Ethics question?


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Z71
November 11, 2007, 11:51 AM
Ethics question! So what would an ethics question be in the Gunsmithing and Repairs section, you may ask.

I'll just ask the question. Here is some preliminary info.

I am strictly an amature gunsmith. I attended a vo-tech gunsmith school strictly for my own uses some years back. Learned lots, and the money spent on the votech coarse was well spent.

Problem is that there is no gunsmith in the area. I started fixing a few firearms for friends and coworkers. Plus wrench on my own milsurp and antique purchases.

Then friends of friends want me to work on their busted guns! Ok, I have fixed a few and charged pretty modest fees. Often just charge for the parts and freight. Turn down jobs I don't have the tools to fix or is out of my league.

So here is the problems. Over the years, I've had a couple fellows bring me guns to fix, then never come back to get the gun! Have had a few guys get the gun, then not pay for the parts!

Not getting at least paid for the parts concerns me less than just abandoning the gun at my house. They don't pay for the parts one time, they ain't got a second chance! But what about the few firearms that have just been abandoned at my house?

A couple of these have been in my possesion for years! One since the last century!

I have tried to contact the owners on numerous occasions. But no good, people are gone. One the one pistol, the owner really owes me nothing. The manufacturer of the gun sent me the parts free, took 5 minutes to fix, other gun is a rifle that I restocked. The guy(if he's still alive!) owes me about $75.

Have had the pistol for about 8 or 9 years. The rifle about 5 years. Can't find either owner, and no family in the area to my knowledge. I figure the guns are mine now, but would like another opinion or two.

So do these guns belong to me now?

Thanks, Stevie.

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ronwill
November 11, 2007, 12:06 PM
If you've done everything you can to contact the owners then the items should be considered abandoned property and they're yours. You may want to contact an attorney, however, if you've sent written requests to the owners previous addresses with no response and considerable time has elapsed this is usually the case.

Jim Watson
November 11, 2007, 12:15 PM
Since you are not a licensed gunsmith with a published policy, you would be on shaky ground if either of those guys EVER came back for their guns and you had disposed of them.

Z71
November 11, 2007, 12:42 PM
Thinking about the attorny thing myself. Problem is that both guns together not worth all that much.

I mean even allowing for inflation, both guns might be worth $400 together, tops!

I have my suspicions about what happened to the owners. I think one may be in the nut house! I know the other guy got fired from his job just shortly after dropping his pistol off for repair. Ran up a bunch of debt around town, then split the state. I actually have little fear the one fellow will be back for his gun. The other guy, now I don't know about. I just suspect he's been committed. Don't know for sure where he is, but a guy with his name got committed to a mental health facility some time back. This guy was sort of squirrly, but he was a coworker(he got fired too).

I actually just wish they would come get their guns! But who knows, may not be legaly able to possess guns anymore? May not even remember where their guns are. No kidding, I've had the handgun for literaly about a decade!

rcmodel
November 11, 2007, 01:05 PM
I agree. Shaky ground indeed.

Although I don't know what the answer is either.

Do you have anything in writing describing the work to be done?
Even a hang-tag with the date, owners name & contact info on it?

You might contact your local legal aid office (free), or your lawyer and find out what your state laws are regarding abandoned property. I'm sure there is some legal way to have the guns declared abandoned, and they could then be declared yours to pay for storage fee's all those years.

You do charge storage fee's don't you? :D

The other thing is, I have gunsmithed for most of my life, first professionally for the U.S. 5th. Army AMTU, then just as a hobby.

With todays legal climate, I have decided it is no longer worth the risk to do it for anyone other then myself, and a very few, very close friends.
Without buying some very expensive liability insurance it is just not worth the risk.

The other other thing is, once you start doing it for strangers some friend sends over, there is no way to avoid all the junkers & cheap guns that take more effort to make parts you can't get then they are worth!

Then when you try to charge $15.00 an hour for your highly skilled work & shop full of expensive equipment, the guy brands you a rip-off artist for charging him $110 bucks to fix his $50 dollar gun.
It's sure not worth the hassle, for just trying to do someone you don't even know a favor!

http://i81.photobucket.com/albums/j219/rcmodel/KTOG/1224.gif
rcmodel

Z71
November 11, 2007, 01:18 PM
Very true about it being a hassle to gunsmith! I've pretty much stopped working on anyones stuff that I don't know and TRUST!

