Federal agents were tracking Richard Schmidt’s counterfeit sports jersey imports when they stumbled upon his arsenal of eighteen guns, more than 40,000 rounds of ammunition, and bulletproof body armor. Schmidt, an ex-felon who killed a Hispanic man and wounded two others twenty-four years ago, also had lists of Jewish and black leaders in Detroit.
Before December, no one noticed that Schmidt, 47, was amassing weapons, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Federal investigators zeroed in on his sports memorabilia shop around September 2011, tracking his shipments of knock-off jerseys from China for over a year before they discovered the cache of firearms.
Schmidt plead guilty to federal gun charges and the counterfeit racket last month and will be sentenced in October.
Schmidt is banned from possessing a gun for the rest of his life. In 1989, he pulled a gun on three men during a traffic argument, killing one and wounding the other two. He was convicted of voluntary manslaughter and served twelve years in prison.
Scott Kaufman, the head of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, was spooked after discovering he was on Schmidt’s list. “For a convicted violent felon to amass an arsenal with 40,000 rounds of ammunition with no red flags popping up is problematic,” he told the Plain Dealer. “No matter where you stand on the gun issue, it makes you wonder. The moment I saw my name in this guy’s notebook, I freaked out.”
Indeed, Schmidt was able to stockpile firearms easily thanks to decades of hard work by the the gun lobby. Combating calls for stricter background checks on private gun sales, the National Rifle Association insisted the bill would create a national registry of gun owners which would be used to confiscate weapons and enact tyranny. This fear mongering has also hobbled federal law enforcement agents, who are forbidden from keeping any records of gun purchases. That means people like Schmidt can avoid background checks when they buy firearms, or they can get guns through a straw purchaser that law enforcement cannot track because records revealing the purchaser’s activities would have been destroyed. It was luck that Schmidt was caught before he could wreak havoc — but Americans won’t get so lucky every time.