up to gun dealers and store employees. So too is any decision to notify authorities of any repeat customers or suspicious purchases.
According to federal authorities, the lack of laws limiting sales or requiring reports has turned Arizona into a shopping bazaar for Mexican drug lords. They supply their soldiers with guns that were first legally purchased at gun stores then smuggled south of the border.
Flying off shelves
At Lone Wolf, the AK-47s, the cartel weapon of choice, and other guns flew off the shelves from March 2009 to August 2010.
The store, in a low-slung Peoria Avenue strip mall near a hookah lounge and a pet-grooming store, advertises low-cost weapons and promises free T-shirts to customers with every gun purchase.
An analysis by The Arizona Republic of five indictments in a major illegal-arms-trafficking bust announced by federal authorities in January found that 82 percent of guns seized were bought at Lone Wolf.
Of 785 rifles and pistols that authorities say were purchased by straw buyers at the behest of the Sinaloan cartel, 640 came from the Lone Wolf store, the analysis showed.
Records showed that 566 of the guns purchased at Lone Wolf were AK-47-type semiautomatic rifles. The price of an AK-47 at the store ranges from $499 to $550.
Other guns purchased at Lone Wolf included three .50-caliber rifles, commonly used by police departments and militaries around the world because their ammunition can penetrate concrete and lightly armored vehicles.
It is unclear to what extent Lone Wolf cooperated with authorities in the gun cases. But Lone Wolf has been repeatedly named by authorities in smuggling cases and has been linked to guns found at crime scenes in Mexico.
Last week, federal authorities announced new indictments against 17 people accused of trafficking 300 guns to Mexico. According to authorities, all of the guns were legally purchased at Arizona gun stores.
One of the indictments specifically names Lone Wolf as the dealer that sold nine rifles to a buyer working for gun smugglers. Other indictments say dozens of rifles and pistols came from “a federally licensed firearms dealer in Glendale.”
Lone Wolf owner Andre Howard refused to discuss gun sales or seizures.
“To set the record straight and assure the public . . . we have worked closely in conjunction with several federal agencies, including the Phoenix office of the ATF,” Howard said in a written statement.
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms spokesman Tom Mangan pointed out that neither Lone Wolf nor any gun dealer did anything illegal when it sold dozens of rifles and handguns to the same individuals week after week.
Patino and 27 other suspects accused of being straw buyers for the cartels in the five January cases live in Arizona and are legal U.S. residents. They apparently passed an instant background check.
Authorities say they lied on federal firearms forms – a felony – by declaring that the guns were purchased for personal use.
The form, which is required to be filled out before the sale of any firearm by a licensed dealer, must be kept by the dealer for 20 years. Dennis Burke, the U.S. attorney for Arizona, says the form is the primary tool that authorities use to prosecute straw buyers.
Because rifle purchases are not reported to federal authorities, authorities say they often don’t know about trafficking until the guns are seized or recovered at crime scenes. Then, they find the records of gun sales through a paper trail: Guns are traced to the manufacturer. The manufacturer links them to a dealer. The dealer has the federal forms that link them to a buyer.
The purchases made by Patino at Lone Wolf were similar to those made by other straw buyers, with the same person buying a dozen rifles at a time, authorities said.
The 28 buyers named in the January indictments hit 10 Arizona gun stores, the analysis showed. The dealer with the second-most sales of guns listed in the five indictments, J&G Sales in Prescott, sold 60 guns to six alleged straw buyers.
“Why is the focus on dealers and not on people committing felony acts?” J&G President Brad DeSaye said. “We work very, very hard to engage only in legal transactions. . . . We turn down a great number of transactions we are not comfortable with.”
DeSaye said his employees are trained to question buyers far beyond what the law requires to determine their intent. He acknowledged that when someone wants to buy multiple guns, it raises red flags.
Straw buyers are coached on how to answer questions and to give reasonable answers about why they are buying multiple guns, DeSaye said. Sometimes, straw buyers give themselves away by showing little interest in the guns, their condition, features or operation, DeSaye said.