My ex boss stiffed me $17 for the price of parts to fix his S&W auto a couple years back. That was the end of the nice guy for me. I guess my boss just figured there wasn't much I could do about it!

But then you have the fellow from a couple months back that was so grateful I fixed his tractor(I'm a diesel tech, self employed now), he gave me a Ruger 10/22 that got taken apart and just needed reassembled.

I still do work for my buddies and myself. Thats just about it for me too.

tkendrick
November 11, 2007, 01:35 PM
The ethics are pretty clear. You did the work, made an honest effort to return the property, and were never paid. The stuff is yours.

It's the legal bs you have to worry about.

rcmodel
November 11, 2007, 03:16 PM
But the legal BS is if one of those guys come back and tell the Cops someone stole his gun, and Z71 did it. And he has a receipt with the serial number on it to proove it was his.

Very Unlikely, but:

It could get messy!

http://i81.photobucket.com/albums/j219/rcmodel/KTOG/1224.gif
rcmodel

chris allen
November 11, 2007, 03:22 PM
Check and see what you have to do to put a mechanics lean on it. In Canada if the value is under $500 you only have to wait 6 months and then one can dispose of it.Nothing else need be done.

Chris

tkendrick
November 11, 2007, 06:24 PM
But the legal BS is if one of those guys come back and tell the Cops someone stole his gun, and Z71 did it. And he has a receipt with the serial number on it to proove it was his.

Guess I wasn't very clear. That was exactly my point.

Highlights the difference between ethical and legal, doesn't it.

The OP doesn't say what state he's in, and that might have a big impact on what he can and can not do.

Personally, I would do three things.

1. Send a registered letter with return receipt to the last known address. State in the letter that the individual has a specified amount of time to reclaim his property. Include the fee plus interest. Keep copies where you can find them. That proves you made an effort to return the gun.

2. Check with local LE to determine if there are any special rules governing firearms. Most states, even those with really strict gun laws don't cover this sort of thing as a "purchase". They may however, want to run a check on the gun to determine if it's been reported as lost or stolen. Do it in writing, they'll probably respond the same way. Keep copies with the above mentioned letters. Covers you in case the gun turns out to be hot.

3. Don't release the gun to anyone, including relatives, friends, co-workers, etc., without clearing it through the local LE office. You're not a dealer, so don't transfer a gun like you are one.

That will pretty much cover you under most conditions.

eliphalet
November 11, 2007, 07:47 PM
I don't think I would sell them without something legal but as far as using them I would have no qualms.

Neophyte1
November 11, 2007, 07:48 PM
Z71: Sir; these answers are outstanding which you already know. I'll add something maybe. Sir; you are breaking the law by working on these units. Without FFL; problems. Sir; I don't have an answer but before you go to any LE officer; be sure the FFL doesn't get you into a mess.
Your ethical thinking and goodness of heart has you behind an 8ball. Given your decency in thinking; I'd be honored to have had you to look at any of my mess.
Follow up if you can.

1911Tuner
November 11, 2007, 07:50 PM
If you don't have the necessary FFL, you're in violation of federal law by taking the work to start with.

ClarkEMyers
November 11, 2007, 09:48 PM
Sort of reminds me of folks who spread their reloads around and suddenly find they are legally unlicensed (and uninsured) manufacturers.

Failure to pay excise tax is a serious, potentially criminal, matter among other issues and see what has happened to good folks who do have an FFL on the excise tax issue in the past. I am not saying that what is presented here rises to that level but who knows? I don't know.

This is not legal advice purely my own preliminary thoughts on the matter - Indeed and obviously it would be wiser never to work on guns without an FFL, record keeping and report making and most especially a bound book. Failing that it would be better never to take money or any other consideration - I'd except coffee - for working on guns without an FFL, requisite record keeping and report making and bound book.

