It was easy last March for Southside Locos gang member Jordan Abe Chavira to buy two semi-automatic pistols, despite his felony convictions.
He went to an Oklahoma City gun show.
There, he paid cash for the guns and ammunition without having to go through any kind of background check.
Police arrested him after he got into a pickup. Officers moved in on the pickup after Chavira and another male “began messing with the guns” and appeared to be loading one, one officer reported.
Last August, Chavira pleaded guilty in Oklahoma City federal court to unlawful possession of firearms.
Last week, a federal judge sentenced Chavira, now 23, to federal prison for 46 months.
“Only because of alert and diligent action by gang enforcement officers with the Oklahoma City Police Department was Chavira apprehended before he had an opportunity to continue his criminal career with the guns he bought for cash, with no paperwork, at the gun show,” U.S. District Judge Stephen P. Friot wrote.
The judge took the unusual step of putting his findings in writing. Federal prosecutors issued a news release Wednesday about the sentence.
The judge also wrote: “The sellers of these guns, having sold at a so-called ‘private sale' at the gun show, and having not been informed of Chavira's felony record, broke no laws in selling these weapons to Chavira.”
Sales of that type, though, would be changed under proposals announced Wednesday by President Barack Obama.
The president called on Congress to pass universal background checks and bans on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines.
Chavira, of Oklahoma City, could not legally possess any guns because of his felony convictions. His criminal record includes a 2003 juvenile conviction for involvement in a drive-by shooting, reports show. He was caught twice in 2007 with a gun, according to court records.
At the gun show last year, police watched Chavira walk over to a private vendor and purchase an Intratec 9 mm machine pistol with a high-capacity magazine, according to a police affidavit and the judge's findings.
Chavira later went to another booth and tried to buy a Glock, the records show. He was overheard saying to the gun dealer, “No paperwork, right?”
The dealer said paperwork was required because he was a federal firearms licensee. Chavira said, “Never mind,” and walked away, the records show.
Later, after looking at Uzis and a “Tommy gun,” the judge wrote, he bought a Glock pistol from another private vendor. “His purchase of the Glock required no paperwork. He did not get a receipt for the purchase,” the judge wrote. “He and his friend subsequently walked to another vendor and purchased a box of ammunition. Chavira paid for the ammunition in cash without getting a receipt or completing any paperwork.”
The judge described the Southside Locos as a gang with a long history of violent criminal activity in Oklahoma City.
Police reported smelling marijuana inside the pickup and finding a baggie of marijuana when officers arrested Chavira.
Oklahoma City's top federal prosecutor, U.S. Attorney Sanford Coats, said Wednesday, “It is a priority of this office to work with law enforcement to keep firearms out of the hands of felons. … Anyone who is legally prohibited from possessing firearms or ammunition, including convicted felons, better think twice before doing so.”
Chavira's attorney, Michael Johnson, told The Oklahoman that Chavira is not violent but wanted guns for protection.
“There's absolutely no mechanism for people convicted of a felony to protect themselves. It's unfortunate,” he said.