ASHLAND, KY -- Illegal firearms trafficking is a problem that appears to be cropping up on the “radar screen” of federal authorities with increasing frequency in northeastern Kentucky, reports the Ashland Daily Independent.
Agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms have investigated a number of cases involving illicit weapons sales in recent months, said Bernard V. Teyssier, resident agent in charge of the Ashland ATF field office.
Teyssier said the majority of those cases have involved individuals dealing in guns without proper licensing.
One such case came to light in February, when a U.S. District Court grand jury indicted a Catlettsburg man, Gary Lynn Russell, and his son, Nicholas Russell, for allegedly selling guns illegally. Authorities allege the two engaged in more than 200 gun sales in 2007 and 2008. The sales allegedly took place at their home, at gun shows and at flea markets.
And, in December, an Ashand man, Johnnie Caudill, pleaded guilty to a charge stemming from an ATF investigation of his illegal gun dealing. He was sentenced to 15 months in prison.
In that case, Teyssier said, the ATF used an undercover informant with a felony conviction to purchase several weapons from Caudill, who was dealing guns out of his home.
The informant let it be known he was a convicted felon and as such, was not legally permitted to own firearms. However, Caudill “sold him the guns anyway,” Teyssier said.
Also, one of the guns sold by Caudill was found to have been used in a crime committed in Washington D.C., Teyssier said.
Those two facts, Teyssier said, serve to underscore the principal danger of unlicensed firearms dealing — it circumvents laws intended to keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them, convicted criminals and gang members among them.
People who legally purchase guns from licensed dealers are required to undergo background checks. No such requirement exists for person-to-person sales, and, as evidenced by the Caudill case, unlicensed dealers generally will sell to anyone with money, Teyssier said.
“A lot of these people don’t seem to realize or care about the damage they’re doing,” he said.
What makes matters somewhat murky is that, under federal law, person-to-person gun sales are perfectly legal up to a point, Teyssier said. For example, anyone can sell a few guns here and there to friends and relatives without fear of repercussion, reports the Ashland Daily Independent.
Copyright - The Ashland Daily Independent