Gun report's worth at issue Misleading, ATF says of findings
FYI (copy below):
Gun report's worth at issue Misleading, ATF says of findings
BY MARK BOWES
TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF WRITER Jul 28, 2003
Federal officials have called misleading a report by a
national gun-control group that lists 10 gun dealers,
including one in Chesterfield County, among the nation's
worst in selling guns linked to crimes.
Using government statistics, the Brady Campaign to Prevent
Gun Violence this month released a list of licensed gun
sellers it regards as "the worst players in the gun industry
- gun sellers that recklessly operate their businesses and
allow criminals to get guns."
The group cited Southern Police Equipment at 7609 Midlothian
Turnpike as the third-worst in the nation.
The Brady campaign says it compiled its "bad apple" list by
analyzing data maintained by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol,
Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives for 1989 through 1996.
But the ATF appeared to question the Brady campaign's
conclusions in a statement issued July 16, the same day as
the Brady report.
An ATF spokesman in Washington also wondered whether the 7-
to 14-year-old data - the government data used by the Brady
campaign and apparently the most recent available - was
still relevant in 2003.
"It is misleading to suggest that a gun dealer is corrupt
because a large percentage of the guns sold in his store are
subsequently used in a crime," the ATF said. "Many other
factors - including high volume of sales, the type of
inventory carried and whether the gun [dealer] is located in
a high crime area - contribute to the percentages cited by
the Brady campaign."
Furthermore, "the statistics cited do not provide a complete
picture of the types of activities that might warrant
federal gun prosecutions," the ATF said. "Gun traces [of
weapons used in crimes], for example, indicate only that a
gun has come to the attention of law enforcement. They do
not automatically implicate a dealer or purchaser in any
The ATF added: "[T]he fact is that the majority of
federally licensed firearms dealers are not knowingly
engaged in criminal activity."
Karen Allan, owner of Southern Police Equipment, said the
Brady campaign is deliberately distorting the facts to
further its gun-control agenda.
"It's total slander to us," Allan said. "I also got in
contact with some of the other people on the list, and
everybody feels the same way we do about it.
"What Brady is trying to do, of course, is take all the guns
off the street," Allan added. "They're always attacking us
in any way they can attack us, and we're not doing anything
Allan said her gun sales records with the ATF and the state
of Virginia are "impeccable."
"They have used me as a model before to train other gun
shops how to do it," said Allan, who in the mid-1980s
assisted ATF agents in apprehending gunrunners who came to
her store. Her contribution was cited in a Washington Post
story at the time.
Allan said the statistics cited by the Brady campaign
"didn't even represent 1 percent of the guns that we sold in
those years - and they did not have the laws that they have
"Today, everything's changed," she said. "They have the
one-gun-per-month [law], they have instant criminal
background checks [of potential gun buyers], and we support
all of that."
Rob Wilcox, a national spokesman for the Brady group, said
the list highlights those gun dealers that have "lousy track
records," and the numbers of crime guns traced to those
dealers speak for themselves.
"I wouldn't say we're ever suggesting that [these dealers]
are selling guns [directly] to criminals," Wilcox said.
"What we're saying very specifically is that there are crime
guns being traced back to their stores, and for the entire
country the most crime guns were traced back to these
Wilcox added that more than 50 percent of guns traced to
crime come from less than 2 percent of the nation's gun
dealers. "I think that they are doing things that are
irresponsible," he said.
The Brady campaign released the list as part of its lobbying
effort to defeat a Senate bill that would prohibit "civil
liability actions from being brought or continued against
manufacturers, distributors, dealers, or importers of
firearms or ammunition for damages resulting from the misuse
of their products by others."
In its news release, the gun-control lobby says the
legislation "would send bad apples [in the gun industry] a
loud message that their reckless behavior is not only
acceptable, but a protected privilege."
ATF spokesman Tom Hill noted that large-volume gun dealers
"probably will have more traces" of guns used in crimes than
"That doesn't [necessarily] mean the dealer is committing a
crime," Hill explained. "It just means they're selling more
A gun sold legally by a dealer can end up in the wrong hands
through no fault of the dealer. Guns used in crimes
frequently are stolen from the original buyers or obtained
through "straw purchases," a process in which people are
hired to buy guns that are later resold on the street.
According to ATF data analyzed by the Brady campaign,
Southern Police Equipment in Chesterfield sold 447 guns
traced to crime between 1989 and 1996. Of those, 293 had a
"short time to crime," as defined by the ATF, the group
The guns were involved in at least 25 homicides, 32
assaults, four robberies and 386 additional gun crimes, the
Brady campaign said. In addition, the dealer sold at least
35 handguns in multiple sales, the group said.
The report doesn't take into account that people could
legally buy multiple handguns in Virginia before 1993. In
February of that year, the General Assembly - in an effort
to curb gunrunning - approved a one-handgun-per-month limit,
which at the time was considered one of the toughest
firearms laws in the country.
In its report, the Brady campaign tied a 1990-91 Virginia
gunrunning case to Southern Police Equipment, although the
dealer was never implicated criminally in the operation.
In December 1993, Ian Ralph Blackstock, a convicted drug
dealer from New York, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court
to charges of obtaining guns through "straw purchases" at
seven gun shops, including three in the Richmond area.
The weapons, some of which were purchased at Southern Police
Equipment, were resold on the streets of Washington and New
York City, authorities said.
According to evidence, Blackstock hired five men to make the
purchases and provided them transportation to gun shops in
Chesterfield, Prince William County, Petersburg and
Fredericksburg. He told the men which guns to buy and gave
them money for the purchases.
There was no evidence presented during Blackstock's trial
that Southern Police Equipment conspired with Blackstock or
knowingly sold guns to his operatives.