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ATF, Virginia Police Accused of 'Persecuting' Gun Shows

Discussion in 'Legal' started by Desertdog, Aug 25, 2005.

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  1. Desertdog

    Desertdog Member

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    ATF, Virginia Police Accused of 'Persecuting' Gun Shows
    By Jeff Johnson
    CNSNews.com Senior Staff Writer
    http://www.cnsnews.com/ViewSpecialReports.asp?Page=\SpecialReports\archive\200508\SPE20050823a.html

    Listen to G. Gordon Liddy's Aug. 23 interview of CNSNews.com's Jeff Johnson

    (Clarification: Emphasizes in 12th paragraph that all three Virginia law enforcement agencies referred media inquiries to ATF)

    (CNSNews.com) - The federal agency that regulates U.S. gun dealers stands accused, along with at least three Virginia law enforcement agencies, of trying to shut down legal gun shows through alleged intimidation of gun buyers and sellers. The law enforcement organizations also allegedly broke the law by sharing gun buyers' information with members of the public.

    Annette Gelles, owner of gun show sponsor Showmasters.us, told Cybercast News Service that at least 30 agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) along with nearly 500 Virginia State Police, Henrico County Police and Richmond City Police officers were assigned to the ATF operation targeting her gun show on Aug. 13 and 14 at the Richmond International Raceway and Fairground Complex, outside Richmond, Va.

    Gelles said four marked police cars were stationed at the main entrance to the raceway parking lot and more than 50 marked and unlabeled but obvious law enforcement vehicles were positioned just outside the public entrance to the building. The officers' presence, Gelles said, was intended to intimidate her customers.

    "It's just a persecution thing. It's not really an attempt to solve crimes or stop them," Gelles said. "It's their way of trying to get rid of gun shows. That's the only way you can explain that large a police presence at the gun shows."

    Gelles said ATF Resident Agent in Charge Brian Swann told her that the officers were part of a "Virginia State Police, ATF task force" and represented the "same amount of force that we've used in all the shows." The only difference in Gelles' case, Swann told her, was that the command post was established at the site of her gun show.

    Virginia State Police (VSP) spokeswoman Corinne Geller told Cybercast News Service that her agency does participate in a task force with ATF and other Virginia law enforcement agencies. As part of the agreement that created the task force, Geller said, VSP agreed to refer questions regarding its operations to ATF.

    Richmond Police spokeswoman Kirsten Nelson e-mailed her response to questions about the apparent sting operation.

    "I have done some checking and as I said on the phone, the gun show was not in our jurisdiction," Nelson wrote, "so I have no record of our officers' participation."

    Gelles said the participation of Richmond Police officers in the operation has already been documented, by Richmond Police officers.

    "My own Richmond City Police officers that are there, that I hire for my security purposes, told me that they saw 14 (Richmond City Police officers) on Saturday in plain clothes," Gelles said.

    Lt. Doug Perry with Henrico County Police acknowledged that his department's officers took part in the operation, but he would not say how many participated.

    "We wouldn't normally release that anyway. That's part of our operational plan, the number of officers involved," Perry said. "We're not on overtime when we're doing that so it wouldn't be public information."

    Both Nelson and Perry also referred Cybercast News Service to ATF for more information.

    One gun show exhibitor said he counted 72 uniformed and plainclothes officers and agents in and around the vehicles near the entrance to the building. Gelles claimed that an unidentified officer tried to stop the exhibitor from counting the number of law enforcement personnel present, but walked away when the exhibitor refused.

    While normal attendance at her two-day show is nearly 4,000, Gelles said she attracted approximately 2,300 the weekend of Aug. 13 and 14, costing Showmasters.us more than $7,000.

    'There's no way that's legal'

    "They did something else, which is highly illegal," Gelles charged. "They did something called a residency check."

    Gelles explained that, when gun dealers took the paperwork to the Virginia State Police on-site office to complete the background checks on prospective buyers, ATF agents copied the names, home addresses and telephone numbers of the applicants.

    Philip Van Cleave, president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, told Cybercast News Service that he has received numerous complaints alleging that as handgun buyers were waiting for their National Instant Check System (NICS) background investigations to be completed, ATF was secretly conducting the so-called "residency checks."

    According to the complaints he received, Van Cleave said officers were dispatched to the homes of the prospective gun buyers to speak with family members, asking for example: "Gee, did you know your husband was going to a gun show today? Do you have his cell phone number? Did you know he was buying a gun?

