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Industry News: October 1999

By Robert M. Hausman

Gun Dealers Urged To Counter Y2K Thieves

Concerns about possible civil disorder on January 1, 2000 when the power and lights may go out, are being raised not only by firearms consumers who are purchasing guns for self-protection at a steady clip these days, but also by firearms dealers who fear looters.

As the Clinton Administration increased controls on civilian access to firearms during the 1990’s, government statistics show there has been a corresponding increase in thefts of firearms from the premises of licensed dealers. Some criminals apparently feel if they can’t buy the guns, they will just steal them.

Recognizing these factors, the Maryland Licensed Firearms Dealers Association recently issued a warning in its members’ newsletter to plan for a worst case Y2K scenario by heading off the thieves with extra security measures. Criminals across the nation may be planning to burglarize gun shops after midnight on December 31, 1999, reasoning the police will be too busy to respond to store burglar alarms as they will concentrate on handling more serious emergencies brought on by Y2K, the Association says.

If there is no police response to the alarms, “thieves will have time to penetrate gun shops’ physical defenses and remove the firearms inventory. Remember, there is no lock that can’t be broken, no door that can’t be smashed, no bars that can’t be removed, if criminals have enough time,” the newsletter warns.

Dealers are advised to place all of their firearms in a secure safe. “At the very least, all firearms should be removed from view of the store’s front window. Place a sign on the store’s door stating, that all firearms have been removed.”

ATF News

In remarks made in early May before the International Association of Chiefs of Police meeting in Dublin, Ireland, John W. Magaw, director of the gun industry’s regulator, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms (ATF) noted his agency’s investigations into firearms trafficking have found there is an increasing frequency for international organized criminals to be involved.

“The major areas for trafficking of US -sourced firearms in Europe are the Baltic States, the former Soviet Union, and the Balkan States. To a lesser degree, Great Britain, Italy, Belgium, Austria, Finland, and Germany have all been impacted by illegal international firearms trafficking,” Magaw explained.

Offering to provide technical assistance to interested agencies in combating illegal firearms trafficking, Magaw said the ATF National Tracing Center (NTC), which traces the origins and ownership of recovered US -sourced firearms at the request of American police is available for use by law enforcement agencies worldwide. “Tracing is often a vital step in identifying trafficking organizations,” Magaw stated.

“In 1996 the NTC had 15,000 international firearm trace requests, and 60,000 such requests in 1998. We anticipate 100,000 plus international trace requests for 1999. ATF, with our international counterparts, has initiated more than 1,500 international firearms trafficking cases, based in part, from information received from these traces,” Magaw disclosed.

The National Integrated Ballistics Information Network, an ATF/FBI partnership venture, was also mentioned as available to law enforcement agencies around the world. The Network employs a firearms identification technology system that captures a digitized image of the unique markings imprinted on a projectile and on shell casings and compares those markings with all other images of shell casings and projectiles previously entered into a database to produce potential matches. In this way, cartridges can be traced as having been fired from particular firearms. The system is being deployed not only in the US, but in countries such as Venezuela, Israel, Turkey, Taiwan, People’s Republic of China, Greece, South Africa, Thailand, and Canada.

Pawn Shop Raided

A federal search warrant culminating a three-month undercover investigation was executed May 20, at the 27th Avenue Pawn & Gun shop at 2045 NW 27th Ave., Miami, FL, as well as upon the store’s owner, Roman Hernz, by ATF and Miami police for alleged illegal firearm trafficking and sales.

Hernz, who had been in business since early 1992, and previously ran other pawnshops during the 1980’s, is suspected of conspiring and engaging in numerous illegal firearms transactions known as “straw purchases,” according to ATF. A “straw purchase” involves an individual who acts at the behest of the true purchaser to acquire the firearms. Specifically, the actual buyer uses the straw purchaser to execute the federally mandated firearms acquisition form (ATF Form 4473) purporting to show that the straw purchaser is the actual purchaser of the firearms.

In many instances, the actual buyers may be prohibited from legally purchasing firearms, or may simply want to hide their involvement in the procurement of the firearms. The licensee selling the firearm under these circumstances also violates federal law if the licensee is aware of the false statement on the form.

ATF’s National Tracing Center has determined that numerous firearms sold by 27th Ave. Pawn & Gun have been recovered by law enforcement authorities throughout the Caribbean and Central America. Foreign police officials initiated many traces after recovering the firearms at crime scenes in their respective countries.

This dealer, ATF says, though a medium sized pawnshop, has for the last six months been responsible for the multiple sales of more handguns than any other gun dealer in the metropolitan Miami area. A multiple sale refers to the sale or purchase of two or more handguns within a five consecutive day time frame. The store was also said to be a leading source of inexpensive ($100 to $150 price range) low quality pistols illegally trafficked to Haiti, Puerto Rico, Honduras, and the Dominican Republic.

Hernz could face multiple federal counts of selling firearms in violation of state laws, selling firearms without recording the identity of the purchaser, and maintaining false firearms records. If convicted, Hernz could potentially be sentenced to five years and/or fined on each count.

Alleged Traffickers Nabbed

On March 10, Jamal Hyden of West Philadelphia, PA and Dominic Howard of Greensboro, NC, were arrested by the Philadelphia Firearms Trafficking Task Force (composed of ATF special agents and Philadelphia police detectives) for federal firearms violations. The arrests followed an indictment by a federal grand jury of the pair for conspiring to engage in the business of dealing firearms without a license, aiding and abetting, and (in the case of Hyden) receiving firearms while under indictment. The government further alleged the two agreed to have Howard purchase firearms in North Carolina at various licensed dealers, and Hyden was to sell these firearms for profit in Philadelphia.

