Tag Archives: Olofson

The Accidental Felon

The Accidental Felon

By Jeff Knox

            (January 29, 2008) There are several ways for a person to unintentionally commit a felony, but most of them are looked at by prosecutors, judges, and juries as the accidents they are and dealt with accordingly.  Such is not always the case however, especially when firearms are involved; for the past 2 years David Olofson has been learning that the hard way.  Olofson is a regular guy who happens to be fond of AR15 style sport-utility rifles.  He loaned a rifle to a friend who, while shooting at a local range, fired a couple of bursts of automatic fire from the gun just before it jammed.  Someone at or near the gun club called the police to complain about machinegun fire.  The police notified the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) and David Olofson, who wasn’t present at the range, was subsequently charged and convicted of illegally transferring a machinegun.

Olofson was not charged with possession of an unregistered machinegun or with illegally manufacturing, modifying, or otherwise making a machinegun, only with illegally transferring a machinegun.  Since everyone agreed that the gun belonged to Olofson and that he had loaned it to the other guy to shoot, the only issue in question was whether the gun was a machinegun.  A much easier case to make since ATF is the final arbiter in determining whether a gun is a machinegun, and the law defining machineguns tends to be selectively interpreted by them.

As a matter of fact, when the ATF Firearms Technical Branch (FTB) examined the rifle they concluded that it was not a machinegun.  They did find that if the Safety switch was moved beyond its normal range of motion, the disconnector would malfunction resulting in hammer-follow.

The local ATF agent asked that the 5.56 NATO rifle be tested using commercial .223 ammunition with soft primers.  Those tests resulted in intermittent, unregulated, automatic fire and jamming caused by hammer-follow, but this time the FTB concluded that, under strict interpretation of the law, the gun’s malfunction did make it a machinegun.

Anyone experienced with semi-automatic firearms knows how dangerous hammer-follow can be and it is obvious that the ATF testers were also aware of the danger.  The government entered into evidence a tightly edited video clip of one of their testers firing Olofson’s gun for a relatively long full-auto string.  The cyclic rate was estimated to be near 1700 rounds per minute, more than twice that of a properly regulated M16.  In the video, the shooter held the firearm well away from his face and body in obvious fear that the rifle would fly apart at any moment.

 Olofson’s firearms expert was never allowed to touch the gun, but he was allowed to look inside and saw no signs of grinding or tampering.  He recognized that M16 parts were present, but no auto-sear.

In his defense Olofson wanted to point out that ATF had called for a recall of Olympic Arms AR15’s of Olofson’s vintage because the M16 parts had a tendency to cause hammer-follow which could be dangerous when using soft-primered, commercial ammo.  He also wanted to bring up a recent case where ATF ruled that an AR15 converted to fire full-auto and legally registered as a machinegun was not a machinegun because it did not have an auto-sear.  Removing it from the NFA rolls devalued it from a market value of around $20,000.00 to about $1,500.

None of this was allowed into evidence though because ATF and the US Attorney claimed that such information was prohibited from disclosure by tax privacy laws.  This contention now appears to be patently false and the judge has egg on his face for not making the government prove their privacy claim.

The cornerstone of the government’s case was their contention that it doesn’t matter whether a gun fires multiple shots as a result of malfunction or modification because the law defines a machinegun as; “… any weapon which shoots, is designed to shoot, or can be readily restored to shoot, automatically more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger.”  While on the witness stand, firearms expert Len Savage asked the Assistant US Attorney prosecuting the case if that would make his grandfather’s old side-by-side a machinegun if it malfunctioned and fired both barrels with one pull of the trigger.  The AUSA responded by repeating with emphasis, “any weapon which shoots… more than one shot… by a single function of the trigger.”

After looking into this case, talking to David Olofson and Len Savage, and studying the paperwork, I am convinced that an injustice has been done.  That’s why The Firearms Coalition is encouraging folks to contact their elected representatives in Washington to demand that they launch a full investigation.  We are also working with members of Congress to fix the definition of a machinegun.  Until that is accomplished, I encourage gunowners to be especially cautious; a little paranoia can be a healthy thing.

Much more information about this case is available at www.FirearmsCoalition.org.

Permission to reprint or post this article in its entirety is hereby granted provided this credit is included.  Text is available at www.FirearmsCoalition.org.  To receive The Firearms Coalition’s bi-monthly newsletter, The Hard Corps Report, write to PO Box 3313, Manassas, VA  20108. 