    "If people weren't home they, in some cases, went to neighbors" to ask the same questions, Van Cleave said.

    "I'm not an attorney but, I'll tell you what, in my opinion that would be a violation of federal law," Van Cleave said. "To go off on a fishing trip with that information, much less sharing information like that with neighbors, there's no way that's legal."

    Title 18 Section 923 of the U.S. Code concerns the licensing of gun dealers and appears to support Van Cleave's position. It contains the following restrictions on the information collected during the process of a gun purchase:

    "(g)(3)(B) Except in the case of forms and contents thereof regarding a purchaser who is prohibited by [federal law] from receipt of a firearm, the department of State police or State law enforcement agency or local law enforcement agency of the local jurisdiction shall not disclose any such form or the contents thereof to any person or entity, and shall destroy each such form and any record of the contents thereof no more than 20 days from the date such form is received."

    VSP's Geller could not comment on the "residency checks," but said the ATF did not get gun buyers' addresses from her agency. "I can assure you, they weren't getting it from our records," Geller said, "because we don't take addresses."

    In fact, the "Department of State Police - Virginia Firearms Transaction Record" form asks for the purchaser's name, date of birth, Social Security or driver's license number and citizenship status. No other identifying information, such as addresses or telephone numbers is requested.

    But ATF Form 4473, the "Firearms Transaction Record Part I - Over-The-Counter," does request the purchaser's address. Those forms are kept together as part of a "buyer's packet" when the VSP form is submitted for the NICS check.

    Erich Pratt, communications director for Gun Owners of America (GOA), told Cybercast News Service that these types of allegations against ATF are exactly why GOA members opposed the NICS background check when it was initially proposed.

    "Whenever you force good people to jump through hoops before they exercise their rights, you give rogue bureaucrats a chance to harass decent citizens," Pratt said.

    "We have a Bill of Rights because government does not always act in our best interest," he continued. "Rather than being spied upon, the American people should be the ones questioning family members and neighbors - not of gun owners - but of these rogue bureaucrats."

    ATF agent allegedly 'got quite rude' with gun show customer

    James Lalime, who works part time for a gun dealer, was attending the Richmond show on his own. He had brought two firearms and part of a third from his personal collection to offer for sale at the show, which is legal and does not require a federal firearms license (FFL) or local business license.

    Lalime claims a man approached him and verbally identified himself as an ATF agent but did not show his credentials or badge.

    "He was accusing me of running a business and telling me that I needed to get a business license if I was going to sell firearms," Lalime charged.

    The agent allegedly had state police check Lalime's driver's license and learned that it was suspended. He said he was placed in the back of a police car and questioned by the agent while the suspension was investigated.

    "He kept asking me all kinds of questions: 'How often do you buy guns? When do you buy guns? When was the last time you bought a gun? How many guns did you buy the last time you bought guns?'" Lalime continued. "All that is irrelevant and I told him that. I said, 'That's my personal business.'"

    Lalime was released when it was learned that his license was valid and the alleged suspension was caused by a computer error. He went back into the gun show and told Gelles about the encounter and she suggested that Lalime get the agent's name.

    When he found the agent, who identified himself as Special Agent Brian McComas, Lalime claims McComas tried to intimidate him.

    "He said, 'You know you're making a big deal about nothing,' and I said, 'No sir, I am not,'" Lalime explained. "Then he got right in my face, almost touching his chest to mine, in real threatening posture, and said, 'You're making a real big mistake.'"

    Lalime claims Swann interrupted the confrontation and the two federal officers walked away. "Once I got over the initial shock, it really made me angry," Lalime said.

    ATF is 'out of the residency check business'

    Gelles and her attorneys were in Washington, D.C., Aug. 15 to meet with ATF officials and seek an explanation for what happened over the weekend. After talking with several people in the ATF headquarters, Gelles said she finally spoke with a supervisor, whom she would not identify, who assured her that ATF "is out of the residency check business, effective immediately."

    She was hesitant to give further details about the meeting in the event that a lawsuit is filed over the agency's actions.

    In addition to the $7,000 she said she lost from reduced attendance at the show, Gelles added that she has already spent more than $12,000 in legal fees trying to prevent a repeat of the ATF operation of Aug. 13 and 14 and other previous incidents of what she considers improper agency behavior.

    Van Cleave said his groups will be "watching in Virginia with a microscope to make sure that nothing like this ever happens again.

