The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives seized nearly two dozen automatic rifles from Blackwater Worldwide this week, apparently part of an investigation into whether the private security contractor obtained them illegally, reports the Raleigh news & Observer. ATF agents confiscated the guns two days after a story in the News & Observer raised questions about Blackwater’s deal to buy 34 guns for the Camden County Sheriff’s Office — nearly two automatic weapons for each of the department’s 19 deputies.
Camden County Sheriff Tony Perry said Blackwater kept 22 of the guns at its headquarters, which is thought to be the world’s largest private firearms training facility. It used the guns to train law enforcement officers and members of the military, and also may have used them to train foreign troops in anti-terrorism maneuvers financed by the State Department. Half the guns were Romanian-made AK-47 assault rifles, and the others were Bushmaster XM15 E2S rifles. Generally, only government agencies can own automatic weapons. Many police departments and sheriff’s offices buy them for SWAT teams. The AK-47 is regarded as a poor choice for police work, in part because it’s too powerful.