The number of guns traced to Mexico from J&G represents just a fraction of his store’s gun sales, DeSaye said. He declined to give a specific number.
“It infuriates me that we had that many customers engaged in illegal activity,” he said.
Still, DeSaye, like other gun-rights advocates, is opposed to restrictions on purchases or additional reporting requirements. They say it would be an infringement on Second Amendment rights.
Nobel Hathaway, a licensed firearms dealer and president of the Arizona State Rifle and Pistol Association, agreed.
“Our position is that the vast amount of gun purchasers – 99.9 percent – are not straw purchasers. I tend to be real cautious about extra reporting requirements. . . . That is usually a knee-jerk response, and I’m leery of that.”
Five states have waiting periods for purchasing long guns. The wait ranges from 24 hours in Illinois to as many as 14 days in Connecticut and Hawaii. California and Rhode Island also have wait times. In New York and California, sales of assault weapons are banned.
No state except Maryland limits the number of long guns that someone can purchase at any given time. Maryland restricts the number of assault-weapon purchases to one in a 30-day period.
The ATF in December sought to mandate reporting requirements of long-gun sales in the four Southwestern border states of Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas to help reduce guns going to Mexico. The mandate mirrored federal handgun regulations, which require dealers to notify state and federal law enforcement anytime a person buys two or more guns in the same week. It would not prohibit sales to anyone who passes the required background check.
But earlier this month, following strong opposition from more than a dozen U.S. senators, the White House budget office nixed the mandate. It said the issue did not rise to an emergency under the law.
The National Rifle Association praised the decision.
“Had this measure gone into effect, it would have resulted in a registry of law-abiding gun owners and it would also have placed unnecessary burdens on law-abiding firearms retailers,” Chris Cox, executive director of the NRA Institute for Legislative Action, said in an e-mail.
Former Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard says he supported the mandate, in large part because Mexico authorities in meetings pleaded with U.S. officials to stop the flow of U.S. guns into Mexico.
“It is a loophole that needs to be closed if we are at all serious about stopping the flood of guns going to Mexico,” Goddard said. “If someone is buying four or five long guns of any version, this seems to be sufficiently unusual circumstances that it should be reported.”
Lone Wolf and J&G sales are at the top of the list of U.S. stores that sold guns traced to crimes in Mexico in 2009 and 2010, according to a recent investigation by the Washington Post.
Lone Wolf sold 185 guns that were traced by federal authorities to crime scenes in Mexico, the Post reported. It is unclear if any of the guns are ones included in the January indictments.
Despite the numbers, Arizona gun advocates say they still believe that licensed dealers, not the government, are the best gatekeepers when it comes to who should be sold a gun.
“Three hundred guns is excessive,” said Carol Ruh, president of the Arizona Women’s Shooting Association. “That would raise a red flag . . . but you need to leave it to the discretion of the licensed (dealer).”
Daniel Touvell, a manager at Shooter’s World in Phoenix, said his employees have no problem turning down sales.
“If someone comes in here and wants to buy 15 guns, we just won’t sell to him,” Touvell said. “We make enough money, and we are just not going to do that.”
Touvell said straw buyers typically shop stores until they find the one most willing to do business. They look for stores that offer the lowest price, take cash and don’t ask questions.
Touvell said when a buyer walks in and offers cash for multiple guns, “I’m thinking the guy is affiliated with something that shouldn’t be happening.”
The problem, besides there not being any state or federal oversight on assualt rifle sales….is that the ATF Project Gunrunner scandal represents a much bigger issue than the on-going reality that Arizona is kind of like Yemen where military weaponry is for sale at street markets.
The emerging reality that the feds actually allowed AK47s to “walk” into the hands of the bandits that shot Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry is really ugly. Why the Arizona Republic and the national media are ignoring Senator Charles Grassley’s allegations and investigations into ATF’s Project Gunrunner debacle is getting to be very very strange.