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January 25, 2011

"Buy it from somebody like me that don’t give a &*%@."

A story from the state of Washington reinforces the dangers of the Gun Show Loophole and the threat it poses to America’s law enforcement officers. It also highlights the investigative benefits of requiring multiple sales reports from federally licensed firearms dealers (FFLs)—a topic that has been in the news lately in regards to the illegal trafficking of firearms across the U.S. border into Mexico.

The story begins on the evening of October 31, 2009, when Seattle police officers Timothy Brenton and Britt Sweeney were sitting in their patrol cars discussing a recent traffic stop. Without any warning, a man approached in a white Datsun 210 and shot them both, killing Brenton and wounding Sweeney. He then successfully fled the scene.

Police confronted Christopher Monfort, 42, at his apartment six days later after a tip identified him as a suspect in the shooting. When Monfort drew a gun in response, he was shot, injured, and arrested. Authorities found an arsenal of firearms inside his apartment, including a Kel-Tec SU-16 semiautomatic rifle, a Mossberg shotgun M59O series, an Auto-Ordnance Corporation .45 caliber pistol, a Winchester model 70 7mm rifle with scope, a FN Herstal BelgiQue rifle, and an Interordnance of America M-59/66 7.62 x 39 caliber rifle. They also recovered numerous improvised explosive devices.

The Kel-Tec rifle was linked to the shootings of officers Brenton and Sweeney and traced back to its original purchaser. That purchaser indicated that he sold the rifle to David Devenny, 68.

Local, state and federal authorities were already well-acquainted with Devenny. In 2007, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) investigated a Canadian citizen who bought multiple firearms from Devenny—illegally—at Washington gun shows. Devenny is not an FFL, but because of the Gun Show Loophole, he was able to sell firearms at these events as a private individual without conducting background checks on purchasers or maintaining records of sale.

Devenny himself became the target of ATF investigations in May 2009 when the agency received a multiple sales report indicating that he had purchased nine handguns from one federal firearms licensee in a period of just five business days. When he bought these weapons, Devenny signed a form that stated, “I further understand that the repetitive purchase of firearms for the purpose of resale for livelihood and profit without a Federal firearms license is a violation of the law.”

During a conversation with an undercover ATF agent at Devenny’s home in January 2010, Devenny “admitted that he was the one that sold the gun that ‘killed the cop and wounded that lady cop.’” Devenny allegedly sold the Kel-Tec rifle at a gun show in Puyallup, Washington, on October 24, 2009, one week before it was used to kill Brenton. Devenny explained that “he did not know to whom he sold the gun because he did not keep records.”

On February 5, 2010, Devenny sold a .40-caliber Glock pistol and a Norinco SKS rifle to an ATF informant who told Devenny that he was under a restraining order that was in place to prevent him from “harassing, stalking and threatening an intimate partner.” On November 15, 2010, an undercover ATF agent and a confidential informant with a felony record went to Devenny’s home. The agent informed Devenny that the informant had two prior felony convictions. Nonetheless, Devenny sold the informant two firearms for $850. He even threw in a free box of ammunition.

In multiple conversations with undercover agents and informants, Devenny made his business practices patently clear. “What I don’t know, I don’t care about … It’s ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,” he stated. “Buy it from somebody like me that don’t give a **** [about a customer’s prior conviction for domestic violence] … Just as long as you forget where it came from.” Devenny also bragged that he “made good money” during eight years of selling firearms without a federal firearms license.

When authorities arrested Devenny on November 19, they recovered 42 guns and $32,000 in cash from his home. He has been charged with illegally selling firearms to individuals he knew were prohibited purchasers under federal law.“This is about public safety,” said U.S Attorney Jenny Durkan. “Illegal gun sales are a threat to our police and our communities. We will continue to prosecute felons who possess guns illegally. And we will prosecute the people who put those guns in their hands.”

And alleged cop killer Christopher Monfort? He has been charged with aggravated first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder in regards to the shooting of officers Brenton and Sweeney. King County prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

Having benefitted from the anonymity of private gun sales, Monfort has also emerged as high-profile gun rights advocate. At his trial on March 11, 2010, he parroted the National Rifle Association’s insurrectionist interpretation of the Second Amendment, telling the court, “There is a reason why there is gunpowder and explosions on the 4th of July, to remind us, to remind us, that we are in charge. Freedom is not free.”

Certainly one family in America now understands that freedom is not free—that of Officer Timothy Brenton, who served the Seattle community faithfully for nine years before giving his life in defense of public safety.

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