Recent sentencing over "straw buy" the exception to ATF’s crackdown

AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

To say I disagree with the tactics of and ways that our current Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) would be an understatement. The ATF is leaving the colloquial expressions of events, and entering a more official rendering of being an agency aiming to subvert rights and murder canines. We can joke all we want about how awful the rogue agency has become, remembering to wish them a happy Valentine’s day on the regular, but they do still get it right once in a while. Take for example, a pawn shop worker that got caught up in an ATF sting involving straw purchases, who recently got sentenced.

According to information contained in court documents and court proceedings, on April 15, 2019, an individual who was prohibited from possessing a firearm entered the Whitnel Outdoorsman and Pawn in Lenoir. Court records show that the individual told a store employee that he was interested in purchasing a firearm but would not pass the background check due to prior felonies on his record. The store employee advised the prohibited individual to “bring a buddy back” to fill out the paperwork.

Court documents state that a few days later, on April 18, 2019, the prohibited individual returned to the store with an undercover ATF agent posing as a friend. This time, the prohibited individual spoke with Ledford and again explained that he wanted to purchase a firearm but could not pass the background check. The prohibited individual also told Ledford that, at the suggestion of a store employee, he had brought someone who could pass the background check, and essentially be the straw buyer for the firearm. Ledford did not object, and, over the course of their exchange, the prohibited individual pointed to the semiautomatic shotgun he wanted to purchase. Ledford handed him the firearm and the prohibited individual paid Ledford in cash for the shotgun. Ledford also gave the undercover agent the ATF Form 4473 to fill out for the background check. Once the form was processed and the sale was completed the prohibited individual took possession of the firearm in the presence of Ledford.

I’m not a big fan of entrapment or certain types of sting operations, let’s get that out of the way. The particulars of how this salesperson got fingered and charged here can be a little suspect. We just don’t have all the facts in this report. However, not many can disagree that the guy showed a flagrant disregard for the law – real law, as written by our representatives and signed by a president. Whether or not we agree with the law is immaterial, what the guy did was illegal and beyond that stupid. And I’m willing to wager the former is the crux of this situation.

Personally, I’d be rather suspicious of someone coming in and making the statements made about wanting to purchase a firearm and being a disqualified person. That’s me. I’d question the hell out of that. Unless of course that was such a common occurance and that’s what brought the ATF to the pawn shop in the first place? Given the alleged answer of “bring a buddy back” to fill out the paperwork, that place seemed to have the whole complicated formula figured out.

As for Edward Clyde Ledford, the salesperson that completed the transaction? He got a pretty stiff sentence. He pleaded guilty and received a two year sentence.

Some of the statements made by the ATF special agent, I can’t disagree with. Some of them I can. The nuance of our gun laws do in fact infringe on peoples’ right to keep and bear arms, it’s just a matter of what infringements are tolerable, if any.

Brian Mein, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Charlotte Field Division, joins U.S. Attorney King in making today’s announcement.

“When a federal firearms dealer sells a gun to a prohibited person, that’s one more illegal firearm in our streets that can be used to commit a crime,” said U.S. Attorney King. “As we continue to intensify our efforts to reduce the risk of guns falling into the wrong hands, we must hold accountable gun sellers who put gain before the safety of our community.”

“Keeping firearms out of the hands of prohibited individuals is the absolute first step towards preventing violent gun crime,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Mein. “While the vast majority of our licensed firearms dealers are respectful of the laws in place, those that choose to violate those laws and jeopardize public safety will face the consequences.”

When the Big Guy sleepy Joe talked about going after rogue gun dealers, this is more aligned with what the public at large would be thinking of. A sales person, or company as a whole, that’ll happily transfer a firearm through an alleged straw purchase. The knowing and flagrant disregard of the law is what should be coming to mind. 

However, we know that the Biden-Harris ATF has this situation pegged as an exception, rather than the rule. We’ve seen the weaponization of the ATF to shut down as many gun dealers and legitimate businesses as possible over clerical errors and executive overreach. Every dealer and company  these insincere hacks shut down, they’ll be lauding the event as cracking down on some criminal enterprise. In reality they’re ruining legitimate businesses over clerical mistakes.