In giving probation with no jail time to a Milwaukee man charged with 55 counts of buying firearms with fake identification and dealing them without a license, a federal judge delivered a message:
"People kill people," U.S. District Rudolph Randa said, echoing a common gun rights slogan. "Guns don't kill people."
Dontray Mills, 24, purchased a total of 27 firearms, mostly handguns, between December 2012 and April 2014 and pleaded guilty to one of the charges on April 22, 2014, after an ATF investigation. As a result of the conviction, Mills will never again be able to buy firearms legally.
On Wednesday, he was sentenced. As part of the plea bargain, prosecutors agreed with the one year of probation.
Randa said he recognized the seriousness of the offense and acknowledged the problem of guns winding up in the hands of people who use them to commit violence.
But Mills, Randa said, did not come across as a typical defendant because of his good behavior since the charges and his life ambitions, which include becoming a rap musician. While on bail, Mills twice traveled to Los Angeles to work on a film and to pursue his musical aspirations.
Randa said he had seen plenty of people facing similar charges who bought firearms for friends and then took no responsibility for their actions. Mills, he said, has accepted responsibility.
Mills purchased the firearms, usually at a Gander Mountain or Mills Fleet Farm store, with an identification that had an address that was different from his own. He tearfully told the court Wednesday he was "unaware of how serious" his offense was.
On April 11, 2014, Mills was at a Mills Fleet Farm in Germantown and filled out ATF Form 4473 to purchase a gun from the store, which he could pick up two days later. Shortly after he went to West Bend and purchased a firearm there, too.
On that same day, law enforcement officers, who had received a tip about Mills' activities about a week earlier, went to the address he had been using to purchase the firearms in the 6100 block of N. 35th St in Milwaukee and interviewed a resident of the house.
Mills had listed the address in his purchases, but the resident said nobody had permission to use her address and nobody was renting a room. The family — which included a man, woman and two minor children — had no idea their address had been used by someone else to register to buy guns.
Mills was taken into custody and released on bail. While on bail, he traveled to California to work on a film and to pursue his aspirations of becoming a rap artist.