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Industry News: Notes from the 11th Annual Firearms Import/Export Conference
By Robert M. Hausman

In selected noteworthy items worthy of mention gleaned from the 11th annual Import/Export Conference held July 31 to August 1 in the Washington, D.C. area, Teresa Ficaretta, Deputy Assistant Director of ATF’s Office of Enforcement Programs and Services (EPS), announced her retirement after 30 years of government service, most of which has been with ATF. Ficaretta’s last day with ATF was August 31, and Marvin Richardson, Special Agent in Charge of the Denver, Colorado Field Division, takes over as the new Deputy Assistant Director of EPS.

Also, Steve Albro took over as the new Division Chief of the Firearms and Explosives Services Division this past June when Scott Mendoza reported to the Detroit, Michigan field division as the new Director of Industry Operations. Alphonso Hughes, currently the Director of Industry Operations in the Philadelphia Field Division, will be the new Deputy Division Chief effective October 21.

Project E-Forms continues to be a work in progress. On July 9, the new E4473 took effect.

ATF’s NFA Branch continues to face incredible workload and funding challenges. In 2011, the Branch processed 105,373 forms, a sharp increase from 2010, when 91,949 forms were processed. Compare this number to 2005, when 41,579 forms were processed.

For 2012, the monthly average number of forms received and processed is 12,510 and 10,425, respectively. The number of NFA firearms processed in 2011 was 992,975, a sharp increase from 826,393 processed in 2010. 2011 even surpassed 2008, which saw 281,303 firearms processed.

To help deal with the ever-increasing application flow, the NFA Branch began utilizing contract research assistants this past April, a move that has resulted in the branch increasing the number of applications reviewed as well as increasing assignment flexibility.

The first day closed with an update on the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty conference, which had adjourned only days before without reaching consensus on a treaty. The fact that the conference failed to agree on a treaty is good news, but something that we should not take for granted. The U.N.’s efforts to restrict international trade in firearms and ammunition are far from over, and it is expected the ATT will be on the agenda of the UN General Assembly (GA) when it meets this fall. The GA will have before it the report of the negotiating conference and the draft treaty text. We have no idea at this point what the GA will do, but reports from the U.S. delegation are that it expects a second round of negotiations to take place, perhaps as early as this fall. Consensus was not reached due to objections by the United States.

Steve Clagett and Todd Willis from the U.S. Department of Commerce presented a comprehensive overview of the export licensing process at the Bureau of Industry and Security. It is expected that most firearms exports will move from State Department jurisdiction over to Commerce in the near future.

Academi Settles with Government

In other news, Academi, LLC, formerly known as Blackwater Worldwide, has agreed to pay a substantial fine to settle allegations of violations of the Arms Export Control Act and the International Trafficking in Arms Regulations.

As a result of a five year investigation, 17 criminal charges were brought against the company, including: alleged violations of the Arms Export Control Act and the International Trafficking in Arms Regulations included providing military training related to overseas military operations to military and law enforcement personnel from Canada without first having obtained a license from the U.S. Dept. of State; it was alleged the company exported ammunition and body armor to Iraq and Afghanistan without a license; alleged violations of various federal firearms laws as the result of the company’s possession of various automatic arms without registration or permission; and finally, it was alleged the company falsely represented to the Bureau of ATF that five firearms were owned by certain individuals when the weapons had in fact been given as a gift to the King of Jordan.

The agreement settling the matter with the government also acknowledges a $42 million settlement between the company and the Dept. of State as part of a civil administrative settlement of violations of the Arms Export Control Act and the International Trafficking in Arms Regulations.

Border Patrol Agent Arrested on Gun Trafficking Charges

Ricardo Montalvo, a Border Patrol Agent and his girlfriend has been indicted on conspiracy, firearms and smuggling charges as part of a 20-count indictment.

The government alleges for about a three month period, the two participated in a conspiracy to purchase firearms, ammunition and high-capacity magazines for which there is a ready market among Mexican cartels.

