Antonio Himontis and Thomas Weber (courtesy newyork.cbs.local)

“Two New York men are accused of selling untraceable firearms known as ‘ghost guns’ to undercover investigators,” ny.cbslocal.com reports. NY AG Eric Schneiderman is pleased. “Ghost guns represent a new, dangerous frontier of illegal firearm trafficking — the creation of homemade, completely untraceable, military-grade firearms. It does not matter if you build it yourself or buy it off the street corner — an illegal gun is an illegal gun, and we will prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law.” Fair enough? I’m not so sure . . .

As far as I’m concerned, police “stings” are inherently unreliable. The big question: would Thomas Weber and Antonio Himonitis [above] have manufactured and sold the guns if the cops didn’t encourage/entice/trick them into doing it? The operative word here is “entrapment.” Wikipedia:

In criminal law, entrapment is a practice whereby a law enforcement agent induces a person to commit a criminal offense that the person would have otherwise been unlikely to commit. It is a conduct that is generally discouraged and thus, in many jurisdictions, it is a possible defense against criminal liability.

Doesn’t sound very good, does it? I mean the bit about entrapment being a defense “in many jurisdictions.” Consider the reverse of that statement: entrapment is not a defense in many jurisdictions. So if the cops encourage/entice/trick someone into committing a crime, tough you-know-what for the person caught-up in a “sting.” Especially if the person lured into criminal conduct has a criminal record.

Police “stings” are fundamentally different from traditional police work, where law enforcement responds to a crime and seeks to arrest the perpetrator. “Stings” are popular amongst the po-po because they work; most criminals are not the sharpest tools in the box. And when it comes to entrapment, greed is good.

“Stings” are an excellent way for police and prosecutors to rack-up “wins.” And they’re fun! Pretending to be a bad guy is a welcome break from the often mundane and fruitless task of investigation. It’s no wonder hundreds of Hollywood crime movies are based on “undercover stings.” Or that NBC’s “To Catch a Predator” was such a big hit.

Apart from diverting cops from traditional work, police “stings” have a significant downside. They create criminals.

There are plenty of examples of police agents not taking “no” for an answer. In Sherman v. United States, the Supreme Court threw out a conviction based on an agent’s persistence. Unfortunately, that case hasn’t stopped the police from using entrapment to entrap citizens. The New York arrest is one of thousands of police “stings” run every year around the country, many involving vulnerable drug addicts, some ending in tragedy.

Our good friends at the ATF are notorious for their love of sting operations. In 2013, they created a fake gun store in Milwaukee. Even a brief look at that operation – wherein the ATF convinced a mentally sub-normal visitor to have the shop’s logo tattooed on his neck – reveals the inherent dangers of the technique.

In short, police stings are a good idea for police, a bad idea for society. An illegal gun may be an illegal gun, but not all police procedures are the same.

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49 Responses to NY Cops Bust “Ghost Gun” Sellers. Entrapment?

  1. if these guns are truly “Military-Grade” as anti-gun pols regularly claim, why don’t the local LEO’s just keep them as duty guns rather than melting them down, and save the citizens a few pennies?

  2. If you live in a blue state . . . you are petty and guns are scary.

    If you are from the hinterland, guns are common, cash and carry, people are polite, we don’t live on top of each other and whine about it. When we look at far-off NY, they look as though they have a complex. They look as though they need counseling and should be prevented from operating heavy machinery. They look pissant. And that wouldn’t be so bad, EXCEPT THEY ARE F-NG UP AMERICA.

    That state is mine, quit abusing it you libtards. Grow up.

  3. “It does not matter if you build it yourself or buy it off the street corner — an illegal gun is an illegal gun, and we will prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law.”

    eh, what?
    As far as federal law is concerned, building up an 80% receiver doesn’t become illegal until you make them for sale.

    • Yeah, but in New York, there’s all kinds of ways you can make an AR-15 lower (80% or otherwise) super-duper, double-secret illegal by attaching certain parts to it.

  4. If these are military grade weapons, why can’t I find a single army that uses AR15s as their standard issue rifle? Oh yaaaa, I forgot, an ar15 is the civilian version of a “military weapon”. (For record Hughes amendment should be repealed)

  5. Sounds liek what happened to Tommy Chong (of cheech and chong fame) when his company shipped a cop a bong to a location where it was illegal. They told the guy several times over the course of a few months they don’t ship there, they finally got fed up and did it to shut the dude up. Low and behold they held Tommy liable as its his business (even though he didn’t do it himself).

    • My personal favorite part of his documentary about that was when they busted into his house “Do you have any drugs on the premises?”

      — “I’m Tommy Chong Man!”

  6. Key thing about entrapment, usually there has to be some kind of threat to make entrapment stick. Having an under cover cop ask to buy some pot and busting the dealer isn’t entrapment. Having an undercover cop ask to buy a gun under the table without a background check from an FFL isn’t entrapment either. Threatening to pull the FFL license if the FFL doesn’t sell to a known prohibited person, then arresting the FFL holder for selling the gun, is entrapment.

