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Press Release

Mill Valley Man Pleads Guilty To Unlicensed Firearms Manufacturing And Trafficking

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of California

SAN FRANCISCO – James William Palmer pleaded guilty in federal court today to the unlicensed manufacturing and dealing of firearms, announced United States Attorney Stephanie M. Hinds and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Special Agent in Charge Patrick T. Gorman. 

In a plea agreement he entered today, Palmer, 38, of Mill Valley, admitted that from May 2020 to January 2021 he engaged in the business of manufacturing and dealing in firearms. He acknowledged that he ran his business for profit and without a license, and he knew it was unlawful to do so. Palmer described that he manufactured firearms at his Mill Valley home, where he maintained an area in his garage for his firearms manufacturing and had on hand the tools, parts, and accessories necessary to do so. He also admitted he sold marijuana during this time period. 

To run his firearm business, Palmer communicated with buyers and sellers of firearms via text messages in which he discussed the prices for firearms, the meeting places for transactions, and the amounts owed. In his plea agreement, he further detailed that he utilized a white board to write down customer names and numbers and the amounts owed or paid by the customers. As an example of one of his firearms sales, Palmer described a sale in October 2020 of a Glock 17 semi-automatic pistol to a customer for $780. 

Palmer also described that on January 27, 2021 – the day of his arrest – he was driving his car and had ammunition in his pants pocket, a loaded Glock Model 26 .45 ACP caliber semi-automatic pistol in the car, and two loaded .45 caliber magazines in the center console. He had bought the Glock pistol for $900 at a gun show, paying a higher price to avoid paperwork and get the handgun immediately. 

Palmer also admitted that on the day of his arrest he had in his garage multiple firearm receivers in various stages of handgun construction, privately made firearm (PMF, or “ghost gun”) jigs, and firearms parts and assorted ammunition, along with the tools necessary to manufacture firearms. He also had in his garage a Glock pistol frame with its serial number plate removed as well as magazines of standard and high capacity for multiple firearm calibers. Palmer admitted he also had a loaded P80 .45 caliber Glock-style semi-automatic handgun in the garage.

Palmer is next scheduled for a sentencing hearing before United States District Judge James Donato in San Francisco federal court on December 12, 2022. Palmer remains out of custody pending his sentencing hearing.

Palmer pleaded guilty to one count of unlicensed firearms manufacturing and dealing in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(a)(1)(A). The count carries a maximum of 5 years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine. However, any sentence following conviction that is imposed by the court will occur only after the court’s consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ilham A. Hosseini and Alexis J. James prosecuted the case with the assistance of Maribel Gallegos. The prosecution is the result of an investigation by ATF and the Marin County Sheriff’s Office.

This case follows the U.S. Department of Justice’s launch in five key regions of Cross-Jurisdictional Firearms Trafficking Strike Forces that are focused on disrupting illegal firearms trafficking. One of the five Strike Forces was launched here in the San Francisco Greater Bay Area and Sacramento Region. The Strike Force identifies and investigates sources of illegally trafficked firearms and disrupts straw purchasing as well as firearms trafficking networks by collaborating in cross-jurisdictional efforts that include multiple federal agencies and multiple states and their local law enforcement agencies. 

Updated August 15, 2022