Paris terror gun linked to Delray Beach supplier sold legally
MIAMI -- A Delray Beach-based arms importer can't confirm whether one of its guns was used in the Paris terror attacks, but it is cooperating with investigators, company officials said in a statement released Friday.
Century Arms officials say they are unable to confirm an M92 semi-automatic pistol it sold was found at the scene of the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks in Paris that killed 130 people.
"Century has an active and vibrant training and compliance program," the statement read that was posted on the company's website. "The company abides by all federal, state and local laws and regulations. Century expects the firearms it ships to licensed firearms dealers in the United States to be sold in strict compliance with the law."
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The company has not taken questions from reporters or returned phone calls seeking comment.
Milojko Brzakovic, the head of the Zastava arms factory in Serbia, told The Associated Press the serial number on one of the guns used in the attacks matched one it shipped to Century Arms in May 2013. At least seven guns used in the attack have been linked to the factory.
Brzakovic told the AP the firearms were all lawfully sold but could have found their way into illegal channels.
An FBI spokesman in Miami referred questions to French authorities, who are leading the probe into the Paris attacks. A spokesman with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said the agency is investigating, but he could provide no further details.
Investigators should be able to quickly determine if the weapon was imported into the United States, but determining how it made its way back to Europe could be difficult, said William Vizzard, who spent 27 years with ATF.
"We are the freest gun market in the world," said Vizzard, now a professor emeritus of criminal justice at the California State University, Sacramento. "In most states, you can just walk into a gun shop, buy 25 AK-style firearms, put them in the trunk of your car and drive away if you don't have a criminal record."
Federal law allows companies such as Century Arms to import firearms used for sporting purposes into the country, but they must have a permit and keep detailed paperwork, Vizzard said. Exporters must also go through a rigorous process, he said.
Century Arms with a headquarters building at 430 S. Congress Ave. in Delray Beach is considered one of the largest importers of surplus firearms in North America. Zastava ships up to 25,000 guns to the Delray Beach-based company every year, Brzakovic told the AP.
As a wholesaler, Century Arms sells guns to retailers and dealers, which are also required to be licensed, Vizzard said. Under federal law, the retailer must conduct a background check and keep records at its business of gun transactions.
Once the gun leaves the gun shop, the paper trail ends in most states, Vizzard said. A private party transaction doesn't have to be reported in most states.
It's possible the gun in question changed hands as many as 10 times, Vizzard said.
Federal law bans the ATF from keeping a database of gun purchases or registry of gun owners. Gun shops only have to turn over sales records if a firearm shows up at a crime scene, Vizzard said. Dealers also are required by law to notify ATF of multiple sales of guns to one buyer, but the transactions are allowed under federal law.
Tighter gun regulations would do little to stop a gun from falling into the hands of a terrorist, said Amy Hunter, a spokeswoman for the National Rifle Association.
"Registration has virtually no law enforcement purpose, given that criminals don't register firearms and law enforcement agencies typically solve crimes by other means," she said.
A video posted online by Century Arms in December 2013 shows an M92 semi-automatic pistol manufactured by the Zastava factory being fired and its attributes. The company also posted a photo on Twitter earlier this month of a man in camouflage holding a Century Arms "American made AK47."
"Hey terrorist scum, get some!" the caption read.