Just a few months ago, Joe Biden announced a crackdown on “rogue gun dealers” and said the ATF and the Department of Justice would have a “zero tolerance” policy when it came to illegal gun sales. Yet just this week federal prosecutors signed off on a sentence that allows a Wisconsin man accused of illegally selling more than 200 firearms to avoid prison and instead walk away with a sentence of “time served” after spending just four months in a federal medical facility.
To be sure, the Trump DOJ bears some culpability here, since the case against Gary Schroeder began in 2017, but its the Biden administration that went along with a sentencing recommendation that amounts to a slap on the wrist for something Biden himself swore would be taken seriously.
Gary Schroeder did a lot of business at gun shows by skipping paperwork and background checks. So much business that legal sellers complained.
Authorities already had other notifications, too: Lots of the guns Schroeder sold kept turning up at crime scenes or in the possession of criminals around Wisconsin, and in late 2017, Schroeder was charged with dealing firearms without a license for at least the prior three years.
At his Janesville home, agents from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives found 52 guns and hand-written records of more than $100,000 in sales to about 200 customers, including about 20 out-of-state buyers.
The offense carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. But on Thursday U.S. District Judge J.P. Stadtmueller sentenced Schroeder, 69, to the four months he spent a federal medical center, and no supervised release, following the joint recommendation of the prosecutor and defense attorney.
Schroeder was originally deemed incompetent to stand trial on federal charges, but after several months in a federal prison medical facility a psychiatrist determined that the Wisconsin man had become competent enough to assist in his trial and the case moved forward. Despite the large amount of physical evidence obtained by investigators, last February the DOJ offered Schroeder a deal to plead guilty to a single count of illegally selling a handgun to someone who was not licensed as an importer, manufacturer, dealer or collector of firearms.
Schroeder was still eligible to receive a five-year federal prison sentence as a result of his guilty plea, but the Department of Justice, now run by Biden’s Attorney General Merrick Garland, gave the green light to releasing Schroeder without even putting any probation in place.
According to a sentencing memo by Assistant U.S. Attorney Benjamin Taibleson, the time Schroeder spent in federal custody for his competency restoration was sufficient punishment because he has no prior criminal record, is nearly 70, and because now that he himself is a convicted felon, he can no longer pass a background check to buy guns for resale to others.
“He is, therefore, no longer a danger to the community,” the memo by reads.
That may be, but I was under the impression that incarceration wasn’t just about removing dangerous individuals from a community, but was also supposed to ensure consequences for illegal actions. And since Joe Biden’s supposedly taking a zero tolerance approach to gun trafficking, it’s odd that one of his U.S. Attorneys would bend over backwards to ensure that someone eligible for a federal prison sentence got off with a slap on the wrist instead.
So what’s going on here? I don’t think this is a sign that Biden’s not as interested in pursuing an anti-gun agenda as he claims to be or that the Department of Justice won’t try to put as many gun dealers out of business as possible for mere paperwork errors. I have no doubt that Merrick Garland will be targeting FFLs for criminal prosecution as often as he can, no matter how flimsy the evidence might be.
I suspect that Schroeder simply wasn’t the type of “rogue gun dealer” that the Biden administration is interested in spotlighting. The 69-year old suffers from mental health concerns, and engaged in his illegal gun sales because of financial and mental struggles, at least according to his defense attorney. If the DOJ wants to brag about nailing a gun trafficker with a long prison sentence, I’m sure they’d prefer a less sympathetic figure than Gary Schroeder. And just like Biden’s failures in Afghanistan, the current administration can simply claim that Schroeder’s case was inherited from the Trump administration and their hands were tied given the plea deal that had already been made. It’s not true, of course, but as we’ve all seen over the past few weeks, truth is not a hallmark of Joe Biden’s presidency.