kalashnikov AK factory rifles
(Dan Z. for TTAG)
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By Lee Williams 

The ATF wants to imprison a decorated American soldier for a series of victimless crimes, even though the federal regulations he’s accused of violating may not be constitutional, and questions about ATF’s potential involvement in the case remain unanswered. 

The same federal agency that ran guns across the border into Mexico – which were used by drug cartels to murder Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry and scores of Mexican nationals – believes that retired special operations veteran, Larry Vickers, needs to be locked up, even though none of his weapons ended up in cartel hands. 

A story published Monday dissected the Justice Department’s case against Vickers, who pleaded guilty last week to a federal indictment that accused him of conspiring to illegally import machineguns and conspiring to violate U.S. sanctions against a Russian arms manufacturer.

The story showed how Vickers and two small-town chiefs of police created “sample letters” to bamboozle ATF’s Import Branch into approving some extremely esoteric weapons. It clarified that Vickers never imported AKs from the Russian arms maker, but instead corresponded with the firm, shot some promotional video and accepted a few guns, gun parts and consulting fees. 

Much has been made of Vickers’ guilty plea, but all it likely means is that he lacked the millions of dollars needed to mount a proper legal defense. Unlike most defendants, federal prosecutors have unlimited resources. Vickers’ case was investigated by the ATF, FBI, IRS Criminal Investigations and the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General, after all. Most likely, he simply didn’t want to bankrupt his family. 

The U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland publicly thanked two prosecutors specifically for “their work on the Vickers guilty plea.” This was a big win for the government, because by pleading guilty, Vickers saved prosecutors from having to answer some uncomfortable questions.  

One of the police chiefs charged with Vickers ran a one-man department in North Dakota. The other oversaw a seven-officer department. Neither had a SWAT team or special response capability, but that didn’t stop the small-town cops from signing nearly 150 “sample letters,” requesting the importation of a wide variety of foreign small arms. 

ATF’s Import Branch approved the chiefs’ requests for a FN/FAL, internally suppressed MP5s, full-auto GLOCK 18s, a belt-fed 7.62mm M240 machinegun and a French Fusil d’Assaut de la Manufacture d’Armes de Saint-Étienne, or FAMAS – a select-fire 5.56mm bullpup that uses AR magazines. 

While most of the firearms would make great additions to a private collection, other than the MP5SDs, few are in use at American law enforcement agencies – any American law enforcement agency. It raises the question as to why ATF’s Import Branch approved so many of the chiefs’ unusual requests. Were they involved in the caper or simply incompetent? 

Larry Vickers
Courtesy vickersguide.com

Vickers faces up to five years imprisonment for violating the National Firearms Act. But now, post-Bruen, the constitutionality of the NFA could be argued. Courts are required to assess whether modern firearm regulations “are consistent with the Second Amendment’s text and historical understanding.” And finding a Founding-era statute that’s comparable with the NFA wouldn’t be easy. 

Vickers’ military service should have been considered before his indictment was unsealed. He made it through the Q-course, selection, operator training, and much more. Neither cancer nor dozens of pissed-off Panamanians could take him out, but now the Justice Department can? 

Unfortunately, his background and high profile likely did Vickers in. ATF has always sought headlines, so the higher a defendant’s profile the more ATF wants to dogtrot them in front of the media, in cuffs of course. 

The sad part is that this whole debacle could have been handled with a phone call…a warning of sorts. Vickers would have respected that. 

Justice won’t be served by sending LAV to prison. ATF will get their headlines and a high-profile scalp, but justice will most definitely not be served. 

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55 COMMENTS

    • Since day one Gun Control has been imprisoning, torturing and murdering defenseless people by the millions worldwide. And here we are in the so called Land of The Free with the 1968 Gun Control Act still on the books. A law with a name that sounds great to History illiterates while the reality is the law pays homage to the words Gun Control while it hides its atrocities under the carpet.

      Because of its diabolical history the words Gun Control like the N-word has no place in America. And then there are as seen on TV the jack booted thugs running around and enforcing Gun Control when there is no victim whatsoever. It’s like any crime against big brother Gun Control and being born Black during Jim Crow came from the same tree of ignorance.

