A 63-year-old man was sentenced last week to three years probation for dealing firearms without a license after he sold guns to undercover federal agents through a classifieds service.
Shelley L. Bovee, of Gloversville, New York, received his sentence Thursday in an Albany federal court in addition to a $2,000 fine and an order to perform 50 hours of community service.
According to court documents, in June 2013 agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives came across an ad placed by Bovee for a Mossberg shotgun on a local website called “Want Ad Digest,” which an undercover agent bought. After a second buy in November, for a Ruger 10/22 rifle, agents warned Bovee that he did not have a federal firearms license and to stop selling guns without one.
Based on the Gun Control Act of 1968, current laws require persons who are “engaged in the business” of dealing in firearms be otherwise licensed. Generally, if an individual repetitively buys and sells firearms with the goal of turning a profit, they need a license while someone making occasional sales from a personal collection does not.
The ATF does not define how many guns one needs to sell to require a license but instead relies on a host of other factors that accompany the unlicensed sales such as advertising, selling and payment methods. For instance, presenting oneself as a licensed dealer on business cards and accepting credit cards could be a factor. However, the agency may issue a warning “when only one or two transactions took place.”
Between July and September 2016, ATF agents in the Albany field office saw posts offering guns for sale on Want Ad Digest like the ones Bovee placed in 2013, using the same phone number. On three separate occasions during that period, undercover agents bought two Marlin rifles, an Izhmash Saiga shotgun, a Ruger 10/22, and an AR-15 from the man while noting he was also selling guns and ammo at a yard sale held at his residence. Agents said Bovee later told them he travels around the state regularly buying and reselling guns for a profit and still had not obtained a license.
A subsequent search warrant, served after his arrest, led to the seizure of 43 guns from Bovee’s home.
Filed as part of Bovee’s guilty plea last August to a charge that held a statutory punishment of up to five years in prison, he agreed to forfeit ownership of the guns, which would be sold and the money, less fees, given to him.
Prosecutors argued that Bovee should serve 10 months in jail, saying, “Despite being warned in 2013 and after agreeing to cease dealing in firearms without a license, only three years later did the defendant continued his unlawful conduct,” and that there was no indication that he performed background checks on any of the guns he sold.
Attorneys for Bovee argued with the court that a prison sentence wasn’t needed, citing his lack of criminal history, past military background as an Air Force veteran, and his cooperation with investigators. Further, they argued he was an avid firearm enthusiast and only sold guns casually and in the open, always using his actual name and address in transactions.
“As a person who rarely has been well-employed, when he has needed extra money during recent times, he sold firearms,” said Bovee’s attorney. “He never sold large numbers of firearms. He never sold enough firearms which would allow him to give up his employment.”