UPDATE (4:12 p.m.)—Two men were arrested over the weekend after allegedly selling illegal high-capacity magazines at the Timonium Gun and Knife Show, according to Baltimore County police.
John Heilmeier, 57, of Cumberland, VA, and Richard Summers, 64, of Waldorf, MD, both face firearms charges after an undercover officer observed the sale of what police said was a 30-round magazine.
Read a description of the investigation below.
The detective witnessed the sale on Jan. 11 during the gun show at the Maryland State Fairgrounds, according to a statement released Wednesday by the Baltimore County Police Department. Both men were taken into custody at the show and were later charged with misdemeanor offenses related to gun-related transactions.
UPDATE (6:05 p.m.)—Gun show spokesman Neil Kravitz said the police version of events were "not exactly true."
Kravitz explained, "the guy sold a magazine that was pinned," to only hold 20 rounds by manufacturing settings, although the magazine could be manipulated to hold 30. Kravitz said Heilmeier got himself into trouble by demonstrating to an undercover officer how to disable the mechanism, that would allow for added ammunition.
"This is a very old trick," Kravitz said. "People use this to increase or decrease the number of ammo a magazine can hold."
Kravitz described the three components that comprise a magazine: the shell, the spring and the follower (or "stop"), which prevents bullets from falling down into the bottom of a magazine.
"To make it meet state law, they [the manufacturer] put in the stop," Kravitz said. "John [Heilmeier] has been doing gun shows a very long time. ... He knows better than to sell a high-capacity magazine in Maryland."
Kravitz said Heilmeier's tenure at the gun show stretches back at least 10 years. Heilmeier labeled his wares as 20-round magazines. And at the time of sale, that was accurate, according to Kravitz.
In Maryland, it is illegal to sell, trade or barter for a magazine that can hold more than 20 bullets, although it is not illegal to own one, according to Kravitz.
"It's one of the loopholes in the law," he said.
The item in question, as well as 121 additional allegedly illegal magazines, were seized by police, according to the police news release.
"He started out with a magazine that meets the law to the letter," Kravitz added.
However, when the undercover detective asked if the mechanism "stopping" the bullets could be disabled, Heilmeier reportedly demonstrated to the officer how, Kravitz said.
"John should have known better and he knows that," Kravitz said.
There hasn't been an incident "like this," committed under the watchful eye of the gun show's organizers (Appalachian Promotions) since its inception in 1989, according to Kravitz. He conceded that there have been instances of people selling guns out of the trunks of their cars in the Timonium Fairgrounds parking lots.
Police announced the arrests Wednesday afternoon, three days after the Gun and Knife Show concluded.
“It is critical to have effective laws regarding high capacity magazines,” Police Chief James Johnson said. “And it is equally important for those involved in the sale of firearms and related equipment to conduct their business in a responsible and law-abiding fashion. These laws are in place to protect public safety, and violations such as this endanger the community.”
Johnson and County Executive Kevin Kamenetz announced in December that the county was making tougher gun laws a priority in 2013.
"This shows our commitment to public safety regarding existing firearms laws in Maryland," polices spokeswoman Cpl. Cathy Batton said.
Trials for Heilmeier and Summers are scheduled for May 14. Both men face up to three years in jail and/or a fine up to $5,000, Batton said.
Police said charges are pending for the customer who they said purchased the illegal magazine. Police are withholding the name of the customer until a full investigation can be completed.
The Investigation, according to police (4:45 p.m.)—
An undercover detective witnessed two customers at the Timonium Gun and Knife Show ask for a magazine that would fit a .223 caliber AR-15 rifle.
It was a common question on the day, with many customers stock piling ammunition and assault rifles (and accessories) following talk of an assault rifle ban at state and federal levels.
The vendor allegedly sold the customers what appeared to be an illegal 30-round magazine, police observed.
Police interviewed the customers and determined that the item purchased was illegal to own in Maryland.
Undercover detectives went back to the same vendors and asked to purchase specifically a 30-round magazine.
"The vendor told the detective that he could not say '30-round magazine' because he was in Maryland, but assured the detective that he could buy the magazine that he was looking for," according to a police news release.
Baltimore County police spokeswoman Cpl. Cathy Batton said it was John Heilmeier who spoke directly to the undercover detective.
The detectives purchased two magazines, which were labeled as holding 20 rounds although further examination showed that each magazine could actually hold 30 rounds.
Police arrested the vendors and seized 121 additional illegal magazines from the stand.
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