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Report: Military Weapons Hit Street

December 27, 1997

CHICAGO (AP) _ Thousands of powerful, rapid-fire military weapons are being rebuilt and sold to gun dealers for public distribution around the country, the Chicago Tribune reported.

More than a dozen gunmakers use scraps from the United States military and armies around the world to rebuild battlefield firearms, the Tribune reported in Sunday’s editions.

The sale of rebuilt military weapons demonstrates the inability of the nation’s numerous gun laws to keep some of the most deadly firearms off the streets.

Surplus U.S. firearms that are not used in the Civilian Marksmanship Program, a government program to teach marksmanship and gun safety, are supposed to be destroyed or rendered inoperable. But gunmakers say the military does a poor job of crushing the guns.

``If you cut a Chevrolet in half, you may not be able to drive the car, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use the engine and other parts,″ said William Dailey, attorney for Springfield Armory Inc., a gun company based in Geneseo, Ill.

Military officials say they do a thorough job of cutting up the weapons, and that the law does not allow them to prevent gun dealers from bidding on the scrap metal.

But Jack Friese, whose Baltimore-based company Armscorp USA makes semiautomatic M-14s powerful enough to pierce lightly armored cars, said he gets regular notices from the military announcing sales and inviting him to bid on the scraps.

For the last 23 years, Friese has used international contacts to negotiate deals for millions of foreign and U.S. military firearm parts.

Dailey said that military rifles are too cumbersome and bulky to be used in crimes. But the Tribune traced one military weapon _ the powerful M-1 carbine _ to more than a dozen murders in the 1990s. In all of the cases, the killers bought the weapons at gun shops and gun shows.

Gun shows, one of the best markets for secondhand weapons, are almost totally free of state and federal regulation despite a 1993 federal investigation that found stolen military weapons being routinely sold at them.

More than 95 percent of the nation’s estimated 240 million guns are in private hands, the Tribune reported. For the most part, the resale of these guns goes unregulated by federal or local laws.

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