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Tacoma Seaport U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officers Seize Shipment of Machineguns

Release Date: 
February 24, 2010

Tacoma, Wash. - On Feb. 8, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at the Tacoma Seaport seized a shipment of 30 machineguns (M-4 automatic rifles) that arrived in a 40-foot ocean container on Oct. 20, 2009.

M-4 automatic rifle

40 M-4 automatic rifles described as toys were seized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the Tacoma Seaport. With modifications, the rifles could be altered to fire live ammunition.

The shipment, shipped from a manufacturer in Taiwan, manifested only as "Toys and Parts" and was valued at nearly $10,000. CBP officers targeted the merchandise for an intensive examination and upon physical inspection of the container, found the rifles. The rifles were of the same size, weight and look of an M-4 automatic rifle - the weapon used by the United States military. The rifles had no serial numbers on them, as a genuine gun would, but also did not have an orange-blaze tip which is required for all importations of toy guns.

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) agents responded to the warehouse where the shipment was unloaded for CBP inspection, and took a sample rifle for evaluation by the ATF Firearms Technology Branch.

On Jan. 25, the ATF sent a determination to CBP disclosing that in their imported condition the rifles were tooled to shoot plastic balls. However, replacement of internal components with original machinegun components could be accomplished within a short period of time, thus rendering the rifles capable of firing live ammunition. ATF lab results indicated the rifle Airsoft M-4 copy.

The ATF also confirmed the shipment did not arrive with the proper permits to enter the United States. The commercial importation of firearms is prohibited if not accompanied by the proper pre-approved ATF entry permits.

The machineguns were turned over to ATF agents, and will ultimately be destroyed.

"These rifles could have had far-reaching and potentially devastating ramifications if they had gotten into the hands of individuals who wanted to do harm in the American population", said Customs and Border Protection Area Port Director, Rolando Suliveras Jr. "This was a good interception by our officers."

Last modified: 
February 9, 2017