Editorial News: December 1997

By The Small Arms Review Editorial Staff


CHARLOTTE, NC (Thursday 16 October 1997)- Thirteen people were arrested after an 18 month undercover operation ended today. Agents of the FBI, ATF, and Naval Criminal Investigation Service had coordinated their efforts after discovering individuals selling stolen military ordnance. “Operation Longfuse” led to the arrest of six marines and seven civilians.

Private sales, as well as gun show sales of contraband, have been alleged in court affidavits. Contraband items included: M-79 40mm grenade launchers, Rocket launchers, land mines, grenades, C-4 plastic explosives, mortars, and fifty caliber machine guns. Charges include theft of government property, possession and sale of stolen government property, unlicensed possession, transportation and sale of explosives, possession and sale of unregistered Title II firearms (Machine guns, Destructive Devices).

The six Marines were listed as: Captain Thomas Crawford of Worcester Mass, and the following five Marines stationed in North Carolina- Staff Sgt. Timothy Witham, Master Gunnery Sgt. Alfred Gerich, Gunnery Sgt. James Sanders, Sgt. Ronald Moerbe, and Sgt. Darius Hill.

Two of the civilians arrested were identified as FFL dealers: Alton Laverne Sharpe Jr. manager of the Coach & Sons Military Surplus Store in Raeford, NC, and the manager of Classic Arms in Mount Pleasant, NC. No other names were available at presstime.

Defense Secretary William Cohen has announced a review of all US military security procedures regarding the storage and disposition of weapons, ammunition, parts, and munitions, requiring a report from each service branch in 30 days.

Surplus industry leaders feel that while this incident may inspire the US military to tighten up it’s security in an appropriate manner, stopping criminal activity, it will also be used as an excuse to further restrict the legitimate surplus sales of excess government property.


SAR has been following an interesting series of events. The National Firearms Act Registry (NFRTR), which records the disposition of Title II firearms, is a mess. Many of our readers are aware of the Busey transcript, where the former Chief of the NFA Branch, BATF, was taped discussing how far off the records were. Since American citizens are prosecuted for having unregistered (Un-taxed) machine guns, and this Registry is the only record, it would stand to reason that the Registry must be impeccably kept.

Apparently this has not been the case. Allegations that the records are up to 40% inaccurate have been made, and have been demonstrated to this writer by Class 3 dealers who had undergone compliance inspections where their business records were perfect, but the printout from NFA Branch was way off base.

Eric Larson, a writer and investigator in regards to NFA firearms, has been hot on the trail of the imperfections in the Registry. In April of 1997, he testified before the House Subcommittee on Treasury, Postal Service, and General Government Appropriations (Which funds the ATF). (His testimony is available for $20 from the US Government Printing Office, Congressional Sales Office, Washington, DC 20515 Tel (202)-512-1808, Stock No, 552-070-20810-1). In his testimony, he reveals many discrepancies in the Registry, and calls for a full investigation. This investigation is in process right now. Allegations of destruction of records, as well as the documented testimony of one of the NFA Branch’s Specialists that several incidents had recently occurred where the transfer forms had been willfully shredded by ATF employees, were included in the testimony.

If you are interested in helping Congress dig deeper into this, in the interest of clarifying the status of the NFRTR, or you have information regarding discrepancies in the NFRTR, you can contact: The Honorable Dan Burton, Chairman, House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, 2157 Rayburn House Office Bldg. Washington, DC 20515. Tel (202)-225-5074 Fax (202)-225-3974.

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V1N3 (December 1997)
and was posted online on December 15, 2017


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