Generally I'd think working on the occasional firearm for no consideration and no modification might get a pass but there are the other concerns. In some parts of the country an argument that working on the wood stock only is not the same - defining gun as the serial numbered part - would prevail - in some parts it would be a great deal of trouble just the same. The argument is analogous to asking a general machine shop to mill a stripped 1911 slide for sights where the shop has no FFL and gets the slide already stripped - never takes possession of a firearm - serial numbered receiver - and keeps no bound book but obviously pushed a little farther - enough farther to make it a good idea to avoid the issue.

Ethically I'd say the firearms at issue would belong to a gunsmith who had properly acquired licenses and kept records and had claim checks with a 90 day sale on unclaimed firearms provision or otherwise had done everything properly.

In the present circumstance I might advise friendly local law enforcement of the circumstances in a very brief and abbreviated form - and ask for a receipt for the firearms as abandoned property and so escheated - belonging to the state anyway. State agencies have procedures for dealing with abandoned property and I'd say that's the safest category for these 2 things.

Z71
November 11, 2007, 10:02 PM
Hmmm... Unless the law has changed quite recently, don't think I'm in violation of any laws by not being an FFL.

I DON'T buy and sell guns for resale, don't ship guns, do have records. Don't really charge except for parts used. Probably work on less than 10 guns a year excepting my own.

Not too worried about the ATF or the IRS! Well maybe the IRS, but not because of my amature gunsmithing.

So forget the Federal part of the equation, ain't no "ethics" involved there anyhow!

Let me rephrase my question. If I simply decided to keep these two particular guns for myself, by virtue of they have been abandonded in my possession, and money is owed me, what do Ineed to do to make myself feel more ethical about it?

I am not getting an FFL to simply repair an aquaintances gun!

Jim K
November 11, 2007, 11:35 PM
"Not too worried about the ATF or the IRS! Well maybe the IRS, but not because of my amature gunsmithing.

So forget the Federal part of the equation, ain't no "ethics" involved there anyhow!

Let me rephrase my question. If I simply decided to keep these two particular guns for myself, by virtue of they have been abandonded in my possession, and money is owed me, what do Ineed to do to make myself feel more ethical about it?

I am not getting an FFL to simply repair an aquaintances gun!"

I applaud your freedom loving attitude, but it can get you jail time if someone wants to push things. This situation is exactly why I always tell talented amateurs who want to take up gunsmithing to do things right or not at all. If you charge money for doing the work, or if you keep guns overnight, you had best have an FFL, no matter who your customers are.

You could encounter other problems. Here are a couple of examples:

You fix the hammer on an old shotgun; the owner fires it and it blows and takes part of his hand. Naturally, since you don't bother with paperwork, you have no insurance, and you never had the guy sign a release. And since you are unlicensed, your action was illegal. Your illegal action and incompetence caused the man to lose his hand. Think you will win that one in court by blustering about how you aren't going to worry about all that paper work?

A customer complains that you didn't do the work right or made some error. He decides to turn you in for doing unlicensed gunsmithing work. You receive a visit from some nice folks with warrants who seize all the guns you are working on and your own as well. You get off with a fine, but since you are now a convicted felon, you can never own another gun. Does "I am not getting an FFL" sound so brave now? Were those few dollars worth it?

Jim

dfariswheel
November 12, 2007, 01:15 AM
I'll be even more clear.

It's a FEDERAL CRIME to perform gunsmithing for other people UNLESS, you have an FFL, OR if they don't leave the guns overnight, OR you aren't accepting money for the repairs,

If you've taken in guns for repair, charged money for it, and/or kept the gun overnight, you've violated Federal law, and it AIN'T a simple little misdemeanor.
Federal law is very clear: If you're repairing guns, you MUST have an FFL, since there is no special Federal gunsmith's license.

If the BATF ever hears you're doing this, (as in a disgruntled customer calls them, or someone who just happens to find out reports you), you WILL get a MOST unfriendly visit/raid by BATF agents.
If they find you have guns in for repair and have no FFL, you're going to JAIL.

Now, as for the guns abandoned. Probably the best option is to call the police and report them as abandoned property.
DO NOT just haul them into the police station without calling first.
Just tell the police some friends left the guns with you, they never came back for them, and you can't find them.

