Gun Used in Paris Massacre Traced to Florida Dealer Century Arms
One of the guns used to massacre 130 people in Paris has been traced to a Florida gun dealer with close ties to the National Rifle Association (NRA) and a troubled history of selling guns that ended up in the hands of terrorists.
The Palm Beach Post reports Century International Arms in Delray Beach imported and once owned a M92 semiautomatic pistol manufactured by Serbian arms maker Zastava. At least seven of the weapons used in or discovered after the November 13 Paris attacks, for which Islamic State has claimed responsibility, were produced in Zastava’s factory in Kragujevac, Serbia. The M92 is one of them. Most of the guns were made before Yugoslavia disintegrated into civil war in the early 1990s.
How the gun got from Florida to France and into the hands of terrorists remains unclear. Century Arms said in a statement on Friday that it “abides by all federal, state, and local law regulations.”
“The export of firearms is very heavily regulated,” Marc Adler, president of the Boca Raton, Florida firearms consulting firm Allan Adler, told the Post. “The only way I think it can happen would be some type of illegal transfer.”
Century Arms, which buys and sells military-grade surplus weapons, is one of the largest gun dealers in the United States. It holds federal firearms licenses in Florida, Georgia and Vermont, and its Delray Beach location imports as many as 25,000 guns each year from Zastava alone, according to the Associated Press.
The company has a long history of controversy.
In 2011, the Post reported that documents leaked by the whistleblower website Wikileaks revealed how Century Arms has prospered trading military-grade gear, sometimes with the help of “unauthorized brokers.”
One of these is international arms dealer Ori Zoller, a former Israeli intelligence officer and special forces soldier. According to an investigation by the Organization of American States (OAS), Zoller tried in 2001 to sell surface-to-air missiles, anti-aircraft guns, anti-tank weapons, rocket-propelled grenades and other small arms to an al-Qaeda linked Lebanese merchant.
In 1987, former police officer and longtime Century Arms employee John Rugg testified before a US Senate committee that the company was supplying weapons, including rockets and grenades, to brutal Nicaraguan Contra rebels during what would become known as the Iran-Contra scandal. High-ranking officials in the Ronald Reagan administration conspired with the Islamic fundamentalist regime of Iran, a sworn US enemy, to sell weapons to Tehran in return for Iranian assistance in freeing American hostages held captive in Lebanon. The proceeds of the illicit arms deal were used to fund the Contras’ terrorist insurgency against the leftist Sandinista government.
Century Arms was also mentioned in a 2011 Center for Public Integrity report which stated that the company’s WASR-10 assault rifle “has become a favorite of the Mexican drug cartels and in recent years hundreds of them have been traced to crimes in Mexico.” Center for Public Integrity also reported the Florida dealer did business with Romania’s former communist dictatorship.
One Delray Beach arms dealer voiced his support for Century Arms.
“I personally think that [Century Arms] is being attacked for something that they had nothing to do with. They had absolutely no control of that firearm wherever it came from,” Les Wexler, owner of K&W Gun Works in Delray Beach, told the New York Daily News. “I think it’s injustice to them—they should look for the criminal not for the good people.”
Milojko Brzakovic of Zastava told the Associated Press that it would also be wrong to accuse his company of selling weapons to terrorists.
“Here’s where the weapons ended, there’s the data. Zastava cannot be blamed for where it went afterward,” Brzakovic said.
Neither Century Arms nor Zastava have been accused of any wrongdoing in connection with the Paris attacks.