Within hours of haranguing the country on the need to enact restrictive gun control, President Biden let one of the most notorious international arms dealers out of jail.

Early Thursday morning, Biden triumphantly announced his offices had secured the release of Phoenix Mercury basketball player Brittney Griner, 32, from a Russian labor camp where she was serving a nine-year prison term on drug charges. While the seven-minute feel-good press event was long on the White House's tireless work in gaining the athlete's release, what wasn't mentioned was that she was exchanged for Viktor Bout. 

 

Who is Viktor Bout?

 

Something of an international man of mystery, it seems Bout's life is shrouded in lore and conflicting stories. What is known is that he was a former Soviet-era military officer and likely intelligence agent who, upon the collapse of the Warsaw Pact, was able to parley huge stockpiles of arms ranging from AK47s to helicopter gunships into a lucrative business, selling and delivering weapons to just about every African or Balkan civil war across the 1990s and early 2000s. 

Nick Cage portrayed "Yuri Orlov" a much-romanticized version of Bout in the 2005 film, "Lord of War."

 

 

That came to a halt in 2012 when he received a 25-year sentence from a U.S. federal court for providing heavy weapons to terrorists and conspiring to kill Americans. The charges stemmed from a 2008 sting operation where Bout agreed to sell millions of dollars worth of weapons, including "700-800 surface-to-air missiles, over 20,000 AK-47 firearms, 10 million rounds of ammunition, five tons of C-4 plastic explosives, ultralight airplanes outfitted with grenade launchers, and unmanned aerial vehicles" to a Colombian terrorist organization with the clear understanding that the weapons would be used against Americans working in counter-terror/counter-drug operations in the region.

Arrested in Thailand, the Obama administration pressured the country at the highest levels to extradite the Russian businessman, ultimately bringing him to justice in a New York federal court.

Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney that oversaw Bout's case, described him as "a career arms trafficker of the most dangerous order."

 

Double standards

 

Just two weeks ago, Biden spoke to reporters in Massachusetts on Thanksgiving, bemoaning the fact that so-called "red flag" gun seizure orders of legally owned firearms here in the U.S. aren't used as much as he would like, then turned to one of his favorite subjects-- gun bans. 

"The idea — the idea we still allow semiautomatic weapons to be purchased is sick," he said, even though estimates hold over 24 million AR-15 style rifles in circulation. "It’s just sick. It has no, no social redeeming value. Zero. None."

When asked if he would move on them during the lame duck session, Biden stated "I’m going to try," then when further pressed that "I got to make that assessment as I get in and start counting the votes."

The fact that Biden released a high-profile foreign gun runner who had been convicted of conspiring to kill U.S. nationals, while at the same time the president talked up domestic bans on common and popular semi-automatic rifles no less than 161 times in the past two years-- including the very night before the Bout-for-Griner trade was announced-- was not lost on some in the American firearms industry.

"The hypocrisy and contempt that President Biden displays for Second Amendment rights was revealed in a span of less than 24 hours," Mark Oliva, public affairs director with the National Shooting Sports Foundation, told Guns.com on Thursday. "The president again blatantly vowed to violate the God-given right to keep and bear arms of law-abiding citizens one day and early the next, released a convicted international arms smuggler."

While Olivia pointed out that "any freedom-loving American can disagree with Ms. Griner’s previous sentiments of the United States and still applaud that a U.S. citizen has been freed from Russian captivity. The release of such a notorious individual known as the 'Merchant of Death' exposes this administration’s double standards especially when this announcement follows abandoning millions worth of arms - actual weapons of war - to the Taliban, who are sworn enemies of the United States. It is utterly baffling and incomprehensible the energies President Biden exerts to trample on Constitutional rights while ignoring the decisions that allow arms to flow to those intent on destroying the American way of life."

Noted gun rights advocate Alan Gottlieb of the Second Amendment Foundation summed it up, telling Guns.com, "Biden is fine with arming the enemies of freedom while disarming the people who fight for firearms freedom. He should be impeached for violating our constitutional Second Amendment rights."

Banner image: President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden talk backstage during a campaign event in New Hampshire, Sept. 7, 2012, just weeks after Bout's conviction on terror charges. (Photo: National Archives)

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