SAN FRANCISCO – James William Palmer was sentenced today to 37 months in federal prison for dealing firearms without a license, announced United States Attorney Stephanie M. Hinds and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) Acting Special Agent in Charge Joshua E. Jackson. The sentence was handed down by United States District Judge James Donato.
Palmer, 38, of Mill Valley, pleaded guilty on August 15, 2022. In his plea agreement, he admitted that from May 2020 to January 2021 he engaged in the business of manufacturing and selling firearms. He acknowledged that he ran the business for profit and without a license, knowing 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 firearms manufacturing and had on hand numerous tools and parts necessary to do so. He admitted in his plea agreement that he also sold marijuana during this time period.
To run his firearm business, Palmer communicated with buyers and sellers of firearms via text messages in which firearm prices, meeting places for transactions, and amounts owed were discussed. He utilized a white board to write down customer names and numbers along with amounts owed or paid by customers. As an example of his firearms sales, Palmer described in his plea agreement his October 2020 sale 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 a loaded Glock Model 26 .45 ACP caliber semi-automatic pistol in the car, with two loaded .45 caliber magazines in the center console and ammunition in his pants pocket. He bought the Glock pistol for $900 at a gun show, paying a higher price to avoid paperwork and to get the handgun immediately.
Palmer further admitted that on the day of his arrest he had multiple firearm receivers in various stages of handgun construction in his garage. In a memo filed for the sentencing hearing, the government described that Palmer had 71 items connected to firearms manufacturing and dealing at his Mill Valley residence. In addition to the firearm receivers, Palmer had privately manufactured firearm (PMF) jigs, firearms parts, assorted ammunition, a Glock pistol frame with its serial number plate removed, standard and high-capacity magazines for various calibers, and multiple tools for firearms manufacturing. Palmer also had a loaded P80 .45 caliber Glock-style semi-automatic handgun in the garage.
The government also described some of the texts in which Palmer communicated with firearms buyers and sellers about prices, locations for exchanges, and amounts owed. In one text, Palmer said, “What about getting that 17 so I can resume business? I got 6 people waiting.” In another, Palmer wrote that he had been dealing in firearms in Marin County “for 20 years off and on.”
In addition to the 37 months imprisonment, U.S. District Judge Donato imposed three years of supervision for Palmer following his release from prison. Palmer was ordered to surrender on February 6, 2023, to begin serving his sentence.
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 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.