A federal district court judge in California put a proverbial foot down yesterday in a case between a gun parts supply company and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, ordering the shop not to “destroy, transfer, sell, or otherwise divest themselves” of inventory and ordering ATF to file a response to the store’s motion for a temporary restraining order (TRO) before 9 a.m. Monday, while the company fights to keep its customer files confidential.
Court documents offer new details in the case, which is also being covered by National Gun Rights Examiner David Codrea today. Ares Armor has named ATF Director B. Todd Jones as a defendant in its motion.
BULLETIN: It appears the Ares Armor store in Oceanside was raided Saturday morning, according to this YouTube video. The action may be allowed under the language of the judge’s Friday order, which notes, “the Court’s March 11, 2014 TRO DOES NOT ENJOIN lawful criminal proceedings, including the application for or lawfully executed seizure of evidence and contraband pursuant to a search warrant issued by a sworn United States Magistrate Judge…”
According to the Ares Armor Facebook page, the Oceanside store was reopened Saturday afternoon. Reaction to the video is blistering.
In an ex parte application for an order “extending injunction to prevent divestment of subject matter” of the TRO, the ATF is asserting that Lycurgan, Inc., doing business as Ares Armor, “is not a federal firearms licensee, so it cannot legally engage in the business of dealing firearms, let alone ones that do not bear the required manufacturer’s mark and serial number.”
Ares Armor touts itself as the “home of the 80 percent lower receivers.” It does not claim to be a firearms dealer, but is essentially a parts and accessories supplier. These so-called “80-percent receivers” are in the raw, whether made from metal (aluminum) or a polymer, and require drilling and further preparation before they can be used to house the fire controls of an AR-15 rifle. The ATF is alleging that Ares has approximately 6,000 of these “unserialized AR-15 lower receivers.” Once the lower receiver is finished, that becomes a firearm under definition of law, and it must have a serial number.
A major question in this case appears to be whether an 80-percent receiver actually constitutes a firearm, or just an unfinished component for home gunsmiths. The 80-percent blanks do are not serialized.
Further, the agency is also alleging that Ares Armor had an “agreement…in place for the voluntary surrender of the firearms,) the company “was simultaneously preparing a lawsuit and applying for a temporary restraining order preventing ATF from taking possession of this contraband. Indeed, Ares Armor’s CEO freely admits to this ruse.”
ATF quoted Ares Armor’s Dimitrios Karras, who acknowledged in a declaration that may be read online, stating, “I agreed to their terms in order to delay an impending and unjust raid against Ares Armor long enough to obtain legal protection under the law.” This was after Karras acknowledged that, “I was advised that the BATFE had offered to forego obtaining a warrant if Ares Armor was willing to:
“a. Hand over all of EP Armory’s 80% Lowers.
“b. Turn over Ares Armor customer’s private information to the BATFE.
“In exchange for turning over our customer’s private information the BATFE said that they would not ‘raid’ Ares Armor’s facilities and would not pursue ‘criminal’ charges. This made me feel as if I was being extorted.”
Ares Armor has posted a "timeline" of this dispute here.
ATF, in a footnote to its ex parte application, insists it “received no notice of either the complaint or the application for a temporary restraining order.” The claims and counter-arguments add to the confusion.
In her order yesterday, Judge Janis Lynn Sammartino ordered Ares Armor to respond to ATF’s response by Tuesday before noon.
The story has gone viral, In addition to the Fox News report of today, linked above, this dispute is getting attention from Examiners Codrea and Kurt Hofmann, Town Hall and other on-line bloggers and news observers.