ATF gone wild! (Custom gunsmiths beware!)

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Congress and the Prez haven't commented on things like this because they don't get to be a forefront issue.

The onus is on us to make this an issue they can't ignore.

Like illegal immigration: four years ago, this was barely talked about. Minutemen, Ranch Rescue, and the like have made it an issue. Now it's the front topic on almost every paper and newscast (this week anyways).

When things like beuracrats abusing power get out hand, we need to raise the flag and get congress on it. Sometimes all these bullies need is a little leash jerk from their bosses to calm down. That's the jist of what happened in Richmond:

Action, outrage, attention, counter-action. Without the middle two, nothing gets done.

Graphic comment I made elsewhere, and I'll tone it down slightly.

Federal agencies and bureaus define their own operations under congressional authority. Literally ANYTHING they put in their regulations IS FEDERAL LAW UNLESS AND UNTIL Congress or the Courts force them to change it, or until they internally change it.

They could write into reg, "All female (or male) suspects must perform sex for the agent in charge," and it would be federal LAW.

It would obviously be unconstitutional on the face of it, and public outrage would probably get it changed in a hurry (In the case of something THAT blatant), but it would still, in fact, be law until then.

This is why Congress has oversight committees.

Anything less than that blatant an abuse is a lot harder to change. See the Norinco issue above. And this manufacturing one.
Making the rounds:


Thursday, March 30, 2006
Michael Bane
BATF Jihad Against Custom Gunsmths!?!?!
I didn't post yesterday tryng to make heads or tails of this, but quite frankly, I can't...and the information needs to get out!

It appears that apparently to thumb their noses at the current Congressional inquiry into BATF abuses, BATF have launched and initiative aimed custom gunsmithing in America.

The weapon they're using is a really fine point...what is the definition of "manufacturing a firearm"? That phrase is NOT defined in any legislation and, since it's not a legally defined term, it's open to interpretation. Since the late 1990s, when the then ATF hit gunsmith Jim Clark Senior for "manufacturing a firearm" (which cost Jim more than $100,000 but alledgedly clarified the question) was "making or providing the controlled, or serial-numbered, part."

The new BATF definition of "manufacturing a firearm" is "making any substantive changes to a firearm."

Using the new definition, the BATF hit Competitive Edge Gunworks — who has been featured on SHOOTING GALLERY and COWBOYS — and threatened chief gunsmith Larry Crow with SIX felony counts (including one for "changing the hammer and barrel of a Ruger and installing an octagonal barrel") unless he signed a paper admitting to "manufacturing" and agreeing to pay a fine and the back taxes. He thought he was out for maybe $1000.

The next day revenue agents showed up at his door and asked for his books. The paper he signed, and the "new policy" of the G, was that Crow has to pay the 11% excise tax — and big penalties — on EVERY SINGLE GUN HE HAS EVER WORKED ON SINCE DAY ONE. That moves the number from $1000 to roughly $100,000, enough to bankrupt his business.

Part of this, I suspect, is the BATF is pissed off that gunsmiths got a 50-gun exemption to the excise tax and manufacturing license last year, attached to a transportation bill. BATF BITTERLY opposed the bill, and there's a lot of thought that this is payback. There's also some speculation that BATF has been trying to find a way to get a lever on the HUGE "build-your-own-AR" parts business, and this would do it.

The agents alledgely showed Crow a membership list of the Pistolsmiths Guild and other gun craft guilds and told him that he was only the first.

Tom Gresham of GunTalk Radio and I have been sounding the alarm...both NRA and NSSF lawyers are on it now, with Second Amendment Foundation close behind. I'm going to the Congressional Sportsmens Foundation today. Master gunsmith Hamilton Bowen says if this isn't a tempest in a teapot...some local jockey trying to make his puts 3/4 of the Pistolsmith Guild, including him, out of business.

I'm traveling, but more as this develops!
posted by Michael Bane at 8:38 AM 2 comments
This is lining up with other BATFE changes.

A written opinion was issued stating that if you have a machinegun, and a short barrel suitable for that machinegun, and you have a non-NFA gun which can also take that short barrel, you can be prosecuted for having an unregistered SBR. This contradicts SCOTUS rulings that so long as all the parts possessed can be used in a legal manner, possession is legal (unlike, say, having only a non-SBR AR15 and a 10" upper, which can only be used illegally).

BATFE is also requiring that a precise length and caliber be stated when registering an NFA gun - screwing with the normal practice of registering, say, an AR lower as an SBR with "various length & caliber" and getting a 20" .223 upper, 11" .223 upper, 14" .50Beowulf upper, etc. For now people are registering a specific length & caliber to get their SBR registered, and slapping whatever upper they like on it (so long as they have the explicitly-described upper as well), but I expect (especially with this latest breaking news) they will crack down on that practice as well.

These, and others, all point to BATFE deliberately moving to end all modifications of firearms. You buy or make it once, as is, and that's it.

Just continuing to chip away at RKBA. Can't ban 'em outright, so take 'em away piece by piece.