    "If they do it again, we'll get active in contacting the ATF, the police and the media," Van Cleave warned. "If they break their word on this and start this crap again, then we will be in touch with the media."

    After more than a half-dozen calls by Cybercast News Service seeking comment for this article, an ATF spokesman said the agency was "still gathering information" about the events of Aug. 13 and 14 and would not be able to comment until sometime on Tuesday.
     
  2. tulsamal

    tulsamal Member

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    There is a truly "massive" thread dealing with this already. Look for "Outrage in Richmond."

    Gregg
     
  3. kbr80

    kbr80 member

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    :banghead: :banghead:

    Still gathering information, my arse. And it is way past Tuesday.
     
  4. GhostRider66

    GhostRider66 Member

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    The thread deals with the initial report of this and has gotten quite out of hand. This one deals with an entirely new report and I think should stay independent. (Does my vote count here? ;) )
     
  5. Double Maduro

    Double Maduro Member

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    GhostRider66,

    While it is a new report, there is no new information in it.

    I agree the other thread has gotten out of hand. Maybe this one could deal only with the facts and not the rhetoric?

    Maybe we could keep this thread for what is known and not what is believed?

    DM
     
  6. gunsmith

    gunsmith member

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    I want to know what really happened

    I tend to trust VCDL though...
    I vote for keeping this thread open if we can manage to keep it civil....
     
  7. Fly320s

    Fly320s Member

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    Now that is how a news article should be written. :D

    All facts and quotes, with the facts being researched and verified by the author. Plus, I didn't detect any bias on the author's part.

    Great job Jeff Johnson and CNSnews. :D :D
     
  8. cropcirclewalker

    cropcirclewalker member

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    I personally emailed Jeff (the author) asking if he had heard anything from ATF (since it's way past Tuesday) and he responded.

    A good guy. (Probably disqualifies him as being in the Managed Media, deigning to talk to a common rabble)

    Anyway, he claims to be working on an update. He has been calling ATF repeatedly and still awaits a statement.
     
  9. publius

    publius Member

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    Gee...

    Why won't our employees explain themselves? Why, after all this time, is there still only one source? Shouldn't there be some kind of official word on exactly what they were doing in this operation?

    I'm thinking it's time for ALL of us to write our Congresscritters and write the ATF and ask for an explanation of this incident.
     
  10. BeLikeTrey

    BeLikeTrey Guest

    YES please keep this one open and limit it to FACT FINDING

    I gave up on the other thread.

    I'll make this statement in this thread too...

    I noticed everyone said they'd be watching the ATF and seeing what happens. Any one else think that "wait and see" is a mistake? I think we need to use this opportunity to get a legal ruling on a recent and hot issue... Striking while the iron is hot so to speak. "Wait and see" doesn't resolve the abuse it just leaves an opening for another occurrence. I really didn't understand the logic behind VCDL's statements on watching...
     
  11. The Real Hawkeye

    The Real Hawkeye member

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    Wow! Reading that article reminded me of scenes from Enemies Foreign and Domestic. Really frightening. Especially the attempt at intimidation, "Then he got right in my face, almost touching his chest to mine, in real threatening posture, and said, 'You're making a real big mistake.'" Scary stuff, especially coming from a Federal Agent. When an agent of the Federal Government speaks to you in an official capacity like that (Something that would ordinarily warrant a punch in the nose), that's practically the definition of despotism. The Federal Government can ruin your life at a whim, or even make you disappear without any due process. It happens all the time. We definitely need to get rid of this out of control government agency. This needs to be at the top of our list of priorities if we're to preserve any semblance of liberty in this country.
     
  12. RavenVT100

    RavenVT100 Member

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    In New Jersey, the purchase of even a single firearm involves "everything you see here--" residency check, calls to references and employers, and other intrusive measures.

    I'm used to this, and people in my state are apathetic to it. So you can imagine how happy I am to see that people in other states won't put up with this crap.
     
  13. publius

    publius Member

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    Hmm... So New Jersey discriminates against the homeless and the unemployed when it comes to the right to buy arms? How very un-leftist of them. :neener:
     
  14. RavenVT100

    RavenVT100 Member

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    That's correct. Your employer and the address of said employer are requested, at which point the employer will be contacted and asked if it's okay for you to own a gun. Also if you're a racial minority, live with racial minorities, or know people who might be connected with crime (but are of course not a criminal yourself) you will forget about owning firearms here. I have met very few people who are not white who went through the vetting process in NJ and did not suffer some sort of racial discrimination or purpose delay on the part of the police.