Montalvo allegedly purchased 20,000 rounds of ammunition and 97 high-capacity magazines, including ten 100-round magazines for 5.56mm rifles and ten 75-round drum magazines for 7.62x39mm rifles, along with four 37mm flare launchers, which ATF alleges are highly-desired by Mexican cartels as they may be readily converted (according to ATF) into grenade launchers. Montalvo is additionally charged with 10 counts of purchasing and receiving ammunition and magazines knowing that these goods were intended for illegal export from the U.S.

Saiga’s U.S. Sales Rising

Russian manufacturer Izhevsk’s sales of its Kalashnikov-pattern Saiga rifles and shotguns in the United States is so brisk that the Russian factory has shifted its focus from military to civilian manufacture over the last two years, The New York Times reports.

About 70% of Izhevsk”s output is now civilian long guns, up from 50% two years ago. Of the civilian arms, about 40% are exported to the U.S., the paper reports. That means American consumers are now buying about the same number of Kalashnikov-style weapons from the factory as the Russian army and police.

Congressional Report Blames 5 ATF Staffers

Congressional Republican investigators have identified five ATF employees to blame for the Fast and Furious scandal.

All five have since been reassigned but remain employed in the Bureau. The findings put additional pressure on the Obama administration in an ongoing battle over what higher-level officials knew, if anything, about the ATF operation.

The report specifically faults former Acting ATF Director Kenneth Melson; Deputy Director William Hoover; William Newell, special agent in charge of the Phoenix Field Division; William McMahon, deputy assistant director for field operations; and Mark Chait, assistant director for field operations. Note, Kenneth Melson has since resigned from the Bureau.

The congressional investigators noted that Melson “was concerned that Fast and Furious did not end sooner,” but they also faulted him for never ordering it to be shut down.

The report faults Hoover for knowing Newell had employed “risky tactics” but allowing them to continue. Chair, for his part, “paid a surprisingly passive role during the operation,” while McMahon seemed to be nothing more than a “rubber stamp” for field operations, the report concludes.

Navy SEAL Gets 17 1/2 Yrs. For Gunrunning

Nicholas Bickle, 34, a Navy SEAL, was recently sentenced to 17 1/2 years in federal prison for multiple weapons charges, including dealing in stolen firearms.

Bickle was convicted by a jury of one count of conspiracy to unlawfully receive, transport, possess and transfer machine guns and stolen firearms and to deal in firearms; one count of dealing in firearms without a license; four counts of possession and transfer of machine guns; five counts of possession, concealment, sales and disposition of stolen firearms; one count of receiving, concealing and retaining property of the United States; and one count of transportation by and distribution of explosives to a non-licensee.

The evidence at trial demonstrated that from about March 2009 to November 2010, Bickle, conspired with others to sell machine guns and other weapons possessed by Bickle when he returned from Iraq.

The firearms included over 30 AK-47 type machine guns (some of which bore the markings or symbols of the Iraqi military forces) and multiple pistols previously procured by the United States for Iraqi security forces. He was also convicted of unlawfully receiving and retaining government property (ammunition, explosives, grenades, and optical sights) and unlawfully transporting about 5 pounds of C-4 explosives.

U.S. Gun Ownership Highest

The U.S. has more guns per person than any other country in the world, according to research by the Swiss Small Arms Survey, a research organization.

The organization’s research found that the U.S.A. has 88.8 firearms per person. The next highest is Yemen with 54.8 firearms per person. Third on the list is Switzerland with 45.7 firearms per person. The fourth highest ranking goes to Finland with 45.3 firearms per person. In fifth place is Serbia with 37.8 firearms per person.

The author publishes two of the small arms industry’s most widely read trade newsletters. The International Firearms Trade covers the world firearms scene, and The New Firearms Business covers the domestic market. Visit www.FirearmsGroup.com. He may be reached at: FirearmsB@aol.com.

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