This is a third hand report about an alleged changed in the regs that nobody has cited or been able to confirm.

The current CFR shows this definition at 27 C.F.R. § 478.11

Manufacturer. Any person engaged in the business of manufacturing firearms or ammunition. The term shall include any person who engages in such business on a part-time basis

There are several critical elements to this definition. First of all they must be "IN THE BUSINESS", which means more than merely a hobby. Secondly, they must be "MANUFACTURING," which in the absence of any further definition means the dictionary defintion of manufacturing. Mere alteration is not "manufacturing," and the ATF is not free to redefine terms to that extent without promulgating new rules.

I suspect the entire report may exaggerated. It's certainly third party internet hearsay, which is always questionable. This gunsmith needs to get the BATF position in writing and get an attorney.
You can't cite something that isn't there.

If it's not on the page, it's not on the stage. The gunsmith has a right to know what specific regualtion the agents think they are citing, and should get a lawyer's assistance not a blogger's.

In the mean time, these reports are so far removed from what may or may not actually be happening I'd suggest setting them aside until and unless something more tangible arises. I have no love for the BATF, but I'm skeptical of these kinds of screaming internet horror stories that come to us third hand.

I don't disagree with anything you've said, but court comes later. IF there are federal agents out there NOW enforcing **** that somebody pulled from their ????, I want to know and I want it dealt with now, not later.

OK... I just called the NRA-ILA, and the girl I spoke with had not heard anything about this case or about any BATF rule changes.

I don't know what that is worth however, because she didn't seem to truly grasp what I was explaining to her, and she transfered me to the voice mail of "the person who handles these things."

Maybe a few of us can contact the NRA & hopefully get to the bottom of what's going on here?
Dear Forum Members:

Please regard this as an unofficial notice, but I thought I could help clear up what’s going on.

The Firearms and Ammunition Excise Tax (FAET) is a tax imposed by Chapter 32 of the Internal Revenue Code (26 U.S.C. 4181) on the sale of firearms and ammunition by manufacturers, producers, and importers. The present situation has arisen due to a possible misinterpretation of the term “manufactured” by the ATF. It has been difficult in the past for gunsmiths to determine exactly which services performed by gunsmiths were “manufacturing” and thus subject to FAET. Generally, gunsmiths are not subject to the FAET, unless the gunsmith has title to the firearm and his work materially changes the firearm so that a different taxable article results. See Rev. Rulings 58-586, 64-202 and 69-325.

Which specific acts (mounting a scope, re-stocking, checkering, engraving, etc.) count as “manufacturing” has been difficult to determine and inconsistently applied by ATF in the past.

To address this problem, on October 1, 2005, 26 U.S.C. Section 4182 was amended to also exempt any pistol, revolver, or firearm from FAET if it was manufactured, produced or imported by a person who manufactures, produces or imports less than an aggregate of 50 such articles during the calendar year. This allows gunsmiths to operate (for fewer than 50 guns per year) without worry that a particular act would be considered “manufacture” or not.

The 50 guns per year change, however, is not retroactive (despite our efforts to make it so). Recently gunsmiths have been aggressively investigated by ATF, and their back records examined for FAET compliance. This investigation is legal and proper, however, there is concern that ATF is again misinterpreting “manufacture” and including transactions under FAET that should properly be excluded.

Larry Crow, owner of Competitive Edge Gunworks and member of the American Pistolsmith Guild, is currently being charged as liable for taxes and penalties for the “manufacture” of firearms; Mr. Crow questions the validity of ATF’s determination that he manufactured the firearms. In meetings and discussions with the ATF and IRS beginning 24 January 2006, Mr. Crow has been unable to get a direct and consistent answer regarding both ATF and IRS policy.

The National Rifle Association is in contact with Mr. Crow and others in the gunsmithing community, and is actively exploring both regulatory and legal remedies for this situation. This situation is, however, one which may not lend itself to a quick or easy fix, as it involves statutes, regulatory rulings, and policy decisions at the intersection of two separate federal agencies.

I assure you that the National Rifle Association will make the most efficient use of its resources, with the goal of protecting the civil rights of Americans, as the Framers sought to protect those rights under the Constitution. We will provide updated information on our website as further significant details or activities become known.

Thank you for your continued support.

-Eric Swartz
Office of Legislative Counsel
National Rifle Association – Institute for Legislative Action
Thanks for that clarification! That explains a lot. Hopefully Mr. Crow and other gunsmiths will be able to avoid penalties over this. I'm glad the NRA is on top of it.
What I mean when I say that an ex post facto law is unlawful, is that it will eventually, it is heard by the courts, be overturned. The courts cannot rule without a suit, but IF a suit is brought, then of course they can rule on it.

At least in theory.

Anyway, I would like to see the ATF shutdown. I do not understand what they do that the FBI couldn't do anyway. I mean what kind of LAW ENFORCEMENT group only deals with LEGAL items?? The FBI doesn't frigging investigate Banana's....
Mr. Swartz,

Is there any reason to think that Mr. Crow's case isn't an isolated incident?

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