Robert Lewis III May Be the Saddest Illegal Gun Dealer You'll Ever Meet

Categories: Guns

CromwellDriveGunHouse.jpg
A modest, single-family home on Cromwell Drive in Dallas. Also, an unlicensed gun factory.
Robert Lewis III never meant for any of the assault rifles he assembles in his Northwest Dallas home to wind up hidden in a pickup truck bound for Mexico. He considers his gun-making more hobby than profession, though he did reportedly sell some to a guy down in Houston from time to time for a little extra spending money.

Yet, despite Lewis' best intentions, customs agents in Hidalgo in January 2011 discovered a cache of 15 assault rifles stashed in the fuel tank of a southbound truck belonging to 37-year-old Edwardo Ibarra. Components from two of the weapons were traced back to Lewis, who, records showed, had purchased them from JP-TEN Sports in Farmers Branch.

The discovery intrigued the ATF, which two months later began investigating Lewis for trafficking firearms. They probably suspected that they were on the trail of some sophisticated cartel-connected gunrunner who had finally slipped up. What they found instead was a guileless Army vet running a very small-scale, very homespun gun operation out of a house belonging to his parents.

Lewis, according to court documents, would order assault rifle components, a couple of dozen at a time, from suppliers all over the country using his dad's credit card and have them shipped to JP-TEN Sports, where he would pick them up. That's where the ATF detained him on July 16 as he picked up a shipment of AK-style firearms receivers he'd ordered online. This was exactly two weeks after Lewis and his son -- Robert Lewis IV, of course -- had been turned away while trying to buy a rifle because the owner suspected them of being straw purchasers.

He didn't try to deny anything. ATF Special Agent Kevin Mack, who was working the case, found him to be forthcoming, even friendly. When Mack revealed that he had a warrant to search Lewis' Cromwell Drive house, Lewis volunteered his truck, letting Mack drive.

"So are you the case agent?" Lewis asked as they pulled away from the gun store. "Tell me what this is about."

Mack explained that it had come to the ATF's attention that he was manufacturing firearms without a license, which is illegal.

Lewis chewed on this for a moment. He knew he technically needed a license to make guns. Friends had advised that he get one from time to time over the past 20 years, but he'd never gotten around to it. Then, he tried to tug a bit on Mack's heart strings.

Thumbnail image for HarlingenGunsseizure.jpg
Immigration and Customs Enforcement
Lewis' guns were among those seized from the fuel tank of a pickup truck bound for Mexico.
Lewis explained that he is an unemployed Army veteran whose only real income comes in the form of disability benefits from the VA for the grenade shrapnel embedded in his back and legs, among other wounds. He's going back to college right now, which is mostly covered by the VA, but there are expenses that he sometimes needs to cover. Hence the occasional gun sales. He really wasn't sure why the ATF was making such a big deal out of it.

"You can just give me the Form 7 [federal firearms manufacturers application], and we are done," he said. "You wouldn't even have to do all this."

They drove a bit further, and Lewis began to wonder: Was the ATF about to take away his "toys"?

Mack explained that his search warrant was for the seizure of both weapons and weapons components so, in a word, yes.

"So what am I supposed to do for money?" Lewis asked.

"Get a license and you can build and deal all you want," Mack told him. "You just have to follow the rules."

That'll be tough, especially since Lewis will have to start from scratch. Agents took 39 guns from Lewis' home, along with various assault rifle components, gun-making equipment and 25,000 rounds of ammunition, which is a tremendous loss for an operation as modest as Lewis'. His pleas that it was merely a hobby and that the gun sales really just covered the manufacturing costs failed to sway the agents. Same with the pleas of his father, who showed up while the ATF was searching the house. "So you are gonna take away his livelihood?" the father asked. "Of course you are gonna find guns and all that. Is that illegal?"

Yes, at least so long as the firearms are being sold and allegedly trafficked into Mexico. The U.S. Attorneys Office filed a civil lawsuit on Monday seeking to take possession of the property for good.

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39 comments
TheDog
TheDog

I bought gun from Jp ten sports and the owner john seemed real shady. I would be willing to bet he was getting some kick backs from that guy to help him out. The atf should investigate john self of JP ten sports. Guy is crooked as they come. 

