Working undercover in a sting operation, Ventura police officers bought a variety of weapons Saturday at the Ventura County Fairgrounds Gun Show and promptly arrested the sellers for failing to observe the state's mandatory 15-day waiting period.
"The gun show has gotten the reputation as an easy place to purchase guns illegally," said Sgt. Carl Handy of the Ventura Police Department. "We just want to send the message that we're not going to allow that in our city."
Handy said the sellers were walking through the crowded exhibit hall holding up signs advertising the sale of guns, ranging from a 9-millimeter semiautomatic pistol with a night scope, to a .357 magnum "Dirty Harry" handgun.
The sellers were taken to the Ventura Police Station where they were issued misdemeanor citations and released. If convicted, each faces up to six months in jail or fines of up to $1,000, Handy said.
Pat McMann, organizer of the annual gun show, said he did not know anything about the illegal sales or the undercover operation. He declined to comment on the incident or the event.
The gun show featured hundreds of sellers and thousands of gun enthusiasts, Handy said. Only one of the individuals arrested Saturday had guns displayed at a booth in the exhibit hall. The three others arrested were not registered to sell weapons at the gun show. Instead, each walked through the crowd looking for prospective buyers, police said.
A fifth individual, who was a registered seller, was issued a citation, but not arrested, for selling kits to convert semiautomatic weapons into fully automatic machine guns, police said. A semiautomatic weapon fires once and automatically reloads, while a fully automatic weapon fires continuously as long as the trigger is held down.
Handy said he still was unsure if the individual selling the machine gun kits was breaking the law. The sergeant said he would turn the case over to the state attorney general's office for possible prosecution.
"California law is written in a funny way," Handy said. "There were people walking out the door with fully automatic AK-47s who didn't have to go through the 15-day waiting period because the weapons are stamped with a hammer and sickle and considered a collector's gun and not subject to the waiting-period law."