Carter's Country, a Houston area gun seller, under investigation by federal grand jury

Monday, December 13, 2010; 10:21 PM

A federal grand jury in Houston is investigating a clerk for one of the largest independent gun retailers in Texas for allegedly making illegal sales of firearms that landed in the hands of Mexican drug cartels, a criminal attorney for the gun store said Monday.

Carter's Country received a grand jury subpoena in January for thousands of gun-sales records since 2006 and is cooperating, said criminal defense attorney Dick DeGuerin, who has been hired by the retailer and its owner, Bill Carter.

DeGuerin said Carter's Country and the salesman did nothing wrong and were acting as tipsters to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in developing cases against suspected gun traffickers.

"They tipped them off to dozens of purchases," DeGuerin said. "What's outrageous is that there could be this kind of suspicion that Carter's Country or anyone at Carter's Country did anything unlawful, when they were just doing what ATF wanted them to do."

ATF officials said they were unable to comment.

The Washington Post reported Monday that Carter's Country was one of Texas's leading gun stores for firearms traced from Mexican crime scenes in the past two years. More than 115 firearms sold by Carter's Country were recovered by Mexican police and military.

"They were encouraged to go through with the sales so that the ATF could follow the sales, get information on the purchasers, and perhaps, I guess, interdict the purchaser and seize the weapons," DeGuerin said. "If anybody dropped the ball, it was ATF."

- James V. Grimaldi and Sari Horwitz

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