President Joe Biden received effusive praise from the media and gun control organizations when he recently declared that his administration was going to start targeting “rogue gun dealers” in an effort to crack down on violent crime, though there were a few voices who acknowledged that Biden’s plans weren’t really new. Even under the Trump administration the ATF investigated firearm retailers who were alleged to have violated federal law, and one of those gun sellers is now facing several years in federal prison as a result of his illegal gun sales.
On today’s Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co we’re taking a closer look at the case against the California gun store owner, including his previous support for new gun control laws.
From the outside, Joseph John Deaser IV looked like the model of a reasonable gun dealer. He’d testified before the California legislature and Congress about the need for common sense safety measures around firearms. He’d taken the public position that universal background checks do not infringe on someone’s Second Amendment rights. Deaser was a licensed gun-seller, but he wasn’t a gun zealot.
He also wasn’t, as it turns out, living up to anything he purported to champion on that front.
Deaser pleaded guilty in federal court last week to stealing the identities of six law enforcement officers from the South Placer area, using his unique position as a Roseville gun club owner to con the unknowing police personnel while cashing in on a specific loophole in federal gun regulations. But Deaser was sloppy in his subterfuge, pressing his own middle finger print onto official sales forms needed to impersonate the various peace officers. Those boxes on the forms are clearly designated for a person’s right thumb print. Whether this move was Deaser’s subtle way of giving “the middle finger” to the government isn’t clear; but what is clear is that the once-respected dealer is now staring down the barrel of four years in federal prison.
“I think it’s totally acceptable to, on the one hand, look at the things he’s done, but on the other hand, look at the life he was living behind the scenes,” federal Judge Troy L. Nunley remarked of Deaser’s hypocrisy. “On the one hand, he was … advocating for sensible gun laws before Congress, before local governments, before organizations, and on the other side of it, he was trying to circumvent those very same gun laws.”
Part of the problem here is that the gun control laws in California are anything but sensible. In fact, they’re actually creating the opportunity for crimes like this to take place.
The reason why Deaser stole the identities of law enforcement officers in order to use them as fake buyers of guns is because California law has a two-tiered system for gun purchases; with most residents restricted to only purchasing pistols that are on a state-approved roster of gun certified for sale while law enforcement can buy off-roster handguns as well. For the past decade, no new handguns have been certified for sale in California because none of them are equipped with “microstamping” features required by the state, and during that same time period the California Department of Justice has removed dozens of previously-available firearms from the roster as well.
This creates a perverse incentive for both unscrupulous firearm retailers and even law enforcement officers to sell guns on the illicit market; not necessarily to those who are prohibited by law from possessing firearms but to those who aren’t allowed under California law to possess some of the most popular models of pistols on the market.
Marco Garmo, a now-former captain with the San Diego County Sheriff’s Office, just received a two-year prison sentence for running a gun trafficking operation out of a sheriff’s department substation he supervised. Garmo specifically bought firearms that are only available to police in California, before turning around and selling them for both profit and to curry favor.
In addition to receiving cash for the firearms, federal prosecutors say that over the course of nearly six years, Garmo conducted the gun sales to create goodwill among potential donors for his planned campaign to run for San Diego County sheriff.
Garmo made a series of “straw purchases,” in which he told gun dealers he was purchasing guns for himself, when in reality he was buying them for people who could not directly buy the firearms under state law. He acquired around 144 firearms during that time and transferred 98 of them to others, all while lacking the required license to do so, according to prosecutors.
Garmo pleaded guilty last year to a federal charge of engaging in the business of dealing in firearms without a license. He retired shortly before he and four others — including another San Diego County sheriff’s deputy — were indicted.
If the state of California were to scrap its current system that allows law enforcement to purchase popular firearms while keeping them off-limits to civilians, it would also remove the incentive for police and FFL’s like Deaser to break the law. Instead, California’s roster of handguns is fueling corruption, and while Democrats love to talk about reducing crime by addressing root causes, something tells me that the party with a veto-proof majority in the California legislature would much rather keep the cause of Deaser’s criminal charges on the books.