Gun Dealers Rarely Charged In Illegal Purchase Cases


Ten alleged illegal-firearms buyers were indicted in Houston last week, part of an investigation of as many as 23 people who spent $366,400 during a 15-month period that ended in 2007. The Houston Chronicle says the dealers who sold the guns are not accused of wrongdoing. The law says they did nothing wrong, even if they wondered why a customer in one pop would pay cash for five civilian variants of the M-16 assault rifle used by the military. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives' said, “Unless they knew where the guns were going, it is not a crime on the part of the dealer.”

Fewer than 1 percent of dealers nationwide are ever charged with a crime. Proving they knowingly engaged in a criminal plot is especially tough. Lawrence Keane of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, which represents thousands of firearms dealers and manufacturers, said sellers should call authorities when they suspect something is amiss. “They are not police officers, not law enforcement, and it is certainly not their job to engage in law enforcement activities,” he said. “A dealer doesn't have a crystal ball, doesn't have a Ouija board or know they have malice in their hearts.”

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