Getting Technical About Missiles
(CN) - A sentencing enhancement for offenses involving missiles should not apply to a trio who bought a grenade launcher, the 9th Circuit ruled Friday.
Yoahjan Flores, Alfredo Lara and Arturo Lara had been caught after paying The Gun Shop of El Centro a visit in September 2010, and asking the owner where they could get a grenade launcher.
Having just entertained an agent from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, the shop owner gave his customers the card of someone he said could help.
That person was the ATF agent who promptly arrested the trio after selling them a Colt M203 grenade launcher and ammunition for $1,900.
All three pleaded guilty conspiracy to possess an unregistered firearm. Sentencing them under an enhancement for missile-related offenses, codified at Section 2K2.1(b)(3)(A) of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, a federal judge in San Diego gave each one the 60-month maximum.
But a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit in Pasadena reversed those sentences Friday.
The three 40 mm gold-tipped high explosive dual purpose cartridges that the defendants bought as ammunition do not qualify as missiles because they "are not self-propelled," according to the ruling. "Rather, the ignition of the propellant forces the munition from the launcher and the projectile travels under its own inertia."