Vos, however, would not live long enough to witness the effect he had. He died in 1987 in a plane crash while federal investigators were examining his activities as part of a grand jury probe into the Blue Sky deal.
The Dole amendment
The modern tale of military-style weapons in America opens on Capitol Hill, in mid-1984, when Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kan.) introduced an amendment that would open a loophole in the long-standing restrictions on importing military firearms. Dole’s top aide on gun issues at the time, Richard “Pete” Velde, said the senator drafted and sponsored the legislation without any pressure from private interest groups.
FBI investigators, however, later noted that the NRA was at the center of efforts to open the U.S. market to military imports, and LaPierre said in a 1988 interview with The Washington Post that he had lobbied on the amendment personally. Former NRA executive vice president J. Warren Cassidy recalled that LaPierre’s work on Capitol Hill for NRA priorities was tireless. “His hobby was lobbying,” Cassidy recalled.
The Dole amendment would, for the first time, allow the import of surplus U.S. military weapons if they qualified as “curios and relics,” meaning they had been manufactured at least 50 years earlier or had historical or artistic significance.
The passage of the amendment immediately caught the attention of arms dealers, who realized that big profits could be made in purchasing large quantities of old U.S. military surplus weapons and selling them to American customers.
A former congressman from New York, John M. Murphy, was among those who saw the potential. In an interview last month, Murphy recalled being contacted by a Korean-born California businessman, Dong H. Choi, who told him South Korean officials were interested in selling surplus M-1 rifles provided to their country in the 1950s under a U.S. lend-lease program.
The deal Choi described looked promising. For $13 million, importers could purchase 200,000 surplus M-1 rifles and eventually see profits in excess of $40 million.
“It was a very good deal,” said Murphy, who described himself in the interview as an adviser to the subsequent import deal. “The curio-and-relic law was the basis of the importation,” he recalled.
As a platoon leader during the Korean War, Murphy had developed high regard for his M-1 Garand rifle. “It became known as the best weapon on the battlefield. It had power,” he said.
The rifles would be attractive to sportsmen and veterans, Murphy thought. And collectors would want to mount the 50-year-old M-1 rifles “over the fireplace to show kids what Grandpa carried during the war,” he said.