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ATF Hearings – more info

CNSNews has more, including the tale of a man who was ruined by the ATF for no good reason:

After he was processed as a federal prisoner, Lara was released on his own recognizance, but now was unemployed and the recipient of intense media scrutiny, awaiting his day in court.

“I lost over $216,000 in saving and earnings. I had to refinance my home to help pay the bills and the attorney’s fees,” Lara recalled. “Three months after my arrest, my case went to trial. At the end of the trial, the jury deliberated less than one hour before finding me innocent of the charges.”

Lara would wait two more months for his badge to be returned to him. But the ATF prosecution did not end when he resumed his police career.

“On my first day back to work I was given a 40-hour suspension without pay for ‘criminal activity’ because I had been indicted,” Lara continued. “My professional career is shot. It’s now been three years after the event and I am still a patrol lieutenant. It was made clear to me when I returned to work that I would never see any advancement.”

There’s no excuse for that. And one more:

Richard Gardiner, a Virginia attorney and an expert in federal firearms laws who often represents FFLs and gun owners under ATF scrutiny, argued that Lara’s case is actually closer to being the rule than the exception.

“The ATF tends to focus or has a significant focus on trivial, immaterial violations which are unrelated to public safety,” Gardiner said. “And they impose unreasonable standards of perfection which are simply not humanly achievable.”

As an example, Gardiner recalled an ATF review of 880 “Firearms Transaction Record Part I – Over-The-Counter” forms collected by one of his gun dealer clients. Of the 34,320 blocks of information collected on those documents, ATF found 19 clerical errors.

“That is a 99.96 percent perfect completion record,” Gardiner noted. “Yet ATF took the position that, because the dealer was aware — based on the fact that he had completed 99.96 percent of the forms accurately — that he committed a ‘willful violation’ with regard to the other four one-hundredths of a percent because he knew what his legal obligations were.”

The bureau revoked that gun dealer’s license and closed his business.

Update: OK, my new favorite:

Federal courts have often sided with ATF’s interpretation that the term “willful” means only that the gun dealer had prior knowledge of a requirement and, subsequent to gaining that knowledge, violated it, with or without intent. Gardiner told of cases where ATF identified customer responses of “Y” or “N” rather than “yes” or “no” in written responses to questions as “willful violations” on the part of gun dealers under investigation. Other dealers lost their licenses, Gardiner said, because customers had accurately listed their street address, city, state and zip code, but failed to include their county of residence.

11 Responses to “ATF Hearings – more info”

  1. Bob Says:

    Hey uncle, you have the ATFs atention now. They are watching you.

  2. SayUncle Says:

    And what makes you say that?

  3. 308Mike Says:

    These instances more reasons why BATFE needs to get booted. I encourage everyone to get involved to highlight the abuses of this rogue agency and either get it cleaned up or dismantled altogether. They’ve already demonstrated they can’t be trusted. has a campaign going on right now to do just that.

  4. Captain Holly Says:

    Call me a Pollyanna, but I found a bright spot in the statement of the ATFE deputy director:
    Apparently there are over 105,000 FFL licensees in the US.

    IIRC, during the long nightmare of the Clinton Administration, that number dipped to about 79,000.

    Just looking for the Silver Lining….:-)

  5. Lyle Says:

    While we’re on the subject of willful violations of law, there is this litte, obscure bit of law to consider;

    “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of The People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” – the Constitution of the United States of America, Amendment 2.

    It is time for the harmful legacy of the FDR administration to end. I suggest buying them off as the most painless way to achieve it. Give them all a really big retirement package and send them home. See BATFE employees? I’m on your side.

  6. Homer Says:

    Anyone know if that Richard Gardiner is the same Richard Gardiner that was ILA’s staff attorney back in the mid ’80s?

  7. JP Says:

    Hey Uncle,

    Does any part of the BATFE budget derive from fines and/or confiscated property? I ask, because years ago I was told that another agency [won’t name because I don’t know if it was true] was funded primarily through fines. The person who explained this to me [10+ years ago] claimed this was the reason this other agency went after small fish, rather than big fish. Small fish [like a small business, or small town government] are more likely to pay the fine, thus generating revenue. Big fish [like a corporation or a larger munincipality] are more likely to challenge; the big fish would be less likely to pay a large fine, and the agency would be tied up in court [investigators garnering OT pay while testifying].

    Wal-mart sells guns. Heck, even the Base Exchange here does. I wonder if their accuracy falls within the 99.96-99.99% range. Yet the BATFE goes after mom & pop outfits. Unless, of course, I’m uninformed and Wal-mart a) is 100% accurate, or b) used their lawyers to broker a better deal when they were caught in the willful violation technicality dragnet.

    Now, if BATFE gets zero from fines and confiscated property, then what’s the motivation? Padding the stats? As an E-6 on active duty, I’ve got my share of performance reports to write. Shutting down XX number of willful violators who transferred XXX number of firearms can look pretty good on paper. Throw in some catch phrases like assualt rifle and high capacity and illegal in twelve states, and perhaps that promotion is on the horizon. And you’re not going to pad your stats going after someone with deep pockets and some expert lawyers.

    I just can’t see the actions of individual agents — spread out of the entire country — stemming from an anti-gun agenda throughout the bureau. There would be a whistleblower. Or thirty of them. Maybe the management pushes the “team” mentality, and stresses that every fine/conviction/revocation helps keep them relevant in the post-9/11 world. You know, like the local police chief telling his cops to “catch more speeders.” Next thing you know, on that 45mph straight away where everyone did closer to 55mph… now folks get points on the license if they’re over 50mph.

    But it’s not-a-freaking-speeding-ticket. We’re not talking about ruining someone’s perfect driving record and driving their insurance up a few bucks a month; this is devastating people’s entire lives. Why? Why wouldn’t some agent at some point become conscience stricked and say, “Enough!” In my job, there are certain things handled in-house, and certain things where I’d walk right to the phone booth and call the Inspector General with no hesitation. Does the entire BATFE community see this as just part of the job, ma’am? Have they sold their souls?

    Come to think about it, another rumor I heard years ago is that the FBI is staffed mainly by lawyers and accountants; that the average field agent is more likely to have been a law school grad than a beat cop. Not that one can’t be both.

    If the average BATFE agent has a law degree, maybe the “selling souls” theory holds some water.

    Sorry for the long post. Got on a roll.

  8. SayUncle Says:

    JP, tend to doubt it as I don’t know of them selling things they confiscate. But it could be.

  9. JP Says:

    How ’bout fines. If you’re a willful violator and pay a fine, does it enhance the BATFE budget?

  10. Mr. Bruce Says:

    Something’s missing. How did Lara come to the attention of the ATF? He purchased a gun, intending to give it to a friend as a gift. The ATF lists this exact scenario as legit, on its own webpage about the 4473 form!

    Not an exact quote, but close enough:

    Mr. Brown uses his own money to buy a gun as a gift for Mr. Black. Mr. Brown is the purchaser.

    I’m confused. Why would the ATF single out this legitimate transaction for review, investigation and trial?

  11. Mr. Bruce Says:

    Ah, the power of Google.



    In short, Lara bought a Glock, using some of his own money and some of his friend’s money–straw purchase.

    And, supplied the friend with a LEO hi-cap magazine. In 2003. Oops.

    The friend’s nephew was busted for marijuana possession, and the gun turned up during a search of the residence. Since AZ has no gun registration laws, I would imagine that the gun trace got kicked to the ATF or it may have been the LEO magazine that got the most attention.

    Anyhow, this story is messier than was reported by CNS.