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California gun parts supplier fights ATF over customer’s names

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A Southern California supplier of firearms components has obtained a temporary restraining order in U.S. District Court against the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives over an effort by ATF agents to obtain a list of their customers, according to KSWB/Fox 5 News in San Diego, and the agency has until today to file an opposition to that court motion.

The company, Ares Armor, is seeking a preliminary injunction against the agency and has also filed a complaint for deprivation of civil rights, naming ATF Director B. Todd Jones as a defendant.

District Court Judge Janis L. Sammartino issued the order allowing ATF to oppose the Ares motion by Friday, and is then allowing Ares to respond by Monday at 9 a.m. The judge also set a 1:30 p.m. preliminary injunction hearing next Thursday.

At issue, according to Fox 5 News, are allegations that Ares has sold thousands of “80 percent” lower receivers with which people may build their own AR-type rifles. As noted by the news agency, “It is legal to build a rifle from scratch without serial numbers only if the base is manufactured to ATF specifications." The ATF wants the names of those clients and Ares does not want to give them those names.

My colleagues Kurt Hofmann and David Codrea are also digging into this unfolding story today.

But there is apparently some dispute whether the receiver blanks sold by the company are 80-percenters.
According to Fox 5 News, ATF is claiming “a manufacturer made an 80-percent receiver in plastic with a different material and colors which show exactly where the customer can drill making it easier and cheaper to build (a rifle).” That, reportedly says ATF, is illegal.

In an open letter on the Ares Armor website regarding the situation, CEO Dimitrios Karras stated, “The BATFE has Raided EP Armory based on incorrect information about EP Armory’s manufacturing process. The determination letter written by the BATFE incorrectly classified the EP Armory product as a firearm based on faulty information. The BATFE was under the impression that EP Armory was making a firearm and then reverting back to the 80% stage by filling in the fire-control cavity. At no point during the manufacturing process by EP Armory is a weapon made and then reverted. The solid fire-control cavity is built first and the rest of the 80% casting is made around this ‘core’ specifically so that their product at no time could be considered to be a firearm.”

That open letter spells out in detail Karras’ objections to the ATF action, and why his company is pursuing legal action.

According to the Fox 5 report, the ATF wants to seize all of the 80-percent lower receiver blanks and the names of people who have purchased those items, estimated to be a record of some 5,000 people. Karras told the reporter, “They were going to search all of our facilities and confiscate our computer and pretty much shut our business down.”

Earlier this week, Hofmann reported on the raid at EP Armory that appears to have ignited this chain of events.

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