Buying Big Guns? No Big Deal

Gunrunner Buys Rifles In U.S. To Equip Guerrilla Army

Fifteen years ago, Osama bin Laden sent one of his operatives to the United States to buy and bring back two-dozen .50-caliber rifles, a gun that can kill someone from over a mile away and even bring down an airplane.

In spite of all the recent efforts to curb terrorism, bin Laden could do the same thing today, because buying and shipping the world's most powerful sniper rifle is not as difficult as you might think.

Last winter, Correspondent Ed Bradley reported on just how powerful the gun is. New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly had a sharpshooter fire the department's own .30-caliber sniper rifle and the bullets bounced off a half-inch-thick plate of steel. Then, the marksman fired the .50-caliber sniper rifle, and the bullets blew right through the steel plate.

Now, you'll hear from a gunrunner who, just a few years ago, was able to outfit a guerrilla army in Kosovo with those powerful weapons. He was willing to talk to 60 Minutes, because now he thinks what he did was much too easy.

The gunrunner's name is Florin Krasniqi, and he is seen providing a new shipment of weapons to Albanian rebels, who are about to smuggle them over the mountains into Kosovo. After a few days' journey on horseback, the guns will end up in the hands of a guerrilla force known as the Kosovo Liberation Army, which has been fighting for independence from Serbia for nearly a decade.

Krasniqi took these guns to his family's home in Kosovo. Most of them were easy to get in Albania, but not the .50-caliber rifles. "This is, we get from the home of the brave and the land of the free, as we would like to say," says Krasniqi, who lives in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Krasniqi came to America in 1989. He was smuggled across the Mexican border in the trunk of a car with just $50 in his pocket. Today, he's an American citizen, and the owner of a highly successful roofing business.

"This is what I do for a living," says Krasniqi. "This is how we earn the money in New York. There's a large Albanian-American community in the New York City area."

When the war broke out in Kosovo in 1998, many of the young men volunteered to fight. Krasniqi realized he'd be more valuable raising money for the guerrilla army. Then, he started buying standard equipment at a Brooklyn Army-Navy store.

"Anything you need to run a small guerrilla army, you can buy here in America," says Krasniqi. "You have all the guns you need here to fight a war. M-16s. That's what the U.S. soldiers carry in Iraq. All the rifles which U.S. soldiers use in every war, you can buy them in a gun store or a gun show."

What gun became the weapon of choice for Krasniqi? "By far, the weapon of choice was a .50-caliber rifle," says Krasniqi. "You could kill a man from over a mile away. You can dismantle a vehicle from a mile away."

He says it can also be "very easily" used against helicopters and planes.

If the power of the .50-caliber rifle amazed Krasniqi, what amazed him even more was how easy it was to buy. Krasniqi allowed a Dutch documentary film crew to accompany him to a gun store in Pennsylvania.

"You just have to have a credit card and clear record, and you can go buy as many as you want. No questions asked," says Krasniqi.

Was he surprised at how easy it was to get it? "Not just me. Most of non-Americans were surprised at how easy it is to get a gun in heartland America," says Krasniqi. "Most of the dealers in Montana and Wyoming don't even ask you a question. It's just like a grocery store."

And, he says there are a variety of choices for ammunition, which is easy to get as well. "Armor-piercing bullets, tracing bullets," says Krasniqi. "[Ammunition] is easier than the rifles themselves. For the ammunition, you don't have to show a driver's license or anything."

"You can just go into a gun show or a gun store in this country and buy a shell that will pierce armor? A civilian," asks Bradley.

"You never did that? You're an American. You can go to the shows and see for yourself," says Krasniqi. "Ask the experts. They'll be happy to help you."
  • Rebecca Leung

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