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Attorney General Lockyer Decries Illegal Weapons Trafficking at California Gun Shows

Tuesday, May 11, 1999
Contact: (415) 703-5837

(Sacramento) - Attorney General Bill Lockyer today called the illegal gun trafficking at California gun shows a real and present threat to public safety, pointing to an array of prohibited weapons that included machine-gun components and a rocket launcher with projectile purchased recently by undercover agents.

At the request of the Attorney General, a Department of Justice (DOJ) sting operation was conducted at the Great Western Gun Show, April 30-May 2, 1999, to determine if illegal gun trafficking was occurring. Over the three-day event in the City of Pomona, DOJ agents from the Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement and the Bureau of Investigation purchased and obtained immediate possession of the following prohibited items: two illegal assault weapons; five illegal machine gun "conversion kits" and one illegal rocket launcher with projectile.

"California has some of the most comprehensive gun control laws in the country," Lockyer said. "But those laws aren't worth the paper they're written on if we can't enforce those laws at gun shows. The fact that merely one week after the horrible tragedy in Colorado that a gun show in California would offer illegal assault weapons and rocket launchers for sale without even conducting a background check is shocking. The only reason my agents weren't able to identify more illegal gun trafficking is because we ran out of time and money. In order to prevent illegal assault weapons and machine guns from reaching the hands of criminals and children, we must declare war on illegal gun trafficking in California."

The Great Western Gun Show is promoted as the largest gun show in the West. Hundreds of vendors offer thousands of weapons for sale at approximately 5000 "display" tables during the show. DOJ agents were sold all of the prohibited items within the gun show facility at the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds.

Under state law, a California licensed firearms dealer must process all firearm sales. In addition, individuals who purchase a firearm anywhere in California are required to undergo a background check and wait 10-days before taking possession of the firearm. Persons who have been convicted of a felony, certain misdemeanors, have an active restraining order or have specified mental health problems are prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm of any kind.

The weapons and components were all sold by individuals who represented themselves as licensed gun dealers. No background checks were conducted before the sale of these prohibited items and the DOJ agents were able to take possession of the firearms at the show without having to wait 10 days.

All of the individuals who made the illegal sales will be arrested and charged with felony and/or misdemeanor weapons violations.

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