BROOKLYN GUNRUNNER TELLS "60 MINUTES" IT'S SO EASY
IN THE U.S. TO BUY AND SHIP .50-CALIBER RIFLES THAT
EVEN A TERRORIST COULD DO IT -- SUNDAY ON CBS
A Brooklyn immigrant found it so easy in America to buy and ship large amounts of .50-caliber rifles to Kosovo that he worries terrorists could do the same thing with the armor-piercing weapons. In fact, they already have: Osama bin Laden sent an operative to the U.S. 15 years ago to buy and bring back two dozen of the big guns. The immigrant, Florin Krasniqi, tells his story to Ed Bradley in a report to be broadcast on 60 MINUTES Sunday, March 20 (7:00-8:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
"I took advantage of a liberal law here in this country to help my own country," says Krasniqi, who supplied members of the Kosovo Liberation Army with the guns. "I believe in my heart I did it for the good, but some people can do it for the bad," he tells Bradley.
Running guns was easy, says Krasniqi. "[U.S. gun laws are] more liberal than the wildest European imagination. You can imagine them being liberal and they are more liberal than that," he says. "You just have to have a credit card and a clean record and you can go and buy as many [.50-caliber rifles] as you want, no questions asked," he tells Bradley.
Krasniqi may have sent overseas as many as 200 of the powerful rifles prized by militaries but technically a hunting rifle under U.S. law. One method he used was legal and another was not. Journalist Stacy Sullivan, who has covered him for years, explains, "[Krasniqi shipped] probably a couple hundred [.50 caliber rifles]," says Sullivan. "You're allowed to take two or three at a time [on a flight]. He had a group of guys�some in Alaska�Illinois�.They would each buy a few at a time and they would take them over in twos and threes on commercial airlines," she tells Bradley. But once he smuggled "about a hundred" on flight from Kennedy Airport packed with humanitarian aid. "They put the palettes into a plane. Nothing gets x-rayed�it's wrapped up as humanitarian aid," says Sullivan.
The guns went to Albania, where they then were smuggled to nearby Kosovo. 60 MINUTES illustrates this part of the operation with actual footage used in a Dutch film about Krasniqi, "The Brooklyn Connection," to be broadcast on PBS this summer.
The best way to prevent such smuggling, says former Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms official Joe Vince, is to monitor gun purchases � a practice long fought by the gun lobby as an assault on privacy and the Second Amendment. "If we had computerized all the sales of firearms, we could be looking at patterns of activity," says Vince. "You don't buy 50 of the same type of weapon � or more, in this case � it would �ring buzzers with customs or anyone investigating this.
"We are the candy store for guns in the world," says Vince, "Small arms are the number one weapon for terrorists," he tells Bradley. Krasniqi worries that what his fighters used the .50-caliber for in their battle against Serbia could be the same thing terrorists use it for. "You could kill a man from over a mile away. You can dismantle a vehicle from a mile away," he says. Asked by Bradley if the weapon could be used against planes and helicopters, he replies, "Very easily."