Former ATF agent says multiple, repeated violations suggest illegal gun sales

Economist Gregg Erickson explains to the jury his projections for Simone Kim's potential lifetime income as attorney Mark Choate listens and Superior Court Judge Philip Pallenberg views an overhead projection. (Photo by Matt Miller/KTOO News)
Economist Gregg Erickson explains to the jury his projections for Simone Kim’s potential lifetime income as attorney Mark Choate listens and Superior Court Judge Philip Pallenberg views an overhead projection. (Photo by Matt Miller/KTOO News)

A former federal agent testified Friday that he was suspicious of all the various violations at a Juneau gun shop that hinted at possible illegal gun sales.

“I’m suspicious of that, yessir,” said Joseph Vince, whose career at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives ranged from special agent to chief of various divisions. Vince now directs the criminal justice program at Mount Saint Mary’s University and leads the Maryland consulting firm Crime Gun Solutions.

Vince testified in Juneau Superior Court last week for the plaintiffs in the wrongful death lawsuit filed by the Kim family of Anchorage. Simone Kim, 26, was killed in August 2006 with a rifle that was obtained from Rayco Sales. Store owner Ray Coxe said he had walked to the back of the store when convicted murderer Jason Coday left $200 on the counter and walked out with the firearm.

“I don’t think there is a honest explanation to that,” Vince testified. “I don’t think a businessman can stand here and say ‘I sell a product that is dangerous in the wrong hands and say I don’t know happened to it.’ I don’t think a businessman that runs a business for profit can say that I can lose all these expensive items and stay in business unless I’m doing something else that’s allowing me to do that.”

Vince said it’s not hard for retail dealers with a federal firearms license to operate while satisfying federal requirements and regulations. He said about 90 percent of all dealers operate without a single violation. As an example, over 10,500 retail dealers were inspected during a recent year and only 81 of those dealers received revocation letters for numerous or repeated violations.

Vince was skeptical about two video surveillance systems at Rayco Sales that apparently malfunctioned at the same time. A clerk said he didn’t reload the tape in one system on the day that Coday came into the store, while Coxe said he mistakenly put a non-recordable tape into another, backup system.

“Highly unlikely that two systems fail,” Vince said.

Vince also suggested there’s very little possibility that a gun shop would remain a clean operation and not conduct any illegal sales with so many gaps in the dealer’s log of incoming and outgoing firearms. There were also discrepancies in the background check forms filled out by hundreds of firearms purchasers, at least 290 firearms going through the store that are missing and unaccounted for, and multiple law enforcement agency trace requests to locate the source of a recovered firearm suspected as used in a crime.

Vince says 88 percent of 75,000 retail gun dealers never have guns used in a crime traced back to their store, while Rayco Sales received 10 firearm trace requests in 2014.

“You’re in the very high percentage of what’s called the ‘dirty gun dealers’ in the country that have that many,” Vince said. “It just doesn’t happen that that many crime guns are sold from one store.

“The significance here too is that this is Juneau, Alaska. Quite frankly, I think that the community should be very proud, you don’t have a high crime rate. You just don’t. To have that many crime guns? That’s even more significant. This is not Chicago.”

Also on Friday, economist Gregg Erickson calculated that Simone Kim likely would have generated $1.39 million in lifetime income and support to his family. As part of Korean custom, Kim, as the eldest son, took on the role of supporting his parents. Before he died, he was also expected to help his sister Anna with expenses for her nursing education.

The case continues in Juneau Superior Court with Anna possibly taking the witness stand as soon as Monday. The civil trial is expected to last the rest of this week.

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