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Gun shows considered easy targets for felons seeking firearms

A suspected drug trafficker prevented from purchasing assault rifles faces a federal ammunition charge after purchasing multiple rounds from a gun show at Oklahoma City's State Fair Park.
by Tim Willert Modified: May 11, 2013 at 3:15 am •  Published: May 12, 2013

It didn't take long for undercover police officers working a gun show at the state fairgrounds to spot Damien Laster.

The prominent neck tattoos popular among former prison inmates gave him away.

Officers watched as Laster, 33, of Oklahoma City, a suspected drug trafficker with convictions for assault and battery and drug possession, paid cash for 310 rounds of .40 caliber ammunition and three 100-round magazines, along with several large military-style duffel bags.

A vendor later told police Laster said he needed “large bags to carry numerous firearms,” court records show.

The officers observed Laster and another man walking from table to table handling firearms. At one stop, Laster picked up an AR-15 assault rifle and inserted one of the magazines.

He then tried to buy two of the rifles but was thwarted by a seller who refused to do business with Laster because of his criminal backgrounds.

“That's OK,” Laster boldly told the vendor. “I'll have my girlfriend come back and buy them,” police reported in a probable cause affidavit.

‘Lots of loopholes'

While Laster was prevented from buying the high-powered assault rifles, others convicted of crimes continue to target gun shows because of less-restrictive policies. Private sellers, many of whom frequent such shows, are allowed to sell their firearms without requiring background checks.

“I think everybody knows it's easier to buy guns at a gun show,” Oklahoma City police Capt. Dexter Nelson said. “There are lots of loopholes and they make people a lot of money.”

Sales of that type, though, would be changed under proposals announced earlier this year 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.

Legislators are considering a compromise on expanding background checks on firearms to include gun shows and Internet sales.

“We get people at every gun show asking us if we do background checks,” said Jason Davis of C&J Sporting Goods in Bethany. “We lose a lot of sales because people don't want that.”

Last year, a gang member with prior felony convictions paid cash for two semi-automatic pistols and ammunition from an Oklahoma City gun show without having to submit to a background check.

Jordan Abe Chavira was arrested near the gun show and later pleaded guilty in Oklahoma City federal court to unlawful possession of firearms. In January, a judge sentenced Chavira to federal prison for 46 months.

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by Tim Willert
Education Reporter
Tim Willert is a native Californian with Oklahoma ties who covers education. Prior to moving to Oklahoma in June 2011, he was as an editor for in Century City, Calif., and reported on courts for the Los Angeles Daily Journal and...
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