On Wednesday, President Joe Biden advocated for gun restriction in the United States while also agreeing to free a convicted weapons dealer in a prisoner exchange with Russia.
Early reports suggested that Biden was considering swapping Russian gun-running villain Viktor Bout for US citizen Brittney Griner.
Bout, in his mid-50s, is a flashy armaments merchant with Russian military expertise. He had become a billionaire by plundering the armories of the disintegrating Soviet Union in the early 1990s and transporting his black-market weaponry to conflict zones throughout the world on obsolete Soviet cargo jets. His firearm sales have included weaponry to al-Qaeda and Hezbollah, as well as the Taliban and its adversaries in Afghanistan.
Following Bout’s conviction in 2011, Preet Bharara, the then United States Attorney for the Southern District of NY, stated, “As the evidence at trial demonstrated, Viktor Bout was prepared to sell a weaponry arsenal that would have been the envy of some small nations. He intended to sell the weapons to terrorists who would use them to attack Americans. With today’s quick verdict, justice was served, and a dangerous man will be imprisoned.”
On Dec. 8, CNN reported that Bout had been exchanged for Griner, and that Griner was on the way back to the United States.
Griner was traded for the Russian arms dealer, according to CNN, only hours following Biden speaking at the 10th Annual National Vigil for All the Victims of Gun Violence.
We reported that Biden said at the gun control vigil, “Our effort continues to restrict the number of bullets that may be in a magazine, the sort of weapons that can be bought or sold, attempts to outlaw ‘assault weapons,’ and a whole variety of other things that are plain commonsense.”