      Bottom line…Gun Control like its sidekick Slavery needs to be abolished.

  1. There’s no excusing it-so please stop trying… it only makes you look sadly hypocritical. When stupid laws get broken- stupid people go to jail.

    Just be smarter, folks.

    • Unfortunately, the man and the two chiefs HAD to know what they were doing had the potential to get them into legal trouble. Yes the gun control act is a terrible law but it’s the law. The ATF should be disbanded, but if my police chief came to me with this proposition I’d think he was ATF or just stupid.

      • Absolutely- that’s why I called out TTAG’s “Contributor” for the absurdity of even attempting to defend these neer do wells. It’s so absurd, in fact- it makes one wonder if the post’s true intention is to simply rile up the uninformed gun folk… generating lots of profitable clicks in the process.

        And for the “no victim” bewailers… if you’re going to purposefully break a law that you personally find misbegotten- man up and take your medicine when your stupidity lands your dumb ass in jail.

        Hence the sentiment… Just be smarter.

  2. I think the Hughes Amendment cannot survive a Bruen challenge, and I think the ATF has been so hopelessly politicized that is needs to be abolished and replaced.

    Having said that . . . Vickers was gaming the SOT laws (with the help of a couple of friendly LE departments) in order to get some post-Hughes Amendment stuff for his collection. Big no-no.

    Play stupid games, win stupid prizes.

    • “…and I think the ATF has been so hopelessly politicized that is needs to be abolished and replaced.”

      A serious question, replaced by who or what? I’m a realist, “nothing” simply isn’t happening.

      Who do you suggest, and more importantly, how do you ensure whatever follows doesn’t also get weaponized-politicized (like there’s a difference these days)?

      (Also agree on the stupid games, stupid prizes, etc. analogy…)

      • Key is to break up the little empire and distribute the pieces to other agencies where they won’t have much weight / pull.

        (1) Turn the collection of alcohol taxes / issuance of commercial brewer / vintner / distiller permits over to Department of Agriculture.
        (2) Turn the collection of tobacco taxes over to either the Department of Agriculture or perhaps the FDA (which has its hands all over tobacco now anyway).
        (3) Evaluate what aspects of the ’34 and ’68 acts remain constitutional under Bruen (e.g., probably excise taxes, “shall-issue” licensing and oversight of manufacturers / dealers, “shall issue” collection of NFA tax stamps [which should be handled by FFL’s, just like your friendly gun store can sell you a duck stamp]), and put that under a more innocuous agency like the Department of the Interior . . . preferably after DoI HQ / personnel are relocated to somewhere in Wyoming / Montana / Idaho / etc.).
        (4) For firearms importation matters, transfer to ICE.
        (5) For federal firearms crimes / investigations / prosecutions, assign to FBI / DoJ. (OK, both of them need housecleanings too, but it’s long been understood that ATF agents are the weak-sisters that couldn’t get a job at Secret Service / FBI / DEA / etc.)

  3. They did the same to Randy Weaver and David Koresh.

    Whether you’re in Gaza or Georgia, we are all treated like Palestinians. Thanks Merick Garland.

    F Joe Brandon

      • And it wasn’t an ethnically exclusive country when Mandate Palestine was created following WWI. Jews were outpacing the Arabs in owning property and controlling the local government. They couldn’t live in harmony with their fellow “Palestinians” because the Arabs were (and still are) extreme bigots. Arabs living in Israel have a much better life with more freedom than Arabs living in “Palestinian” controlled ares. Jewish life isn’t tolerated in any Arab-controlled country. Of course the Democrats support the bigots.

      • The REGION may have been a Roman title on an old map which they used to supress the Jews. There has never been a “Palestine” or a “Palestinian”.

        Bunch of assorted incompetent disorganized dysfunctional arabs is a tribe/rabble not a nationality.

  4. These laws are bs and certainly unconstitutional. Let’s be honest here though, Vickers does appear to have been violating that law, right? Gun YouTubers need to be absolutely above board. Remember fpsRussia and what a weird story that was?

  5. Made no difference not having Chipman as the director. Still glad he didn’t make cut (his involvement with too many nefarious actions by the ATF should not be rewarded).

