GOA Pushing Bill to Rein in the Gun Police
by Larry Pratt
Video cameras have changed the world we live in. Most American squad cars are now equipped with dash-cams — a move which works for the safety of both the public and the police.
But the attempt to equip testing laboratories with videocams has not caught on, let alone the idea of publishing and enforcing procedures for the testing of criminal evidence.
This is certainly the case with the federal gun police, who are otherwise known as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE). This agency has continuously refused to conform to scientific standards and has resisted increased accountability.
The gang at BATFE — which was somewhat under control during the administration of Attorney General John Ashcroft — ramped up their assault on gun owners while Attorney General Alfredo Gonzalez was in office. The abuse committed by these agents increased to levels not seen since the oppressive days of the Jimmy Carter presidency.
Gingrey Introduces BATFE Control Bill
To combat this, Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA) has introduced H.R. 1791 to bring some overdue accountability to the BATFE. His bill would require the videotaping of the testing of all “crime” guns involved in BATFE cases.
BATFE has had no written procedures for determining what is a machine gun or any other kind of gun. This has enabled the BATFE to accuse people of having converted semi-automatic firearms to machine guns when no such thing had been done.
In U.S. v. Albert Kwan, BATFE accused Kwan of owning an illegal machine gun. It turned out that BATFE acknowledged that Kwan’s rifle would not fire as a machine gun until BATFE made it one. Without written procedures, they almost got away with it. A jury found him NOT guilty. Kwan is out a lot of money, but he is free.
Another case where BATFE “experts” determined a firearm to be a machine gun almost literally blew up in their face. In U.S. v. Glover, the BATFE charged John Glover with having converted a semi-automatic rifle to a fully-automatic weapon.
BATFE claimed that the gun would fire more than one round with one pull of the trigger. Thankfully, Glover’s attorney got the prosecutor to agree to a second test firing of the gun and for it to be videotaped. Using the right ammunition, the gun actually did fire automatically once or twice out of twelve tests.
The problem for the government’s case was that the gun was malfunctioning and had come close to blowing up in the hands of the BATFE “expert” who test fired the gun. It turns out he had never looked inside the gun, so he was unaware that a spring had failed — often causing the firing pin to strike the primer when a round was chambered.
The US Attorney prosecuting the Glover case dismissed it with prejudice (i.e., BATFE can never bring the case again). This was only done because — just this one time — it was documented on video. Since BATFE has never put out written procedures for testing a gun, they thought they could get away with confusing a malfunction for an illegal conversion from semi- to full-automatic.
Manufacturers Feeling the Boot
Historic Arms designs specialty firearms and accessories. Interestingly, one of their attorneys, Len Savage, participated in the Glover case by helping to expose the BATFE “expert” for the incompetent that he is during the videotaped test firing of the “illegal” gun.
While Savage’s assistance benefited Glover, it brought down the wrath of the BATFE upon him. So a product that Historic Arms had been marketing (an accessory which allows a machine gun to fire cheaper ammunition) was subsequently redefined by the BATFE as a machine gun. Both determinations — first the accessory is not a machine gun, but then later is redefined as a machine gun — were put into writing.
The Historic Arms case demonstrates the whimsical nature of BATFE determinations, which can change from one year to the next. This is a huge problem, and is one of the reasons why it is imperative that the agency be held accountable to a set of written regulations. There are simply too many manufacturers who are getting hassled and prosecuted for engaging in activities which the BATFE had, at one time, said was legitimate.
The same lack of written procedures zapped another manufacturer, Akins, which had been marketing an accessory for six years. Their letter of determination initially said their product was not a machine gun. Six years later, another letter said it was.
Or consider the case of Rick Celata, who owns KT Ordnance. Celata makes kits that customers can use to make their own firearms, as people may legally make their own firearm — and not register it with BATFE — if the gun is made for their own use.
Nevertheless, the BATFE raided Celata’s business last year and took all of KT Ordnance’s merchandise and business records. But when the US Attorney in Montana learned that the Celata’s lawyer was going to demand proof of what written regulations had been violated by Celata, the case was never taken to trial.
Celata has not been prosecuted, but neither has his merchandise been returned.
Gun Owners Foundation defending gun retailers
BATFE has also been putting dealers around the country out of business based on paperwork errors that are not spelled out by any written procedures. They put one dealer out of business because he had over 60 “willful violations” where his customers had abbreviated Baltimore (City or County) with Blto. Pretty serious crime, right?
GOA’s Gun Owners Foundation has been supporting the Houston Ammo Dump and the Twin Falls Red’s Trading Post in defense of their federal firearms licenses. These cases are full of examples like the Baltimore abbreviation.
While Rep. Gingrey’s bill only demands that the test firings of guns be videotaped, this requirement — to quote the phrase that Sarah Brady has used in justifying incremental gun control — is a “good first step.”
BATFE is opposed to the videotaping requirement. No wonder. If each defendant had a tape of the test firing by a BATFE “expert,” and had been briefed that the test firings are governed by no written procedures, a lot of phony BATFE cases would be thrown out of court — if they even got taken to court.
How much waste, fraud and abuse will the American people stand for? How many millions of dollars could have been used to go after “real criminals,” or repair bridges, secure our borders, or whatever? Bottom line is Rep. Phil Gingrey’s HR 1791 will prevent BATFE waste and abuse.