published Friday, January 11th, 2013

Man testifies selling guns a hobby, not business

One of two brothers on trial in federal court on charges of illegal gun sales testified Thursday that he bought and sold firearms from pawnshops and gun shows as a hobby, not a business.

Richard and Carl Monroe, of Athens, Tenn., are charged with selling firearms for profit without a federal firearms license. Richard Monroe testified Wednesday and Thursday. He is scheduled to continue his testimony this afternoon in U.S. District Judge Curtis Collier's courtroom.

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents conducted an undercover investigation of the Monroe brothers from 2010 until mid-2012 before charging them and two other men with the weapons violations.

Richard Monroe's lawyer, Mike Little, asked his client on the stand about his involvement with guns. Monroe described himself as an avid collector and trader

"Did you feel, did you know, have any thought or any idea you were or might be breaking the law?" Little asked.

"No, sir," Monroe said.

Under cross-examination by prosecutor Terra Bay, Monroe estimated he bought four to five guns, on average, at gun shows twice a month, each month from 2008 to 2011.

He estimated he sold an average of 10 firearms during the same period at each gun show.

Moore also bought 175 firearms from an Athens-area pawn shop over the same period.

Bay compiled the estimates and noted that Carl Monroe possibly sold 300 firearms during the three years in the indictment without paperwork.

It is legal to buy, sell and trade firearms from personal collections to individuals without a firearms license. But when a gun seller's pattern of sales reaches certain volume, frequency and profit, it becomes a business and requires a license.

Firearms license holders report gun sales to local ATF offices and must conduct background checks for selling certain weapons. Individual sellers are not required to do either.

Testimony by undercover agents early in the trial showed that Carl Monroe knew weapons he was selling likely would be resold in northern cities and in one instance he sold a firearm to a convicted felon working as a confidential informant for the ATF.

Agents seized more than 180 firearms from the Monroe homes at the end of the operation.

The two other men charged, Kevin Dawson, of Ooltewah, and his father-in-law, Jack Wardlaw, of Columbia, Tenn., pleaded guilty to charges in an agreement with prosecutors. Dawson testified in the trial earlier this week.

Dawson traded an assault rifle to Jesse Mathews in the weeks leading up to his attempted robbery of a Brainerd Road money store and killing of Chattanooga police Sgt. Tim Chapin on April 2, 2011.

He later tried to buy a fully automatic Thompson "Tommy" submachine gun from an undercover agent and was arrested.

about Todd South...

Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...

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