Clinton Paul Wilborn used to run a fishing and tackle store in Chattanooga, Tennessee, but after authorities accused him of selling guns under the table the 47-year old is now going to be spending several years in a federal prison instead of casting his line in the waters of the Tennessee River.
Wilborn was sentenced to 57 months behind bars this week, two years after the Chattanooga Police and the ATF raided Discount Depot, where Wilborn was supposed to selling fishing rods, reels, and other equipment for anglers. Inside the shop, however, authorities found several items that Wilborn wasn’t allowed to possess, much less sell.
They found 14 firearms (rifles, shotguns and pistols), ammo and firearm magazines hidden around the property.
Wilborn was already a convicted felon.
“It is imperative to keep firearms out of the hands of convicted felons and to prevent the
sale of illegal firearms. ATF will continue to work in conjunction with and support local law
enforcement agencies to prosecute those individuals who illegally possess and sell firearms,” stated Terry M. Jones, Resident Agent in Charge of ATF Chattanooga Field Office.
Wilborn ended up pleading guilty to being a felon in possession of firearms, and he should count himself lucky that he was offered a deal. Under current federal law, felons found in possession of a firearm are eligible for a ten-year sentence and a $250,000 fine. In fact, I’m somewhat surprised that federal prosecutors didn’t try to take the case to trial, given the accusation that Wilborn wasn’t just possessing guns he wasn’t allowed to own, but was basically running a side business of illegally selling firearms as well. Then again, only two percent of federal felony cases actually go to trial, so I guess I shouldn’t be shocked that Wilborn was given the chance to plead guilty in exchange for a reduced sentence.
However, I do have to take issue with one local television station’s coverage of Wilborn’s guilty plea.
A Chattanooga gun store owner who pleaded guilty to selling firearms while a convicted felon learned this week how long he’ll spend in federal prison.
Wilborn wasn’t a gun store owner. In fact, because of his criminal history, Wilborn wouldn’t have been able to obtain a federal firearms license even if he had wanted to become a legal gun seller. It would have been nice if WTVC had been accurate in its reporting, because as it stands they’ve left the false impression that an actual gun store owner was violating the law, which isn’t the case at all.
I suspect this was a case of reporter error rather than an earnest attempt to deceive the audience, but it’s still a mistake that needs to be corrected (and frankly, never should have made it to air or on the station’s website).
Of course, the bigger mistake was made by Wilborn himself, and it’s one that will cost him several years of freedom. I suggest that when he’s released, Wilborn stick to selling fishing gear, bait, and lures. There’s no law against felons possessing a rod and reel, but as he acknowledged after his arrest, rifles and magazines are a no-no.