DO NOT tell the police you repaired them, THEY might call the BATF.

As for your "I don't have an FFL and I don't need one to fix a friends gun" does the name Randy Weaver sound familiar?

He also did a little gunsmithing for someone he THOUGHT was a friend.

eliphalet
November 12, 2007, 01:25 AM
As for your "I don't have an FFL and I don't need one to fix a friends gun" does the name Randy Weaver sound familiar?IIRC working on the gun wasn't the problem.
It was the length that the barrel was cut to, under 18".

1911Tuner
November 12, 2007, 04:52 AM
Don't keep the gun overnight. If possible...don't even keep the gun while the owner runs to the grocery store for a loaf of bread. Do the work while he waits. If you can't finish it before he has to go...have him bring it back another day.

Don't accept money or anything of value. Not ammo...not used parts...not even "Lunch on me" after you're through. Not even reimbursement with zero profit for parts that you ordered for him. Nothing.

That'll probably cover you legally. A civil suit when he shoots himself or somebody else in the foot after you cleaned up his trigger action a little is another matter...even if you didn't make the trigger any lighter...even if he would've shot himself through his own carelessness anyway.

Never EVER modify, disable, or remove any safety feature. You can make the safety work if it doesn't...but not the other way around, unless you feel a desire to give him your house and half of what you earn for the next 20 years.

Powderman
November 12, 2007, 05:12 AM
Hmmm... Unless the law has changed quite recently, don't think I'm in violation of any laws by not being an FFL.

Sorry, sir. I beg to differ.

The below is found at: http://www.atf.gov/firearms/faq/faq2.htm#i1

Is a license needed to engage in the business of engraving, customizing, refinishing or repairing firearms?

Yes. A person conducting such activities as a business is considered to be a gunsmith within the definition of a dealer. See Item 16, “Federal Excise Tax” in the General Information section of this publication.

[27 CFR 478.11]



(I2) Does a gunsmith need to enter in a permanent "bound book" record every firearm received for adjustment or repair? [Back]

If a firearm is brought in for repairs and the owner waits while it is being repaired or if the gunsmith is able to return the firearm to the owner during the same business day, it is not necessary to list the firearm in the “bound book” as an "acquisition." If the gunsmith has possession of the firearm from one business day to another or longer, the firearm must be recorded as an “acquisition” and a “disposition” in the permanent "bound book" record.

Z71
November 12, 2007, 09:56 AM
Well, gentlemen. That answers the questions I've asked!

FFL laws must have changed since I studied them.

Guns are now mine. Purchased for the price of the parts! And my gunsmithing career is now over!

Not that I had one, pretty much have always just worked on my own stuff, old guns I buy and repair for my collection.

I guess the next guy I know that never cleans his .22 auto and brings it over because he can't figure out why it don't work gets told "Hit the road, I don't want to see the ATF!"! That will make the locals happy!

I will do some checking myself about the ATF rules, because thats not how I interpreted them. However, this is a perfect excuse to drop/stop using my hobby except on my own stuff. My own uses is what trips my trigger anyway, hate cleaning other peoples rusty, neglected junk anyhow, and pretty much stopped. That is except for my mentaly challenged buddies who have two left arms!

NO KIDDING! Used to be that you didn't need an FFL if you didn't purchase or repair for resale, or ship accross state lines!

Goverment will get all the guns before its over! Will just change the ATF rules until its illegal to possess or do anything!

Oh well guy's, it's been good playing! But I'm done now! Taking my ball home with me too!

Neophyte1
November 12, 2007, 10:11 AM
Z71: Sir; we all loose. Folks with ethics, decency, concern, and ability; placed into the position of compromise.
Sir; I haven't changed my mind on having you as a shooting partner, and, or the educated neighbor whom just might have a word of wisdom to pass over my latest goof up.:o

woad_yurt
November 12, 2007, 06:09 PM
I a business is something run to make a profit. If you do anything for price of parts only or do it as a loss or as a favor, you're not doing business as a "business." It sounds like you weren't a "person conducting such activities as a business...." I can refinish a stock on my father's gun for him legally, so long as I don't make a profit, charge tax, etc, etc. You're a hobbyist, right? Right???!!!

macFarlaine
November 12, 2007, 06:15 PM
This is a big problem for us.I still have guns from twenty years ago.I also have a major problem with people who leave their weapons in storage when re applying for licences.In some cases they never return,I am now resorting to having weapons legally destroyed.

