An Idaho man was sentenced in federal court on Monday for dealing firearms without a license after he resold hundreds of guns in a three-year period.
Steven W. Clyne, 70, of Meridian, was sentenced to 27 months in federal prison followed by a year of supervised release following a conviction handed down after a four-day jury trial earlier this year.
According to court documents and testimony, between January 2013 and November 2015, Clyne bought more than 200 and possibly as many as 400 firearms from area gun stores, filling out paperwork saying he was the actual buyer. He then resold the guns at a profit at Treasure Valley gun shows without performing a background check as he was a private seller.
A number of these sales were to undercover agents, with Clyne telling a buyer on July 22, 2015 that he would buy more pistols later that day for resale, going on to make a false statement on a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives Form 4473 that he was the actual buyer.
In a search warrant executed on Clyne’s residence in Meridian in November 2015, agents recovered 28 firearms as well as items that led them to believe he was engaged in the business of selling guns without a license.
Based on the Gun Control Act of 1968, current laws require persons who are “engaged in the business” of dealing in firearms be otherwise licensed. Generally, if an individual repetitively buys and sells firearms with the goal of turning a profit, they need a license while someone making occasional sales from a personal collection does not.
The ATF does not define how many guns one needs to sell to require a license but instead relies on a host of other factors that accompany the unlicensed sales such as advertising, selling and payment methods. For instance, presenting oneself as a licensed dealer on business cards and accepting credit cards could be a factor. However, the agency may issue a warning if these factors are present “when only one or two transactions took place.”
In his defense, attorneys for Clyne argued that he picked up an application for a federal firearms license as he started selling more guns but interpreted a question on the application about selling only at gun shows to mean that he did not need an FFL.
During the trial, evidence presented against Clyne showed that at least 10 of the guns he sold were later recovered at crimes scenes or in the hands of criminals including one found at a murder scene in Modesto, California and three with methamphetamine traffickers.
Prosecutors sought a 41-month sentence for Clyne, arguing that sentencing guidelines “do not take into account the most disturbing aspect of the defendant’s conduct—that he sold numerous firearms that ended up in the hands of felons, drug dealers, and a registered sex offender.”
“In his pursuit of money, Steven Clyne willfully disregarded federal law knowing that certain people would pay a premium for not having to complete paperwork and a background check,” said U.S. Attorney Rafael Gonzalez. “This case is an unfortunate example of what happens when someone violates those federal firearms laws.”