Obummer
Obummer

Yo who iz gonna pick up all da unlicensed pharmacist in Dallas?

mcdallas
mcdallas

He was just picking up the slack from when the federal government stopped supplying guns to Mexico.  Someone had to.  It's not like the cartels would stop buying them just because the US government stopped selling them.

whocareswhatithink
whocareswhatithink

"The U.S. Attorneys Office filed a civil lawsuit on Monday seeking to take possession of the property for good."......

....I'm sure that's going to help the Dallas blight problem

JackJett
JackJett

Wow....I live in the same neighborhood and I have an awesome collection of Vintage Lunch Boxes and no one cares about that.....

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

The right-wing ruling party in Texas has, on the outside, maybe ten years left before the state goes blue.  Then we can get a sensible gun control law enacted, and Texas can finally enter the 21st century.

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

And in the meantime, nothing has been done about all the guns that Eric Holder let go south during the "Fast and Furious" debacle ...

ruddski
ruddski

Mexico? Who gives a rat's ass?

roo_ster
roo_ster

Tim:

You are incorrect.  Private citizens in most states are free to sell their guns to others, as long as they know of no reason why the buyer is not legally able to purchase a firearm. No licensed dealers needed.  The line between personal sales and sales which might require a license is somewhat fuzzy.  But if you are buying parts in bulk, you can probably figure you are on the "needs proper BATFE documents & licenses" side of the line.

For my own part, I see no good reason for the legal and regulatory apparatus WRT firearms assembly and sales.  The product is relatively simple and defects can be handled via tort law.  The small amount of federal taxes collected on the sale of a complete firearm are not worth it.


Tim.Covington
Tim.Covington

As this idiot has just found out, it is completely legal to make your own firearms. It is completely illegal to sell them to others without a license. This is why I go through a licensed dealer any time I sell a firearm.

teacher
teacher

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz 

Again with your supposed "sensible gun laws" pablum?

This guy violated EXISTING gun laws you ignorant yankee. Tell us again how more or stricter gun laws will stop criminal behavior.

Sippy_Wallace
Sippy_Wallace

You smoked the wrong rope this morning MMK. As far as your prognostication goes 'if wishes were horses, beggars would ride'.

leftocenter
leftocenter

Yeah...no blow-back or heat for that screw-up at all! 

Bad idea went wrong even worse...careers ended...testimony before Congress...what do you want done about it? 

There's a lot of pressure to push the envelope and think outside the box in how to stop the flow of guns into Mexico -- every idea isn't going to be a winner.  Hopefully there won't be any more that end up providing the guns that kill US Agents.  BTW, that's the worst punishment a LE can get -- his/her lost/stolen/buy-walked gun kills a brother in arms.  Let it rest.

Tim.Covington
Tim.Covington

@ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul As long as the current party is in control of the Senate, nothing is likely to be done about Fast and Furious. And, if the parties in power change, those actually responsible for it will be out of office and unlikely to face prosecution.

roo_ster
roo_ster

@ruddski Dude's problem is that he just wasn't sending enough guns south, as AG Holder and his buddies did in Fast & Furious.

observist
observist topcommenter

@roo_ster   

"as long as they know of no reason why the buyer is not legally able to purchase a firearm"

In other words, the fewer questions you ask, the more guns you can sell to shadier characters!  What could possibly go wrong?

Tim.Covington
Tim.Covington

@roo_ster I go through a licensed dealer to cover my ass. Even if I know the person I'm selling to, it does not mean I will know what happens in the future. This way, if a law enforcement agent knocks on my door asking about said firearm in the future, I can tell them that it was transferred through the licensed firearms dealer I use. 

doublecheese
doublecheese

@roo_ster The problem isn't selling, it's manufacturing and selling.  You absolutely can't do that without a license.  The "manufactuing" part here, is almost certainly the building (folding sheet metal) of AKM receivers.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@Tim.Covington I think it is illegal to send or receive the firearms across state lines without a license.  Selling them face to face is another issue altogether.  If it were illegal to sell firearms privately to another person, the gun control lobby wouldn't spend so much time howling about the 'Gun Show Loophole'.

Now, making and selling them, you might be right there, if that is what you meant.  I don't know enough about that to make an informed comment on it.