    So in this case, if they got and 80% lower and finished it out to sell to some under cover cops, it’s probably not entrapment unless some cop put a gun to their head and made them do it. It’s a mighty fine line.

    • This^..

      To the author; I think the concept of entrapment is going over your head.. As the article doesn’t even provide enough information about the bust to reach a conclusion of entrapment, it’s not really worth debating what entrapment entails.

  7. So what are we thinking? If these guys were finishing out 80% lowers with cheap uppers I think this would be a bigger story. Maybe it will be, maybe we’ll check out the news tomorrow and find these guys plastered all over selling horrible unregistered ASSAULT WEAPONS. Gasp! OH MY!

    But the cops didn’t lead with that. No pictures of the guns in question either. It’s never as sexy when the guns are made out of schedule40 pipe.

  8. I know I’ll be called a commie or whatever, but unless there was some threat to these men, it was their choice to do something illegal. Mentioning “To Catch a Predator” doesn’t further the article’s tone. No one forced a bunch of perverts to drive hours from their homes to plow 13 year olds, they wanted to.

    • Your “13 year old” analogy has a clear victim. Who is the victim of the manufacture of an aluminum lower receiver? I mean – what is wrong with making gun parts?

      We can always play the “yes they should respect the law” card, but when do we play the “this law is so ridiculous it merits no respect” card?

  9. the creation of homemade, completely untraceable, military-grade firearms.

    In other words, a “vanilla” semi-automatic rifle sold in sporting goods nationwide?

  10. OK, so what is the “entrapment” story here? I don’t see anything that says that the police or ATF induced the manufacture of guns for sale (as distinguished from the making of guns for personal use.)

    If these suspects were convicted criminals then I would imagine they would be somewhat circumspect about a stranger who approaches them with a job to manufacture guns. I would think it ought to have occurred to them that one probably would need a license to manufacture guns even if you didn’t need a license to manufacture baseball bats or cutlery.

    I’m not inclined to give the constabulary the benefit of the doubt in the absence of information. I’m interested in the facts.

  11. If Schneiderman is involved, it’s not just entrapment, it’s a scam. The guy is a major scvmbag. Sooner or later, he’ll be defending himself against criminal charges.

  12. Just read the link on the ATF’s “fake store.”

    “In one (case), they charged a man who was in prison – as a result of an earlier ATF case – at the time agents said he was selling drugs to them.”

    Keystone Cops anyone?

    This is when you know a government is out of control. It’s time to put a stop to the police state in America and the local regulations that would make the USSR look like Wall Street.

  13. What’s new about “homemade” is now the Police there think they are military grade, just as good as the full auto stuff they are spending large contract dollars on. Unless, of course, they are accepting older guns from the .Gov who aren’t issuing them anymore because they don’t consider them good enough for the military.

    So, what constitutes military grade? Old used non-issue guns the Army no longer wants, garage machined lowers with no reputation for quality? I smell the legendary “Saturday Night” ruse, where only quality people can afford quality guns, and the lower income cant have them.

    Its social elitism and he needs to be called on it.

  14. At some point, we as law abiding gun owners need to stop defending criminals by pointing to the police as the bad actors. There is a very well established legal system of evidence that will either prove that the accused were breaking the laws or the police overstepped their bounds. If guilty, these guys paint all legal gun owners and people who appreciate gun technology with a very broad brush making us the target politically. Please take a second to understand that when we defend criminals (this has nothing to do with the 2nd amendment) the entire firearms industry tends to look like those we defend.

    A few years ago a young kid in OR was pretty confused about life and decided that it would be cool to hurt a bunch of people. Turns out he ran into the FBI and he is now long gone after he tried to blow up a christmas tree lighting ceremony with a fake bomb. His lawyers also claimed entrapment, but had he ran into the right s^*theads a whole lot of very good people could have gotten hurt.

    Think about who you defend sometimes…perhaps they actually are criminals that make us look bad and provide an impetus to take away our rights.

    Now feel free to jump all over an opposing point of view…

    • I support your remarks.
      While we are fighting to build respect for the 2A we ought not be engaged in rhetoric that casts the PotG in a dubious light. We might have sentiments or very solid arguments. Yet, we have to decide which shots to take and which to let go.

    • Or we could criticize both. The criminal for breaking the law, and the police for (potentially) aiding and abetting the transgression.

      • I agree…but I also prefer a proactive police department / law enforcement than one that comes after the fact just taking down the details. I have a very hard time painting all policing efforts with the broad brush of being anti 2A.

