Police seize guns, bullets
Most of the firearms were hunting-type guns.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Two men, 39 rifles, 34 shotguns and 47,000 rounds of ammunition.
That was the haul Sunday as the Youngstown Police Department's Vice Squad and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms ended a six-month investigation into unlawful gun sales at a Youngstown flea market.
Arrested Sunday were Merrill Blotzer, 66, of 57 Manchester, Youngstown, and Michael Snyder, 44, of 420 N. Keel Ridge Road, Hermitage, Pa. The two men were charged with unlawful trafficking in firearms. They also could face federal charges, said Vice Squad Commander Lt. Rod Foley. Neither has previous firearms charges, Foley said.
The investigation started about six months ago when the police received an anonymous letter about gun sales at the Four Seasons Flea Market on McCartney Road, Foley said. Since then, police have received regular phone complaints about the gun sales, he added. Police called in ATF and have been investigating, even buying some guns at the flea market, Foley said.
On Sunday morning, police picked up Blotzer around 6 a.m. at his home as he was leaving to go to the flea market. Snyder was arrested en route to the flea market.
Foley estimated the value of the guns and ammunition at more than $75,000.
It isn't illegal for individuals to sell their own guns, but Snyder and Blotzer were "well-known in the firearms community" for selling to anyone, Foley said. They probably sold hundreds during the course of the investigation, he said.
Blotzer kept "very good records" of sales, Foley said. "This was a business for him. He can tell you every nut and bolt of these guns ... This has been a hobby of his for quite a while."
The investigation also resulted in a local pawnshop, Ace East Pawnbrokers, voluntarily forfeiting its federal firearms license.
Investigators spent hours going through the guns and ammunition, Foley said. In addition to the guns, $1,200 was seized, he said. Most of the guns are hunting rifles, he said, though the collection includes a few assault rifles.
The guns will be held by the police until the case is closed. After that, if there are convictions, police will probably use the ammunition for target practice; the guns likely will be destroyed, Foley said.