Raiding EP Armory, in Bakersfield, California is apparently not enough for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Now, they are after Ares Armor, a gun shop in Oceanside, California that carries some EP Armory products, including their polymer 80% complete AR-15 lower receivers. From Fox5 San Diego:
Dimitrios Karras, owner of Ares Armor, said the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents were investigating their business, not for what they sell, but for the people who purchase their products.
Karras said the ATF threatened to shutter their business if they didn’t hand over the names of 5,000 customers who have purchased an 80 percent lower receiver (the base) for building an AR-15.
This time, though, with the benefit of the warning provided by the raid on EP Armory, the BATFE's intended victim was prepared, with Ares filing an injunction to halt the raid.
In anticipation of a raid, they filed a temporary restraining order against the ATF, stopping them from confiscating their property, Karras said. The ATF has a certain amount of time to respond. If the two parties do not reach a compromise, they will be in court for a preliminary hearing March 20.
From the temporary restraining order complaint filed by Ares' attorney, we get an idea of the BATFE's rationale. Readers may remember from Monday's article that EP Armory's polymer 80% lower receivers have a unique feature in that the material to be removed by milling and/or drilling is a different color from the material that is to be left untouched--thus making it easy to do the machining, even without a jig. The BATFE apparently believes (or is attempting to appear to believe) that in the manufacturing process, the frame was made first, then the differently colored material that is to be removed by the buyer was added. If that were the case, then at the point before the addition, the 80% complete receiver was complete, legally speaking, if only very temporarily--except that by law, there is no "temporarily" when it comes to guns--once a gun, always a gun, and thus always subject to all the legal hoops that apply to guns.
The problem with BATFE's argument is that EP Armory anticipated that pitfall, and designed their manufacturing process around it. From the restraining order complaint (page 14):
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.
Even were it true that the frame of the receiver were made first, without the cavity filled in, it would seem rather pettily vindictive of the BATFE to take action against the company--it's not as if EP Armory has been accused of distributing the receivers at that point in the manufacturing process. Unfortunately, "pettily vindictive" perfectly describes some of the BATFE's least objectionable qualities.
Regardless, that doesn't matter, because the receivers were not manufactured that way, and what EP Armory has been making, and Ares Armor has been selling, are not guns, and have never been guns. Since they are also not alcohol, tobacco or explosives (and not ammunition), the BATFE has precisely zero jurisdiction over them, and their demands for Ares' customer list are utterly illegitimate.
Yesterday, National Gun Rights Examiner David Codrea reported on this as well, noting a possible connection between the BATFE's aggressive (impermissibly aggressive) pursuit of EP Armory and those they do business with, and an alleged illegal gun manufacturing operation centered in Sacramento, by two suspected illegal aliens.
There may very well be such a connection. That, however, would obviously change nothing about the BATFE's lack of authority over non-guns, or the grotesque illegitimacy of violating the privacy of all the purchasers of the incomplete receivers.
The temporary restraining order is a reprieve, but, obviously, a temporary one. Whether or not the court will make it permanent is open to question, but when that question is answered, we will also know more about the legitimacy of the court itself.
Update: Seattle Gun Rights Examiner Dave Workman has more, in "California gun shop fights ATF over customer’s names."
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