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BATFE Harassing Gun Show Buyers?

1341 Views 8 Replies 7 Participants Last post by  TonySoprano
From the Virginia Citizens Defense League:

BATFE sinks to new low in Richmond

I purposely put this under "All United States" because what BATFE did here in Richmond, VA was supposedly a model for what might be coming to the rest of the states. I hope it is now quashed, but I suggest that gun organizations across the country have their eyes open for this abuse in their own state:

For VCDL's VA-ALERT today:

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (BATFE), who seem to go out of their way to alienate gun owners with their heavy-handedness, behaved in a shameful manner this last weekend at the Showmasters' gun show in Richmond.

I had reports from members of police going to their houses while the member was waiting for their approval to purchase a gun at the show! The police asked the spouse and other family members questions about the purchases and filled in a survey! "Did you know your husband was going to a gun show today?" "Did you know your husband was going to buy a gun today?" and many other such questions.

If no one was home at the gun purchaser's house, the police went to the neighbors! "Did you know that your neighbor was buying a gun today? How do you feel about him doing so?"

One member, who was carrying a personal gun to sell, was approached by BATFE and taken to a car while they checked him out. The officer said in front of Showmasters' management, "Did you know you need a business license to sell a gun at this show? I have seen you at a lot of shows - are you in the business of selling guns? I think you are." That's called a fishing expedition and intimidation. In the end they let the VCDL member go because their fish hooks came up empty.

They had over 17 BATFE agents at that show. Richmond and Henrico had a large number of officers running to the homes of anyone purchasing a handgun to ask questions.

I guess Mayor Wilder is flush with cash all of a sudden. Too bad he didn't use that money to put all those cops into the rougher neighborhoods of Richmond, instead of harassing the decent citizens who buy guns at a gun show.

And, if you are sitting down, the main BATFE agent at the show told Showmasters' management that Richmond was going to be the model for this kind of behavior across the nation!!!


Steve Elliott, who heads up C&E Gun Shows and is affiliated with Showmasters, along with Annette Gelles, who heads up Showmasters, went to Washington with some lawyers to get this straightened out on Monday. (BTW, Steve told me that he has spent in excess of $10,000 this year on legal fees fighting this kind of abuse.)

Steve and Annette were told by the BATFE in DC that BATFE would no longer be sending officers to people's houses who were purchasing a firearm and that what happened in Richmond should not have happened.

We will be watching carefully to see if BATFE keeps its word or not. Report any such abuse immediately to VCDL, along with the officer's name, badge number, and department.

Philip Van Cleave, President, VCDL
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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
I'm reporting this for discussion as it came to me in an eList.

I don't live anywhere near VA, so I have no idea about the validity of the story. I do have a hard time believing that they would put as much resources as would be necessary to connect local PD to NICS checks and hit the road so fast that they could pull this off to harass people.

Anyone with more 1st hand info available on this?

e.g. I'm in MA and the two gun shows that I sometimes attend here are 50 and 100 miles from home. I've only ever bought one cartridge handgun at a gun show (have bought a couple of air pistols too) in my 29 years of shooting (gun show prices usually suck). But if the local PD knocks on my door, my Wife is usually with me at the gun shows, the PD knows that I am a Constable (LE), own guns (we need a permit here just to think about guns) and once served on the PD as a Special/Reserve PO (for ~18 years). However, if they visit my neighbors there would be trouble . . . one is a nasty senile old man (troublemaker), another is a convicted drug dealer (who I don't want to know anything about me) and all but one are your typical sheeple (that one is a Russian who wants me to take him shooting my AK-47/SAR-1 . . . once I finally get around to cleaning off the ton of cosmo that Century shipped it with).

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This jives with what I was told by a co-worker who attended the show. I don't usually go to this show - mostly antique and military surplus at high prices. So, I wasn't there, this time. If true, that seems to me to be quite an invasion of privacy, particularly the part about knocking on doors and volunteering information to strangers about one's Constitutionally-protected rights.

Edited to add: I will be talking with Representative Cantor and Senators Allen and Warner about this, if I can get confirmation of the rumors.

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25,596 Posts
From the way it comes over in report info we have so far - this appears an EXTREME invasion of privacy. Would hardly seem to need too much tinfoil to imagine no-knocks being carried out! What are things coming to?

(Rhetorical question!)

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ATF, Virginia Police Accused of 'Persecuting' Gun Shows
By Jeff Johnson Senior Staff Writer
August 23, 2005

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

( - 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, 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."

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 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.

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Some thoughts:

It was a federal operation, so the local LEA's involved cannot comment on their participation.

The ATF agents at the show did not perform any of the residency checks. They had the local LEA's do that. It would be perfectly accurate for the ATF to declare that they are not in the residency check business, and violated no law by noting the information provided on the submitted forms.

I heard a spokeswoman for the ATF on the radio, yesterday, say that local LEA's may have exceeded their authority in the residency checks, but the ATF has no control over the local LEA's.

The operation was supposed to target straw purchasers. Although only a fraction of the officers involved were actually at the show, the total number of officers involved in the operation works out to be about one officer for every five attendees. Not a single arrest was made. I am estimating that the operation cost the taxpayers at least $100,000 when you take time and equipment into consideration.

An ATF agent at the show was quoted by a vendor as saying that the Richmond operation was a model for ATF operations at shows around the country. It will be interesting to see if anything changes.

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OK, I'm going to get on a rant here...but since we are talking about out of control Gubmint Agencies...can I start with: IRS, SCOTUS, Congress, USPS (what;s a stamp mpw 37 cents?) DMV (whatever state you live in you hate them) and all the Police CHiefs and Sheriffs that think only they should have a gun.
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