  6. If only he had simply posted dozens of social media videos of him and his boyz posing and vogueing with the guns the feds never would have noticed.

  7. If the G wants to make an example out of you they will or at least break you financially in the process.

    It doesn’t help when you give them the goods to do it.

  8. “It raises the question as to why ATF’s Import Branch approved so many of the chiefs’ unusual requests. Were they involved in the caper or simply incompetent?” Most likely the latter, in the form of being overly deferential to law enforcement. Likely research (if any) was to check that the person on the letter actually was the chief of wherever, and trusted them as fellow government authorities.

    “Vickers’ military service should have been considered before his indictment was unsealed.” – Veteran status should be some sort of exemption from criminal prosecution???

    • Pretty sure that “selling to popo” “loophole” is widely used/violated. The cops NEED auto weapons/M16? BS. Join the Army/USMC kiddies.

      • “Pretty sure that “selling to popo” “loophole” is widely used/violated.”

        No doubt. I commented when this story first broke that Vickers real problem was that he didn’t get his story straight with the LE agency.

        Even if it was a cursory demonstration, his ass would have been legally covered…

  9. “It clarified that Vickers never imported AKs from the Russian arms maker, but instead corresponded with the firm, shot some promotional video and accepted a few guns, gun parts and consulting fees.”

    This entire situation has questions that need answers but this particular item needs clarification. This says he didn’t import huns that he imported. Regardless of paperwork or dubious law enforcement requests, what is this?

  10. “ATF’s Import Branch approved the chiefs’ requests for…”

    Why is he being prosecuted if the ATF approved all of these transactions?!?!

    • Accusation is that he conspired with the chiefs to make fraudulent requests, and the ATF approved them based on false statements of purpose by the chiefs.

      Sort of like Hunter Biden lying on his 4473, and the gun dealer trusting his statements and approving the sale.

  11. Fist Off, The French FAMAS does not use M16/M4 magazines, but a proprietary 25 round 5.56 magazine.

    2nd, Larry and the others were just being stupid and figured in BATFE gave their stamp of approval, they were 109% good to go. Whoops.

    3rd, Let’s see if anyone has the resources and desire to fight this and get discovery. Wonder who the unindicted co-conspiritors are or who was a paid informant?

    4th Larry was, maybe is still sick with Cancer and could be dying. I doubt he wants to die in jail and/or bankrupt his family. Look what happened to the “Auto Key card Guys”, they fought, lost and are in prison, even though BATFE had previously ruled the Auto Key Card flat peice of metal was not a machine gun.

  12. I want to know what is being done about the complicity of the police departments in this. I they gave the wink and nod with no intention of buying automatic weapons; wouldn’t that make them conspirators?

      • Andrew, no kidding? Why would anyone be so stupid? On both sides of it. What did the PDs gain?

        • From what I’ve understood a LOT of friendly PDs have done this in the past. I’m kind of on the angle that the ATF screwed this one up if it was enough to charge him why didn’t their auditing catch it?

          I’m also of the opinion like CC permits in may issue places the whole part of the system is extremely prone to corruption and likely needs scrapped.

        • I have seen gun dealers do stupid things because they thought their status made them special.

          One thought because he was a dealer, he didn’t have to pay range fees. His club told him to pay the fees if he uses the facilities. He stormed off in a huffy and never returned.

          Another got caught dealing off books firearms to an outlaw motorcycle gang.

          I have to wonder about the egos of some people in a highly regulated industry that is under constant close scrutiny.

        • “Why would anyone be so stupid? On both sides of it. What did the PDs gain?”

          Just a guess, but maybe just hanging out with the famous special forces guy? Bragging rights?

  13. I will say this. I have three Vickers slings. I think you could use them for snatch straps to get your buddy’s truck out of the mud.

  14. of course it was all about a scalp
    all the smartest people in the room
    knew this from the beginning
    its the atf
    its the fbi
    its the irs
    whens the last time any of them
    had any credibility

  15. This is one of the stupidest articles ever posted on TTAG.
    -He thumbed his nose at ATF and enticed local police chiefs to write bogus law letters. Bogus because that requires a bonafide intent to purchase said MG’s.
    -His veteran status has nothing to do with anything.
    -He pled guilty not because of the expense of defending himself, but because the evidence at first look is pretty damning.
    -The small town PD chiefs will be his roommates.
    -Yes, ATF gun regs are unconstitutional, now all you need to do is tell the Supreme Court because until they agree….they aren’t.
    – Stupid article is stupid. TTAG needs an editor.