Alakar
November 12, 2007, 06:49 PM
Sorry, sir. I beg to differ.

The below is found at: http://www.atf.gov/firearms/faq/faq2.htm#i1

Is a license needed to engage in the business of engraving, customizing, refinishing or repairing firearms?

Yes. A person conducting such activities as a business is considered to be a gunsmith within the definition of a dealer. See Item 16, “Federal Excise Tax” in the General Information section of this publication.

[27 CFR 478.11]



(I2) Does a gunsmith need to enter in a permanent "bound book" record every firearm received for adjustment or repair? [Back]

If a firearm is brought in for repairs and the owner waits while it is being repaired or if the gunsmith is able to return the firearm to the owner during the same business day, it is not necessary to list the firearm in the “bound book” as an "acquisition." If the gunsmith has possession of the firearm from one business day to another or longer, the firearm must be recorded as an “acquisition” and a “disposition” in the permanent "bound book" record.


While the your post is correct for a dealer, what Z71 is engaged in is clearly not what is defined as a "Dealer in Firearms", which requires an FFL.


The Gun Control Act of 1968, Public Law 90-618, with subsequent amendments (http://www.atf.gov/pub/fire-explo_pub/gca.htm)

(C) as applied to a dealer in firearms, as defined in section

921(a)(11)(A), a person who devotes time, attention, and labor to dealing

in firearms as a regular course of trade or business with the principal

objective of livelihood and profit through the repetitive purchase and

resale of firearms, but such term shall not include a person who makes

occasional sales, exchanges, or purchases of firearms for the enhancement

of a personal collection or for a hobby, or who sells all or part of his

personal collection of firearms;

(D) as applied to a dealer in firearms, as defined in section

921(a)(11)(B), a person who devotes time, attention, and labor to engaging

in such activity as a regular course of trade or business with the

principal objective of livelihood and profit, but such term shall not

include a person who makes occasional repairs of firearms, or who

occasionally fits special barrels, stocks, or trigger mechanisms to

firearms;

dfariswheel
November 12, 2007, 08:26 PM
"IIRC working on the gun wasn't the problem.
It was the length that the barrel was cut to, under 18"."

No, it was actually that the overall length was less than the Federal minimum of 26". Weaver cut the wooden stock down by 3/8" too much and the gun was 3/8" of an inch under 26".

Weavers lawyer, Gerry Spense, stood up in front of the jury, held up the gun and told them that 3 people were dead over a few pennies worth of cheap foreign wood.
The jury found Weaver not guilty on the gun charge.

1911Tuner
November 12, 2007, 08:43 PM
While the your post is correct for a dealer, what Z71 is engaged in is clearly not what is defined as a "Dealer in Firearms",

And the burden of proof lies not with the ATF, but with the alleged "Hobby Gunsmith" in question. While a conviction may not be the end result...such a situation can truly wreck your day and cost upwards of 15-20 large to fight it. Like the IRS...conflicts with the BATFE is best avoided.

I can refinish a stock on my father's gun for him legally,

Trades...sales...gunsmithing, etc between son-father/father-son aren't subject to the letter of the law here, assuming that neither is otherwise legally barred from the possession and/or ownership of a firearm.
Besides...The stock isn't defined as a firearm according to ATF guidelines.

Jim Watson
November 12, 2007, 09:58 PM
"And the burden of proof lies not with the ATF, but with the alleged "Hobby Gunsmith" in question. While a conviction may not be the end result...such a situation can truly wreck your day and cost upwards of 15-20 large to fight it. Like the IRS...conflicts with the BATFE is best avoided."

Agreed. Any large government agency has effectively unlimited power to hassle you if they want to. You might win... broke. The US does not have loser pays court decisions.

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