During the course of the investigation, an ATF operative was able to infiltrate the conspiracy and purchase about 24 firearms. The types of guns purchased included: 15 Lorcin 9mm pistols; three Intratec 9mm pistols; one Glock .357 pistol; one Llama .45; one Jennings/Bryco 9mm; one HiPoint 9mm rifle; and two Norinco 7.62x39mm rifles. The total number of firearms trafficked by these individuals is still being investigated. All of the undercover purchases took place in Philadelphia. All of the purchased firearms, with the exception of two, had the serial numbers obliterated at the time of purchase.

The investigation initiated at the request of the Philadelphia School Board Investigation Unit for the tracing of two firearms recovered on school grounds. Philadelphia police offices early one morning had arrested two 18-year-old males for discharging firearms in the schoolyard of William Penn High School. Both firearms had their serial numbers obliterated.

The Philadelphia Police Firearms Identification Unit was able to restore the serial numbers. ATF then initiated a trace of the firearms and determined that both guns were purchased by Howard in Greensboro, NC just 48 hours prior to their recovery.

If found guilty, Hyden could receive up to 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $1 million. Howard could receive up to 10 years in prison and a maximum fine of $500,000.

Defendant Pleads Guilty

Gerald Lowrance of Stockton, CA, was recently sentenced to serve 18 months in federal prison followed by three years of supervised probation for violating federal firearms laws. As part of a plea bargain, Lowrance pled guilty to a violation of United States Code, Title 18, Section 922(k), possession and transfer of a firearm with an obliterated serial number.

New ATF Chief Counsel

John J. Manfreda, formerly ATF’s deputy chief counsel, has been appointed chief counsel. In his new position, Manfreda is responsible for all legal services related to firearms, explosives, tobacco, arson, alcohol, and administrative law. He also is responsible for overseeing the preparation and review of proposed legislation, regulations, and executive orders relating to the laws affecting and enforced by ATF.

Military Developments

In other news, the U.S. Army is reported as testing a remotely-controlled robotic platform that can aim and fire arms such as the M-16 rifle and .50 caliber machine guns. Known as the Telepresent Rapid Aiming Platform (TRAP) T-2, the device enables troops to aim and fire their guns from positions out of harm’s way.

Developed by Precision Remotes, Inc. of Point Richmond, California, the $50,000 system allows the soldier to remain hidden while observing an area through a video camera and sighting in on targets through a high-powered, automatic focus sight. The system consists of a weapons mounting platform, a video camera, a sight and a control box with a viewfinder. The camera can be used for an overview of the target area, or to zoom in with the high-powered sight. The control box contains buttons for adjusting aim. TRAP also contains two lasers to warn intruders coming into guarded territory that they are being targeted in a high-tech version of the old, “Halt, or I’ll shoot” command.

When the control box is connected to the platform with electrical cables, the arm can be controlled from as great a distance as 1,000 meters. The control distance can be extended infinitely if connected via a radio frequency link. Weighing 38 pounds, the system is intended to be issued to squads or platoons and possibly mounted on vehicles.

Have identified reflections from the objective lenses and laser protective filters of its optics as an issue, the U.S. Army has awarded Tenebraex Corp. of Boston, Massachusetts, a contract for over 35,000 anti-reflection devices (ARDs) for five fire control and observation optics. The firm’s killFlashTM ARD filters will be used for the Army’s M24 Sniper Weapon System’s optics including the Leupold day rifle sight, the AN-PVS-10 Day/Night Sight, and the M144 spotting scope, as well as the M22 (Steiner and Corion) Binoculars and the M24 Miniature Binoculars.

killFlashTM ARDs use a honeycomb material and patented geometry to provide a retrofittable solution to glint and glare from optical surfaces with minimal light loss and no loss in resolution. In addition to hiding glint, the product is claimed to allow users to see the target better in conditions of high glare, such as when looking into morning or afternoon sun or when shooting across snow.

Glint is a serious threat to operational security, yet it is often not considered by military commanders. Glint, however, has played a crucial role in military history. For example, the Japanese Army’s second attack on Henderson Air Force base in World War Two’s Battle of Guadalcanal was turned when a U.S. Marine patrol saw reflections from a Japanese officer’s binoculars on a hilltop, in what had been thought to be unoccupied, impenetrable jungle. Because of that sighting, the U.S. commander was able to shift forces to his previously unprotected flank and defeat the enemy attack.

Moshe Dayan, the Israeli general, got his famous eye patch when a sniper saw reflections of the sun from Dayan’s binoculars. In the Battle of Stalingrad, the top Soviet sniper, Vasili Zaitsev, won his famous three-day duel with the top Nazi sniper, Major Koning, by looking for and targeting the reflection from the German’s scope.

Glint even played a decisive part in the Battle of Gettysburg during the Civil War. As the Confederates prepared to attack, Union General Gouverneur Warren arrived on the top of Little Round Top hill, where his men had reported seeing movement in the trees below. The General asked that a shell be fired into the area and as the shot went whistling through the air, the sound caused the enemy troops to look in its direction.

“This motion revealed to me the glistening of gun barrels and bayonets of the enemy’s line of battle, already formed and far outflanking the position of any of our troops. I immediately sent a hastily written dispatch requesting an additional division,” General Warren later said. Those reinforcements, turned the Confederate attack and preserved the Union’s possession of the hill.

KillFlash technology. in addition to sights, is also available for laser-protective goggles, vehicle headlights and windshields.

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