SALT LAKE CITY — The co-owner of Utah Gun Exchange who went on the road last year in a military-style armored vehicle to counter “March for Our Lives” rallies and town halls along the Florida coast now faces felony drug and firearms charges.
Bryan Melchior, 46, of Sandy, was charged Thursday in 3rd District Court with drug distribution plus five counts of purchase, transfer, possession or use of a firearm by a restricted person, all third-degree felonies.
Officers served a search warrant on Melchior’s home on Nov. 13 and found 30 firearms, “more than a pound of marijuana,” “numerous THC products,” and more than $36,000 in cash, according to the charges.
Police noted that because Melchior was in possession of a controlled substance, he was restricted from having a firearm.
Three days before charges were formally filed, the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office filed a complaint for forfeiture. It details that in addition to the more than $36,000 found in the home, police also seized "numerous silver pieces, coins and bars in 84 containers with an estimated value of … $12,987.90."
"The property was seized because there is probable cause to believe it is evidence of a crime, has been used or was intended to be used to commit a crime, and it is proceeds of a crime," the complaint states.
During the search of Melchior's home, "officers located numerous guns, gun suppressors, pieces of silver including coins and bars in numerous safes, and safes which contained marijuana," the complaint further notes. "Officers located glass pipes, bongs, grinders, packaging materials and additional drug paraphernalia. Mr. Melchior had multiple items of THC edibles including e-cig cartridges, THC syrups, packages of marijuana, hemp wraps, DABS, nectar sticks in boxes, and pills."
Last year, following the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, that resulted in the deaths of 17 students and faculty members, Melchior and other gun rights activists traveled in an armored, military-style vehicle, sometimes with a replica of a machine gun mounted on top, and with “Utah Gun Exchange” on the door, to counter students' calls for stricter gun laws.
Last July, Melchior said the movement that grew out of the school shooting was an anti-Second Amendment propaganda tool disguised as a school safety operation. He said he wanted safe schools but without trampling on the right to own a gun.
Also in July, a Utah Gun Exchange plan to set up outside a scheduled panel discussion among Utah and Parkland high school students at the Megaplex in South Jordan prompted Larry H. Miller Sports & Entertainment to cancel the event at its theater, saying it could escalate into a potentially contentious situation requiring extra security. The event found a new location in Sandy.
Melchior was issued a summons to appear in court on Feb. 15. Calls to Melchior and his attorney were not immediately returned Friday.
The Utah Gun Exchange issued a statement Friday evening saying that it has been made aware of the allegations against Melchior and is reviewing them internally "to determine the most appropriate course for the organization moving forward to ensure it accomplishes its mission."
"UtahGunExchange.com is an organization that is dedicated to supporting and protecting our Constitution and the inalienable rights upon which it is predicated. In this honorable course, we have continually urged all parties to support, uphold, and sustain the law," according to the statement.
The company went on to say that its cause "is greater than any one person."
"Our results depend upon all people who share a united love for our country, our Constitution, and our freedom. Our strength is in our unity and organization around that cause, and it is to that cause that UGE has been and will continue to be dedicated to moving forward," the organization wrote.
The armored Bearcat vehicle used by Utah Gun Exchange is also now at the center of a lawsuit.
In October, Utah Gun Exchange and its co-owners, including Melchior, filed a lawsuit against the Utah Honorary Colonels, Big Shot Ranch, Metro Security and Mike Drury, the former president of the Honorary Colonels and president of Big Shot Ranch.
In September, Drury, 49, was charged in 3rd District Court with three counts of theft and two counts of unlawful dealing of property by a fiduciary, all second-degree felonies, accusing him of embezzling more than $300,000 from two groups, including the Utah Colonels. In March, the Big Shot Ranch in Tooele burned to the ground in a fire that authorities are calling arson.
Drury was also the owner of the Bearcat vehicle that became the center of a political dispute between Salt Lake County sheriff's candidates in 2014 when the sheriff's office lost its use of the vehicle.
Utah Gun Exchange bought the vehicle but claims in its lawsuit that Drury misrepresented the value of the truck when selling it to the group. In addition, the lawsuit says Drury promised Melchior and co-owner Sam Robinson membership to the Honorary Colonels, as well as the sale of rifles that were never delivered and for which Utah Gun Exchange never received a refund. The company said it lost hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to the lawsuit.