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

@teacher Won't stop criminal behavior.  Never said it would.  Will help stop the march to total gun mayhem.

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

@Sippy_Wallace A prominent republican agrees with me:

“Republicans have at most one two-term governor left in them. From 2022 on, everything is up for grabs,” said Republican pollster David Hill, who runs a firm in suburban Houston. “Numbers don’t lie,” he added. “We’re going to completely undo the alignment.”

leftocenter
leftocenter

You realize that Eric Holder was appointed by Bush and Fast & Furious began under the Bush administration?  Sorry if that doesn't fit your narrative.

roo_ster
roo_ster

@doublecheese @roo_ster dc:

I was responding to TC, who wrote about his personal gun sales.

Yes, manufacture is another issue and another license.  And another tax.

Dude was buying his receivers, from my read.  He was assembling the rest of the gun around the receiver and then selling the complete gun.  Nothing more than a parts-assembly operation that could be done on the kitchen table with common tools and a couple cheap purpose-made tools to make it easier.  BTDT for my own custom firearm.

IOW, no bent metal, just three-dimensional puzzles.

Tim.Covington
Tim.Covington

@RTGolden1 @Tim.Covington Though, there is a little bit of clarification. I'm specifically talking about you making the actual part the ATF requires a serial number on.

The rules get a little hinky when assembling firearms from parts that include a receiver with a serial number. There, you are crossing over into gunsmithing territory (which also requires a federal license) and being a dealer.

Tim.Covington
Tim.Covington

@RTGolden1 @Tim.Covington Actually, it is illegal to sell any firearm you have manufactured without a manufacturer's license.

Also, beyond a certain number of personal firearms sales per year (ATF has fluctuated on this, I've heard 8 and 13) and the ATF considers you to be a dealer, and requires you to have Federal Firearms License.

I actually looked into become a licensed firearms dealer, and decided the headaches were not worth it.

teacher
teacher

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz @teacher 

So..........you dont consider "total gun mayhem" to be criminal behavior?

Lady, you are a loon.

Please explain why the states and cities with the most restrictive gun laws have the highest rates of violent crime.

Why hasnt your beloved Obama done something about gun crime in his own hometown of Shitcago? Maybe because the vast majority of gun crime is committed by young black males on other young black males?

Thats a young black male problem, not a gun problem.

Fucking yankees.

CornyDoggy
CornyDoggy

@whocareswhatithink

the only people who believe the crap about IRS, Benghazi & Obamacare are already voting Republican.  And the NSA has been doing there thing for years before Obama stepped in

whocareswhatithink
whocareswhatithink

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz @Sippy_Wallace Democratic underground would be embarrassed you are quoting a "republican" pollster...yes pollster

I give you one step forward for state Dems in regards to what has happened at the state level and womens rights and one step forward for blue folks moving in because of jobs (which the iron there is, jobs are only there because of the red)

But you get about 6 steps back in regards to the hoopla of the current administration...IRA, NSA, Benghazi, Obamacare and that will come into play next election for folks that don't vote the same way etc etc

roo_ster
roo_ster

@RTGolden1 @leftocenter The GWB-era program made an effort to track the arms, but stopped when it became apparent it was unfeasible.  Holder's goons never even tried to track them.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@leftocenter Same SOP as the Bush operation, same objectives, if he didn't KNOW it would yield the same results, he is stupid. 

leftocenter
leftocenter

Same operation, different name.  The only thing I'd question is that Holder "knew" it was going to go South.  Really?  And he let it happen?  He may have had concerns, and maybe he SHOULD have know, but he's not stupid...

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@leftocenter Actually it was a different operation started under Bush.  It was stopped because they realized they had no way of controlling where the guns were ending up.  Seems the cartel guys were uncooperative and removed the tracking devices.

President Obama's biggest mistake was allowing the operation to begin again.  Holder KNEW it was going to go south.  It had already done so once before.

doublecheese
doublecheese

@roo_ster @doublecheese In that case, it does get a little more fuzzy.  If he's buying already formed recievers, they'll already have serial numbers, and he would not be manufacturing.  If that is in fact the case, then it all gets subjective on what is personal and what is a business that should be licensed.  My feeling is that either way, he's crossed the line of that is lawful.

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