Legal gun owners and merchants attending SHOT Show earlier this year probably did not suspect that, as they participated in an event promoting legal and responsible firearms use, a pair of thieves lurked among them.
Two men in their late 20s absconded from SHOT Show with a total of 65 stolen firearms, including:
- Denel Land Systems machine guns,
- Remington machine guns, rifles and pistols,
- Mauser rifles,
- Glock pistols,
- Sauer & Sohn rifles,
- Advanced Armament silencers.
Both men worked as forklift operators during the event and were part of Teamsters Local 631. Authorities noted that the pair planned to sell the guns illegally. One thief had a criminal history dating from 2010. The thieves agreed to plea agreements a few months ago.
One of the men, aged 27, was sentenced Sept. 19 to two years in federal prison followed by two years of supervised release after he “admitted” to stealing 65 firearms and 35 suppressors from four Federal Firearms Licensees (FFLs) at the 2019 SHOT Show.
According to earlier news reports, he “faced four weapons counts carrying a combined possible sentence of 40 years in prison and a $1 million fine.” Prior to sentencing, the man, aged 27, pleaded guilty to one count of theft of a firearm from an FFL and one count of unlawful possession of a machine gun.
His partner in crime, a 28-year-old co-defendant, also pleaded guilty to possession of a stolen firearm and possession of an unregistered firearm and is set for sentencing on Oct. 24.
“The SHOT Show, held annually at a Las Vegas convention center, requires FFLs to either disable or remove the firing pins from all displayed firearms,” said a federal prosecutor. This mandate renders the guns in need of modification before they are operable.
The theft was discovered when missing guns were noted in inventory checks. After the theft the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) issued an alert to FFLs to be on the lookout for guns that were missing firing pins.
This created a snag in the thieves’ plan that flushed them out into the open. They had limited knowledge of firearms—a fact plainly revealed when the pair walked into a Las Vegas gun shop and asked clumsy questions about firing pins, including a question about obtaining a firing pin for an AR-15-type firearm. At that gun shop, the men were accompanied by women and purchased a 12-gauge shotgun and magazines. Fortunately, the law-abiding gun store owner quickly reported their suspicious behavior to the ATF.
Police immediately zeroed in on a vehicle in an apartment complex matching the description of the one at the gun store. Police and the ATF obtained warrants and recovered the stolen firearms from both men.
“During the execution of the warrants, all the stolen firearms (and all but two suppressors) were recovered,” according to the ATF.
Federal prosecutors said one recovered pistol “had a clamp attached to a security cable, which was still attached to the trigger guard.
Cooperation between SHOT Show organizers, Las Vegas police, federal agents—and the staff at the local gun shop—brought a swift end to a scheme to funnel illegal firearms onto the criminal market.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Phillip Smith said the crime was solved “in a near record-breaking period of time.”
This cooperation demonstrates that legal gun owners and sellers are not the problem in our society, but rather are instrumental in helping law enforcement solve problems that criminals create.