        I don’t know about most of you guys, but I can guarantee that I would never even come close to being entrapped in something like this. Closest I would have ever come is when I was selling some of my old pistols, and during those occasions I took great care in making sure that I wasn’t selling across state lines (only think separating me from the state of Washington is a beautiful big river) or selling to someone that couldn’t buy. As a matter of fact, most buyers were proactive in showing that they were legal to buy by providing their DL’s and CHL’s. Live the right way and bad things just don’t happen to you.

    • Needs to be taken case by case, no blanket “this side” vs “that side.”

      The defendant that ‘represents’ our fundamental rights in a major court decision will most likely not be a clean-cut person we CHOOSE to be our poster child.

      Miranda, after all, was nobody’s idea of a ‘stellar citizen,’ yet his name is now a household word standing for the very premise of the 5th Amendment’s protection against (induced) self incrimination.

      Similarly for Garner. And, I believe, Terry, to name a few. Many of the major league decisions that shape the ‘balance’ between .gov and our Constitutional rights have involved folks that were, in fact, guilty of sometimes pretty serious crimes.

      • What you write is true. However, we PotG can’t count on the grace of jurists to advance our rights in the same way as they advance the rights of common criminals.

        The process used by appellate courts – and especially SCOTUS – is opaque and subjective. Why SCOTUS took Heller and McDonald remains a mystery.

        We ought not expect some criminal like Miranda will bring a gun case that both: SCOTUS will take; AND, SCOTUS will rule in a way that supports gun rights. It is far more likely that SCOTUS would use the facts of the case to explain their curtailment of gun rights.

        When a criminal commits an act that results in a prosecution there is NO – ZERO – control over the facts of the case. There is no “invisible hand” that directs the actor to set-up just the right situation of the facts vs. the law to make for the best possible case.

        It is far wiser to queue up a sympathetic citizen to pursue an appeal under a set of carefully chosen facts in a particular venue such that the odds of a favorable outcome are tipped in our favor. It is no accident that Heller preceded McDonald. Nor is it an accident that Heller was chosen as a litigant when he was – coincidently – an armed guard working for the Federal government. It is no accident that McDonald was a black man of modest means living in a dangerous neighborhood of Chicago.

        We need to support the Second Amendment Foundation – among others – so that they have the resources to pursue as many cases as possible and set-up the facts in those cases to maximum advantage.

  15. “New…”

    Hahahahaha!

    I would ask where these journos have been hiding, but then…New York. And being journos, of course they have prog-left brain dysfunction. Pity the fools…but never underestimate the power of ignorant people in large groups.

  16. Military grade hardware? I seriously doubt that. Somebody should point out to the persecutor that an AR15 is not military grade but a Mosin Nagant is. Of course the Mosin isn’t a scary black assault weapon and wouldn’t qualify for the news.

  17. “an illegal gun is an illegal gun, and we will prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law.”
    So we’re going to see some Fast and Furious arrests soon?

  18. “Ghost guns represent a new, dangerous frontier of illegal firearm trafficking — the creation of homemade, completely untraceable, military-grade firearms.”

    Last I checked, filing off serial numbers for the exact same result has been a hobby of criminals for decades or more.

  19. “and we will prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law” Just like we prosecute illegal aliens sneaking into the United States. Uh, er… wait.

    • And politicians that violate their oaths of office…

      And, no, I’m not being cheeky. I mean actual convictions. Do politicians get the “Fullest Extent” treatment?

      For that matter, do cops? Negligent discharges, for example…

  20. “Ghost guns represent a new…”

    Stopped reading their statement right there. NEW? Homemade firearms have been made since… well, the invention of the firearm. Especially military firearms. That’s kind of the point of most firearms being built at home through the ages.

  21. 2nd Amendment is so we can fight a corrupt government. Homemade guns are a necessity for freedom from tyranny of a suppressive government.
    Some of the disarmed people murdered by the governments of the world, Christians Rome, Jews Nazi Germany, Aztecs Spanish, Maori of NZ and Aboriginals Australia, Scottish William Wallace, the Irish, Welsh by English and the Native America by the US government. THIS is why we need guns to protect ourselves from those who would subject us to their whim and if this is not enough just google dictators.
    There are over 400 gun laws on the books and they have done nothing to stop the violence. Because of the winey few we are chastised for wanting to protect ourselves. We NEED guns to protect ourselves from criminals in and out of the government. I deserve the right to protect myself and if you don’t like it tough shit. mrpresident2016.com

  22. If they only knew how many Ghost Guns I have… Hell, I don’t even know, I lost track about a decade ago and I still keep making them… It’s like a weird habit… I just keep making guns all the time… Dozens? Nay, hundreds. I really don’t know. I kid you not, I have piles of AR-15s stacked to the ceiling in several rooms… Maybe thousands? I don’t know. I really don’t…

  23. Military grade???

    Mosin-Nagants still see military use in some countries.
    .22LR bolt actions are used by some military as urban sniper/assassin rifles.

    That term pretty much covers most of the guns on the market.

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