Submachine gun at Long Beach port lands Nevada man in jail
A Nevada man faces federal charges for attempting to smuggle a Thompson submachine gun into the United States through the Port of Long Beach.
Peter Scharf, 43, was arrested Tuesday and indicted in a Los Angeles courtroom Thursday on automatic weapons transportation and licensing charges. He later was released after posting $50,000 in bail.
Highly prized by collectors and capable of firing up to 1,200 .45 caliber rounds per minute, the submachine gun was discovered by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in a container being imported from Germany through the Long Beach port. Agents found the weapon wrapped in blankets and secreted in a Porsche 911 owned by Scharf within the container.
Authorities believe that Scharf may have been trying to obtain the weapon for a personal firearms collection.
Developed during World War I where it earned the nickname 'trench broom' by U.S. Doughboy soldiers, the gun went on to become the iconic weapon-of-choice for Prohibition-era gangsters. The 'Tommy Gun,' as it more commonly known, was originally produced by the Auto-Ordinance Corp. and available by mail order throughout the late-World War I and inter-war period. The devastating use of the weapon by criminals of the 1920s and early 1930s — often allowing them to 'out-firepower' law enforcement authorities — directly led to the passage of the National Firearms Act of 1934. The act required owners to register automatic weapons and created the forerunner of the modern Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, which now regulates such weapons.
The government estimates that hundreds to thousands of the original Thompsons were brought by veterans from the 1920s through the 1960s, when the weapon was finally banned from military use. Many of these are still in the hands of aging soldiers and their families, in many cases without proper federal licenses. A House of Representatives bill was proposed earlier this year that would offer amnesty to veterans in possession of such 'bring back' automatic weapons. The bill is still in committee.