    Forget what you thought about the Democratic party wanting to empower minorities. That's a bunch of crap. They want to empower them to the point where they'll vote Democrat and after that point all bets are off.
     
  15. publius

    publius Member

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    That explains everything. The AFT agents were visiting Virginia from New Jersey. ;)
     
  16. hammer4nc

    hammer4nc Member

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    A general comment: This case illustrates perfectly why MJTF's (multi-jurisdictional task forces) are loved by leos, and also ripe for abuse. When an abuse occurs, the different agencies play the finger pointing game at each other...end result: no one is held responsible.

    Likewise, MJTF's usually involve federal grants to local enforcement agencies, so the locals agencies don't have to be accountable to their citizens for expenses incurred on these boondoggles. Hey, posting dozens of officers on an op that yields zip, but is meant to intimidate, is just peachy... if the feds are picking up the tab, right?
     
  17. R.H. Lee

    R.H. Lee Member

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    Sounds like somebody somewhere is trying to build a 'get tough on crime' rep by attempting to close the 'gun show loophole' which is responsible for 'flooding the streets with dangerous assault weapons that spray bullets at schools' :barf:
     
  18. Bubbles

    Bubbles Member

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    There is a thread on GlockTalk.com where a member has posted pics of documents he received from the VA State Police regarding his FOIA request about this event. Interesting reading.

    Even more interesting is that it looks like the "residency checks" have been going on for a year.
     
  19. cropcirclewalker

    cropcirclewalker member

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    Fact finding, Fact finding.

    Like I said in the other string, I am doubting that this Gang Related operation really took place. I searched the Richmond Times Dispatch in what they call their Police Beat or something like that

    http://www.timesdispatch.com/servle...age/RTD_SectionFront&c=Page&cid=1031782497910

    from Aug 14 to present and did not see evidence of any arrests for anything related to the gun show. Maybe they are keeping the arrests secret for national security. Maybe VSP arrests don't rate the news in Richmond.

    A few posters at GlockTalk above the one pasting the VSP letter showed an obviously photoshopped picture of all the cop cars with a superimposed group photo of some police softball team or something. Including the K9 mascot.

    Cute.

    How do I know that this VSP letter wasn't photoshopped? Did the worm turn?

    I guess now it's my turn......where is the evidence of these alleged arrests?

    Managed Media is preferred. Some of youse guys with search skills and findlaw.com and like that should be able to turn up something.

    I can tell y'all this much. If they were doing "residency checks" of voters on election day in a democrat precinct there would be hell to pay.
     
  20. Titus

    Titus Member

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    Do what I did and head on over to www.vcdl.org and click on that Donate to VCDL link!
     
  21. Standing Wolf

    Standing Wolf Member in memoriam

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    How despicable!
     
  22. cropcirclewalker

    cropcirclewalker member

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    Mr. DMF, Double Maduro, Help Please

    Cheese.

    I yam not asking for evidence of convictions, even though some of these "residency checks" took place many months ago.

    I logged onto Glocktalk again for verification. The Jpeg I looked at is gone or I would have linked it here. A new .pdf document replaced it

    http://glocktalk.com/attachment.php?postid=4794644

    Not counting the most recent "event" in August, page 4 of that document claims 51 arrests arising out of their "residency checks". I have logged onto the atf website and they like to list their accomplishments.

    I yam just a dumb a$$ed citizen. Could you, Mr. DMF, or somebody else with skill or access please post a link to where these arrests were fruitful?

    43 firearms confiscated. Where is the link with corroboration?

    Mr. Double Maduro, where are you when we need you?

    Are all of these "address miscreants" down at Gitmo?
     
  23. makanut

    makanut Member

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    Your employer will be called and asked if it's ok for you to go to the church of your choice. F******g communists! :cuss:
     
  24. KLR

    KLR Member

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    Those records will likely be on file with the U.S. District Court in that district. Get (pay for) access to Lexis-Nexis or Pacer and you can do it from the comfort of your home. Go in person and the research is free.
     
  25. Titus

    Titus Member

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    Reading the documents that dbrowne posted, it seems the ATF has a different idea of work-appropriate dress than I was brought up with... Real professional there!

    And "Twenty-one individuals were deterred from making purchases due to questioning by Task Force members." I'd like to hear more about that one.
     
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