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Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

For Immediate Release

September 2, 2010

Benjamin B. Wagner, United States Attorney

Contact: Lauren Horwood
(916) 554-2706

Licensed Gun Dealer Charged With Making Unlawful Sales of Firearms, Silencers, and a Machine Gun

Sold to Undercover ATF Agent and Others Posing as Mexican Nationals

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Special Agent in Charge Stephen C. Herkins announced that Robert John Ronning, 42, of Salida, owner of Ronning Arms Inc. in Modesto, a federal firearms licensee, was arrested today on charges of illegal gun sales, including the unlawful transfers of unregistered silencers and a machine gun.

According to a criminal complaint filed earlier this week, ATF became involved in an investigation of a drug trafficking organization in approximately February 2009. As part of the investigation, quantities of methamphetamine, machine guns, and assault weapons were purchased. It appeared that some of the firearms came from Ronning Arms Inc. Following the arrest of the initial targets of this investigation, an undercover agent and others were able to purchase two silencers, seven assault weapons, and a machine gun from Robert Ronning at his place of business, in violation of federal law.

U.S. Attorney Wagner said, Selling guns to unknown individuals, especially those without identification, is a dangerous business. Guns trafficked back to Mexico help fuel the cartels and perpetuate the violence over the border. Licensees who hide behind their licenses to traffic in guns violate the trust that the government bestows upon them.

ATF partners with local law enforcement agencies to aggressively pursue firearms traffickers who are diverting firearms from lawful commerce into the hands of violent criminals, stated Special Agent in Charge Stephen C. Herkins. In this case, the illegal sales of several high-caliber firearms that were earmarked for the black market were purchased and intercepted by an ATF Agent acting in an undercover capacity. This is an excellent example of ATF doing what we do best, preventing criminals from possessing guns.

The maximum statutory penalty is 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for unlawfully possessing or transferring a machine gun and 10 years in prison for unlawful transfer, receipt and possession of an unregistered firearm and the related conspiracy. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.

This case is the product of an extensive Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force investigation by special agents of the ATF, in conjunction with the Drug Enforcement Administration and the San Joaquin County Metropolitan Task Force. Assistant United States Attorney Jill Thomas is prosecuting the case.

The charges are only allegations and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.