During the summer of 1987, Vos said he wanted to take up a new hobby and learn to fly. He hired a well-regarded training pilot at Dulles International Airport, Gerda Ruhnke, as his instructor.
On a clear November morning, during his maiden flight as a student pilot, his single-engine Cessna, flying smoothly over Warrenton, suddenly nose-dived, crashed into a driveway and burst into flames. Both Vos and his instructor were killed.
The National Transportation Safety Board was never able to determine the cause of the crash.
Without Vos’s testimony, the grand jury was unable to pursue the case, and it was closed within a year. No charges were filed.
On Capitol Hill, meanwhile, the importers’ allies had gone to work on legislation to make the M-1 rifle deal legal. Murphy laughs about it today, recalling how he helped line up nearly 80 members of Congress in support.
The legislation would amend the Arms Export Control Act to “provide that military firearms of U.S. manufacture” could be imported to the United States if they were “eligible for importation as curios and relics and are owned by the foreign government.”
The measure was tailor-made for Blue Sky. The change specifically applied to deals that had received import permits from Treasury on or after July 1, 1986 — Blue Sky had received its permit that July — and instructed that these permits be immediately reissued if they had been suspended, as had the Blue Sky permit.
When Sen. Howard M. Metzenbaum, an Ohio Democrat and member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, learned about the language buried in an appropriations bill, he cried foul.
On the floor of the Senate, he railed against the legislative fix, detailing the history of the Blue Sky deal all the way back to the Dole amendment.
“This is a provision designed to help one group of people make millions of dollars . . . when conduct by persons associated with this group is the subject of a criminal investigation,” Metzenbaum said.
Despite his objections, the appropriations bill with the gun amendment was approved by Congress and signed in to law by President Ronald Reagan.
The legislation included language granting federal agencies the power to object if the measure interfered with any ongoing criminal investigation. After a review of the Korea deal by John Bolton, an assistant attorney general in the Reagan administration, and no objections from the State and Defense departments, Treasury officials signed off on the imports.
Blue Sky had the green light to bring 200,000 M-1 military rifles into the U.S. market.
Today, amid government reports that M-1 carbine rifles and newer military weapons are being used by violent criminals, the Obama administration has been pushing to limit imports. The administration has ongoing concerns about importing large numbers of M-1 rifles because of reports that those weapons have found their way into the hands of drug cartels, said an official familiar with the administration’s ongoing deliberations. He spoke on the condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak about the matter.
As part of the anti-violence initiative announced by President Obama after the Newtown, Conn., shootings, he called on Congress to tighten the rules on importing military-style weapons. He specifically urged that the curios-and-relics loophole not be used as a way for buyers “to acquire fully functional and powerful military weapons.”
The NRA opposes that proposal.
Alice Crites contributed to this report.
Discuss this topic and other political issues in the politics discussion forums.