Alas, no...the arrest and conviction of Richard Schmidt on gun charges had nothing to do with gun laws. It was pure coincidence, the result of FBI investigation into counterfeit NFL jerseys and other knock-offs Schmidt sold at a sports memorabilia store in the local mall. And so the federal attorney on the job has to admit they have no idea how this ex-felon, banned from possessing a gun, managed to acquire his arsenal.
Why would they know? After all, the NRA and the gun lobby assert that measures like universal background checks and gun registration lead to tyranny. So, gun laws to the rescue? Nope. I guess it's football, to the (accidental) rescue.
Schmidt, 48, pleaded guilty to federal gun and counterfeiting charges in July. When he is sentenced in October, prosecutors are expected to push for a sentence of several years in prison. His attorney, however, said Schmidt is neither a radical nor a monster.Sure, an illegal stockpile of weapons at his store in the mall was about doomsday prepping. Justice must be a slow grind indeed, if the indictment was unsealed in mid-January and and even with that non-defense it took that long to extract a guilty plea. But this was the commentary from the U.S. Attorney on the job, Steven M. Dettelbach.
"He's a survivalist; he had no intent to cause anyone harm,'' said Edward Bryan, a federal public defender in Cleveland. "His collection of firearms and ammunition was similar to his collection of other items. He believes that our society may collapse one day, and he had to be prepared for what would happen.''
“It is deeply troubling that law enforcement found this man, with a prior homicide conviction, in possession of an arsenal,” Dettelbach said. “We owe the FBI and our other law enforcement partners our thanks that they caught this man, with 18 firearms -- some of them assault weapons – high-capacity magazines, more than 40,000 rounds of ammunition, and a bulletproof vest stored in a locked room in a mall, before anyone was hurt.”Schmidt's ties to white supremacist groups put his lawyer's survivalist claims in a somewhat different light...pay no attention to the neo-Nazi paraphernalia, right?
The agents also discovered evidence of Schmidt’s ties to the neo-Nazi movement, documents show. Among the evidence seized, according to search warrants, was a video of a national convention of the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement; bumper stickers of the National Alliance party, another neo-Nazi group; a “Jewish 500” list -- a supposed roster of Jewish-owned businesses -- and paraphernalia from the “Waffen SS,” Adolph Hitler’s Nazi military force in Germany from the early 1930s through World War II, according to the search warrants.This in turn led to investigation from the Southern Poverty Law Center, connecting Schmidt to a racist skinhead group called the Vinlanders Social Club. The NBC News article explains:
Mark Potok, who tracks hate groups for the Southern Poverty Law Center, said the group had found an entry that appeared to be from Schmidt on a neo-Nazi website several years ago, using the Yahoo profile of “Vinlander 101” and declaring his plans to set up a “historical preservation” group. (One of the trailers behind Schmidt’s sporting goods store was registered to the “Vinland Preservation League” -- a now defunct nonprofit.) He noted that the use of the word “Vinland” was likely inspired by the “Vinland Social Club,” a now largely dormant neo-Nazi skinhead group that emphasized the early Vikings role in colonizing the American continent.Understandably, some of the folks on Schmidt's list were a bit dismayed with the fact, and that the ex-felon was able to sidestep being banned from possessing a gun for the rest of his life.
“The sad reality is there are people around this country who are building up enormous arsenals of weapons because they think the end is coming -- either a race war, or the new world order … or some other form of apocalypse,” he said.
Scott Kaufman, the head of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, was spooked after discovering he was on Schmidt’s list. “For a convicted violent felon to amass an arsenal with 40,000 rounds of ammunition with no red flags popping up is problematic,” he told the Plain Dealer. “No matter where you stand on the gun issue, it makes you wonder. The moment I saw my name in this guy’s notebook, I freaked out.”
Indeed, Schmidt might have been able to stockpile firearms so easily thanks to decades of hard work by the the gun lobby. Combating calls for stricter background checks on private gun sales, the National Rifle Association insisted the bill would create a national registry of gun owners which would be used to confiscate weapons and enact tyranny. This fearmongering has also hobbled federal law enforcement agents, who are forbidden from keeping any records of gun purchases. That means individuals like Schmidt can potentially avoid background checks when they purchase firearms, or they can obtain guns through a straw purchaser that law enforcement cannot track because any records revealing the purchaser’s activities would have been destroyed. It was luck that Schmidt was caught before he could wreak havoc — but Americans won’t get so lucky every time.
And never mind that database of gun enthusiasts that the NRA itself maintains, with information culled from state gun registries, gun safety classes, attendees of gun shows, gun magazine subscribers. The NRA can do it, but the feds can't, because tyranny.