The gun that shot Ronald Reagan yesterday was manufactured months ago, thousands of miles away from the nation's capitol in a small factory in Germany. The .22-caliber, blue steel revolver was then shipped in pieces to Miami, where it was assembled, thus skirting U.S. laws that make it illegal to import small, inexpensive foreign-made handguns.
The Roehm, model RG14 handgun is no stranger to American soil. The revolver is one of the best known handguns in the country, said gun experts and police.
It is best known as a Saturday Night Special -- the type of handgun that Congress thought it was getting rid of when it passed the national Gun Control Act of 1968.
Foreign manufacturers quickly, discovered a loophole in the tough gun act, officials said. The law said nothing about bringing gun parts into this country where they could be assembled. That is what the German-based Roehm company and dozens of other foreign weapon makers have been doing for more than a decade.
The gun that shot the 40th president was assembled at a Miami factory, one of 15,000 to 20,000 cheap revolvers that roll off its assembly line each month.
Despite the cost of overseas shipping, wages for assembly-line workers and extra costs of middle-men, when model RG14 finally reaches the public, its price tag is about $47.50 -- one of the cheapest pistols available.
Guns like the RG14 have made Florida the nation's top gun supply state for criminals, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, which traces firearms used in crimes.
Identified by sources as the gun confiscated by the Secret Service after Reagan, press aide James Brady and two law officers were shot, the Roehm revolver is a six-shot, double-action, 15-ounce revolver that can fire any .22-caliber ammunition.
Its parts are shipped to RG Industries at 2485 Northwest 20th St., Miami, for assembly. William Kirk, a spokesman for RG Industries, refused to discuss the gun or his company. Employes and sources familiar with the company, however, said RG Industries was formed by the German-based Roehm family after the 1968 gun control act was passed.
The company's primary product is cheap handguns, and it employs up to 80 assembly-line workers. Last year, RG Industries sold as estimated $3.1 million worth of handguns, according to sources.
All of the weapons are shipped to wholesalers who distribute them to smaller gun dealers, hardware stores and pawnshops, the sources said.
The gun used to shoot Reagan was purchased Oct. 13, 1980, sources said, at Rocky's Pawn Shop in Dallas. Texas, like Florida, is considered by ATF as one of the five easiest states in the nation to buy handguns.
Federal agents seized the pawnshop's books within two hours after the shooting, officials said, but owner Issac Goldstein told reporters that he remembers selling two model RG14s to a man who listed his name as John Hinckley -- the name of the man accused of shooting Reagan.
"This gun is really a piece of trash," said one gun expert here when asked about the RG14. "It gives all guns a bad name. I've seen them when the bullets [in the cylinder] don't even match up to the barrel."