A 22-year-old Nevada resident who grew up in Oakland was recently busted in an undercover sting after selling 35 illegal handguns to a federal officer — and he was marketing the weapons entirely on Snapchat.
Using several different accounts, Anthony Reed was observed by agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to be advertising weapons that are illegal to possess in the state of California, including Glock 9mm and .40 caliber pistols and so-called "assault pistols" like a Zastava AK-style pistol with a 30-round magazine. As the Guardian reports, agents first spotted Reed's Snaps in January 2018, and between January and November, they arranged nine separate deals with Reed and two co-conspirators totaling $30,000.
According to recently unsealed federal court documents, Reed was helped in his trafficking enterprise by brothers Rahsaan and Julaan Faison, the former being Reed's roommate. Prosecutors say that during one deal with an undercover agent, the Faisons said, "You put in the order and we can get you whatever you’re looking for."
Like the Gilroy shooter last month, Reed purchased all his weapons legally in Nevada — an entire arsenal's worth, without apparently tripping off any alarm bells — and smuggled them across state lines for sale. Agents believe Reed and the Faisons sold at least 100 illegal firearms in and around Oakland, many to felons who are prohibited from owning weapons, and prosecutors said in a December hearing that Reed "has been effectively flooding the community with guns over the past few months."
Some weapons reportedly were used to commit crimes, while many have gone unaccounted for.
Rahsaan Faison pleaded guilty to firearms trafficking and Reed signed a sealed plea agreement. Any further details in the case remain sealed as the ATF says its investigation remains ongoing.
Alameda county sheriff’s sergeant Ray Kelly tells the Guardian that the gun trafficking problem in the Bay Area has grown worse in recent years, noting how easy it is to drive to Nevada and bring back guns. "We are seizing more guns than many of us in law enforcement have seen in the past two decades," Kelly says.
The use of Snapchat for gun-marketing is just the latest twist. Just this week, the Wall Street Journal reported that Facebook Marketplace has also become an "online bazaar" for gun sales — with sellers easily sneaking around the platform's rules against selling guns by advertising gun cases, cardboard boxes, and even paper bags for exorbitant sums, in a wink-wink message to buyers.
And without federal laws banning the same assault weapons that California has come to ban over the past three decades, California's laws are going to continue to be nearly unenforcible. As Ari Freilich, a staff attorney with the Giffords Law Center, tells the Guardian, "California has been surrounded on most sides by states with much, much weaker gun safety laws. Predictably, those states have become magnets for gun traffickers funneling guns into California... including assault weapons, without a background check or sale record in Arizona and Nevada today."