©Copyright 2008 Neal Knox Associates

Olofson’s Attorney to be on Lou Dobbs Tonight

Olofson's Attorney on Lou Dobbs Tonight

    An attorney for David Olofson, the Army Reservist convicted of illegally transferring a machinegun when an AR he loaned to a friend malfunctioned and fired a couple of short bursts, is scheduled to be featured on the Lou Dobbs Show tonight.  Olofson continues to serve a 30 month sentence in a federal prison in Minnesota while his family struggles to retain their home.

    Gun Owners of America has set up an assistance fund to help David and his family here.

Court Says No to Olofson.

Court denies Olofson’s bid to stay out of jail pending appeal.

David Olofson was convicted in January of illegally transferring a machinegun after a 20-year old AR-15 he had loaned to a friend fired two short multi-round bursts.  Last month he was sentenced to 30 months in prison, but his attorney immediately filed an appeal in the Federal Appeals Court for the 7th Circuit.  Along with the appeal, they filed a motion to allow the Army reservist and father of three to remain free until the appeal is settled.  While Olofson’s appeal could drag out for quite some time, early in June, a three-judge panel of the court said they would not keep Olfson out of jail in the interim. 

It is likely that Olofson will remain free for several more weeks due to backlogs in the system, but as soon as the government incarcerators catch up a little David Olofson will have to begin serving his sentence.

Continue reading Court Says No to Olofson.

Olofson Sentenced

Olofson Sentenced to Thirty Months

 

David Olofson, the Army Reservist who loaned a twenty-year old AR15 rifle to a prospective buyer and was charged with illegally transferring a machinegun, was sentenced to thirty months in prison by a Federal Judge in Wisconsin.  Olofson, his attorneys, and many legal observers were surprised by the sentence.  The long delay in sentencing was interpreted as an indication that the judge was uncomfortable with certain irregularities in the prosecution.  They speculated that he was delaying sentencing with the intention of quietly setting the conviction aside, or at least ordering a new trial.  Instead he went right in line with the prosecution’s requests and dismissed defense complaints about improperly suppressed evidence.

The case, aside from being a travesty of justice and senselessly destroying David Olofson’s life, has dire implications for anyone who owns any semi-automatic firearm.  Under the standards of this case, any gun that malfunctions and fires a multiple round burst is a machinegun and the owner is at risk of prosecution.

At this point Olofson is appealing the conviction based on suppression of evidence. There were two documents that Olofson asked for in discovery and which the ATF refused to provide. They claimed that the documents contained privileged tax information and could not be released; this even though Olofson had copies of both documents from public sources. Since those sources were not "official" the copies Olofson had were inadmissible and since ATF claimed their copies were protected, the judge accepted their word on that and refused to demand the documents be produced.

The first document was a letter sent by ATF to manufacturers of AR-15's back in the mid'80's warning them that the parts they were using were prone to hammer-follow malfunctions and suggesting that they should institute a recall to replace the offending parts. The makers of Olofson's rifle were included in that letter and Olofson's rifles was manufactured during that time period.

The second document was a letter from the ATF to the owner of a rifle that was legally registered as a machinegun. It informed him that his gun was being removed from the National Firearms Transfer Registry because ATF testing showed that it was not really a machinegun, but just an AR-15 with some M-16 parts in it (just like Olofson's) that were causing it to malfunction with hammer-follow (just like Olofson's.)  They basically told him that his $20,000 M-16 was really a malfunctioning $1,500 AR-15 and that he should get it fixed. The test and evaluation was signed by the same ATF firearms expert who concluded that Olofson's rifle was not a machinegun and then retested and concluded that the gun was a machinegun.  Both of these rifles were tested by the same examiner within a matter of just a few weeks of each other.

Olofson has found an ATF memo which specifically declares that the warning letter from ATF to manufacturers did not contain privileged information and is not subject to any disclosure restrictions.  He has also connected with the guy whose rifle was reclassified and gotten certified copies of those letters and test results.

It seems pretty clear that the judge was misled by ATF and the Federal Prosecutor and that all of the information relating to these letters should have been provided to the court, entered into evidence, and shown to the jury.  Based on this fact, the Court of Appeals should, at a minimum, grant Olofson a new trial and actually should simply vacate the whole case.  There is just no telling what a court will do though.  The more I study some of these court cases, the more I am convinced that our “Justice” System is seriously broken.  I am hopeful that NRA or someone else with some experience and money to pay good lawyers will jump into this case now that it is becoming more prominent.