  16. About headlines? Well no shit!
    I’m waiting for when they bust someone for an arm brace and splash headlines all over hell just to shake everyone up. Not that I have an arm brace, or two or three because IF I did, I would certainly be in compliance.

  17. I’m a fan of Vickers but he knew the laws and he broke them regardless … he is ultimately at fault as it was his responsible to operate with his FFL within the laws.

  18. When I first became a peace officer my Sgt told me that two things get cops in trouble- guns and pussy. He was never wrong.

  19. I would have donated to his defense fund personally just because of who he was and what he means to REAL Americans!! I don’t understand the Guilty plea!? There are LITERALLY Thousands of illegal machine guns out here in the streets of America right now!? they are manufactured, bought and sold by gangbangers all over American cities. These Glock machine pistols are everywhere in the inner cities. they show them off online and use them in murders all the time. there are videos where it’s obviously a full auto weapon being used and it’s a small caliber. they show them off “got the Glock switch/gotta have the switch” and yet the ATF haven’t made one significant Arrest to stop them. WHY NOT!? they fear real criminals that’s why and it’s really easy to keep picking on the folks that really aren’t criminals!! makes me sick

  20. I have never been fooled by the people who say you should not trust the police, these cop haters. Eventually, they will always take their mask off and reveal themselves. And show that they are the police bootlickers that they really are.

    I knew you would take your masks off. You say don’t trust the cops. “They are not your friends”, you say? Then why do you believe the ATF and its case against Larry Vickers???

    So when the ATF is going after a local FFL. Because they didn’t cross every T or dot every i. You support that action, correct??? Because after all, the paperwork is “not” accurate.

  21. The Hughes Act should’ve been repealed long ago, if ever passed. Same goes for the entire NFA. NO GUN CONTROL ACT(S) ARE CONSTITUTIONAL … nor is the federal government’s ability to spend countless amounts of taxpayer dollars in prosecuting alleged “crimes” that makes false heroes out of certain law enforcement agencies.

  22. Maybe if he identifies as black he can walk like all the illegal Glock-switch machine gun owners get to do?

  23. what moron thinks its a good idea to import a belt fed machine gun to “demonstrate” to 1 or even 7 man police department? weather blog is just or not makes no difference. he knowingly violated the law and now he pays the consequences. what a stupid way to throw away your life.

  24. We know Vickers is a collector, historian, enthusiast who maybe wanted material for his YouTube channel. Think he’s also suffering from cancer. Like FPS Russia, not a threat. ATF on the other hand …

  25. Whether or not VICKERS is a veteran has absolutely nothing to do with anything. Vickers has pleaded GUILTY as charged end of story.
    The Factthat Vicers is a Bad Apple in a very Big Barrel is hardly surprising either ALL organisations have them but that does NOT mean that the ATF is either corrupt or illegal. If gun owners of America contributed a single DOLLAR to any Defence VICKERS may wish to bring it would morev than cover his costs -it would probably set him up for life. So here’s a SUGGESTION put your MONEY wher your mouths are or shut the flock up’
    Inthe mean time perhpas yopu can explain as to why the Good Citizens of MAINE and given the styatistics there must have been several tooles uop citizens within shooting distance. why none of the BRAVE FREEDOM FIGHTERS of the GUN OWNERS of AMERC ICA who are supposed to be EVER-READY for such events did not shoot the bugger but let him get away!
    A guy who tried this he even had a mock suicide vest on on in the UK was beaten to a pulp by UNARMED MEMBERS of the Public including a MEMBER of PARLIAMENT who just happened to be walking by.

  26. Here is some real talk, people. Larry broke the laws and knew he was caught. Simple as. Guys like this do the 2A and the gun community as a whole NO favors and this sort of thing only reflects negatively upon us and also galvanizes the anti gunners.

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