• Glenn Wilson
    51

    (Video shows use of a M-134 Minigun.)

    A few years ago, a retired police officer named Mike Fox found himself badly in need of money. The Vietnam veteran, overweight and ailing, was nearly 70 years old, and his wife, Diane, wasn’t much younger, but they had recently taken custody of their grandsons, a pair of rambunctious two-year-old twins. “We found out our daughter was a heroin addict,” Fox says in a tired, raspy voice. He’s seated at his kitchen table in Georgetown, Texas, a middle-class suburb of Austin, holding a mug of coffee in both hands. The end of one finger is missing from a lawn-mower accident. “We had no idea heroin was so bad,” he says. “I’d been a cop, and I couldn’t even spot it in my own kid.” Their adult son had also fallen victim to heroin, and would later commit suicide. “I had cancer on top of that,” Fox says. “Malignant melanoma.” All of this happened after he had to take his only living relative, a sister in Louisiana, off life support. “It was like a soap opera,” says Diane, her eyes filled with tears. The legal and medical bills, plus the expense of raising two toddlers, quickly depleted their savings, which led Fox to look into a certain side business.

    Fox had been a licensed gun dealer since 2007, and had acquired additional federal licenses to manufacture ammunition and possess machine guns. To qualify for the permits, he had to have a physical storefront, but his was just a rented metal warehouse that he hardly ever used. He made most of his money manufacturing ammunition in his garage and selling it to people he met online or through word of mouth. The ammo business was especially profitable in Texas during the Obama presidency, he says: “Hoarding is a thing.”

    One of his clients was Tyler Carlson, a 26-year-old solo operator who seemed to make a living buying and selling guns and ammo on a website called Texas Gun Trader. “He had this route from here to Dallas, and he always dealt in cash,” Fox says. “He was connected out the ass. You never knew what he was going to show up with.” Carlson had already bought tens of thousands of rounds of ammunition and eight .50-caliber sniper rifles from Fox when he approached him in the summer of 2015 with the idea of building a military weapon known as a minigun.

    Arming the Cartels: The Inside Story of a Texas Gun-Smuggling Ring.

    More in the category Security and Crime.

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