            Several months ago, while Olofson’s trial was just getting started, I provided him with information on how to formally request assistance from the NRA Civil Rights Defense Fund.  I don’t know if his lawyers ever followed through with such a request.  I also brought the case directly to the attention of members of the NRA Board of Directors and NRA staff, encouraging them to take a closer look at the case and provide some assistance or support.  Just a short article in NRA magazines might have been very helpful.  When a reporter from CNN’s “Lou Dobbs” show contacted NRA after Olofson’s sentencing, he reported that they said they had been watching the case closely and were considering offering assistance.

I should also point out my own failure to help as much as I could have.  When a major national magazine asked me to write a comprehensive article on the case, I agreed, but due to my regular workload and some other mitigating circumstances, I never was able to fulfill that agreement.  Perhaps a bit more publicity earlier on could have forced ATF’s hand.  We’ll never know.  What we do know is that if the Appeals Court functions with the same skill and professionalism displayed by the original trial judge, David Olofson, husband, father, and Army veteran, is going to spend years in prison with murderers and rapists simply because he loaned a 20-year old rifle to a kid who managed to cause it to fire a couple of short multiple shot bursts.

If the ATF can succeed at putting David Olofson away, none of us are safe.  I attended a friendly side-by-side shotgun shoot recently where guys described occasions when their Parker, Purdy, or Fox had fired both barrels with a single trigger pull.  Under the standard demonstrated in the Olofson case, those 100+ year old shotguns are machineguns and their owners are dangerous felons.

This needs to be fixed in the courts and fixed in the congress.  There is no excuse for this type of vindictive prosecution.

Read my original story here. 

Olofson’s Troubles

Olofson Released

April 2011

Regular readers of our work will remember the story of David Olofson.  He was a decorated veteran and Sergeant in the Army National Guard who was convicted of illegally transferring an unregistered machinegun after he loaned a 20-year old AR15 rifle to a friend and the rifle malfunctioned while the young man was shooting it at a local range.  Olofson appealed the conviction all the way up to the Supreme Court, but was denied and ordered to serve 30 months in prison.  That sentence has now been completed and David is finally out of prison.
The saga, which began in July of 2006 will never truly be over as Olofson is now a convicted felon with all of the stigma and loss of rights associated with that label and his military and professional careers have been thoroughly destroyed.  Nor can Olofson recapture the time he lost with his kids, one of whom was born just as the case began and has only known her father through visits to the Federal Prison.
Thanks to some support from the Gun Owners Foundation, the family managed to keep their home during David’s forced absence, but the struggle isn’t over.  It can be hard for someone with a felony conviction on their record to find work so Olofson has launched an on-line business selling hand made, natural soaps and bath products.  Our first order for gift baskets have already been placed and we hope that many of our members and guests will also choose to sample Olofson’s wares. 

To visit the Olofson’s business, place an order, and show your support, Click Here.

The other shoe drops:  Supreme Court denies cert

Latest Development:  Octover 14, 2009

David Olofson’s case was rejected without comment by the Supreme Court on October 13.

 

Links to CNN, Lou Dobbs report on this case:

First Segment click here.

Second Segment click here.  

Note: This is a longer format than our normal Knox Reports.  This was written for general public consumption so forgive some of the rudimentary explanations, etc.  A shorter, more concise version was produced for Shotgun News and other “gun media,” but we felt it was best to post the full version here. 

Here is a link to an image library containing dozens of documents from the case – Click Here.  The library also contains a few photo’s of military gear that has nothing to do with the case.  Those interested in the details of the case can also read a long-running forum discussion on AR15.com which includes scanned immages of the case documents and comments on the case from Olofson himself.  Olofson is known as Bladerunner2347 and posted this information himself as the case was developing.  To read the entire 40+ pages of the discussion, click here .

 

The Accidental Felon

 

By Jeff Knox

 

            (January 29, 2008) There are several ways for a person to unintentionally commit a felony, but most of them are looked at by prosecutors, judges, and juries as the accidents they are and dealt with accordingly.  Such is not always the case however, especially when firearms are involved; for the past 2 years David Olofson has been learning that the hard way.  Olofson is a regular guy who happens to be fond of AR15 style sport-utility rifles.  He loaned a rifle to a friend.  While the friend was shooting it he moved the safety switch to a point beyond the Fire position.  The rifle fired a couple of short bursts and jammed.  Someone at or near the club called the police to complain about machinegun fire.  The police notified the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) and David Olofson was subsequently charged and convicted of illegally transferring a machinegun.

Continue reading Olofson’s Troubles