Red’s manager Ryan Horsley
A team of inspectors from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives fled an Idaho gun shop where they were inspecting sales records when they learned their actions were being recorded on a blog.
The federal agency and Red’s Trading Post of Twin Falls, Idaho, have been disputing for six years already over the store’s license to sell firearms, with regulators using rules infractions such as a missing poster to attack Red’s business operations.
Now the federal agency has gone to court with a report that its inspectors “suspended” their work at the store recently because of the “threat to the inspectors’ safety created by Ryan Horsley, the Manager of Red’s.”
Sometime during the agency’s visit to his store on July 17, he updated his blog, which he’s been using to chronicle for readers his encounters with the federal bureaucracy.
“AFT Area Supervisor Linda Young came in today from Spokane, Washington (567.72 miles; 9 hour drive) along with Industry Operations Inspectors Calvin Pavey and Mike Gorewicz from Portland, Oregon (570.96 miles; 9 hour drive) at around 9:45am. They showed up in a rented newer model Chrsyler … [it] appears they are staying at Best America Suites, which I have to compliment them on their taste, that is a very nice hotel for this area,” he wrote.
He went on to describe how the inspectors were looking through the store’s books and one of the store’s supporters arrived with a camera and started taking some photos.
“We had been recording the audit because of some of the statements that Linda Young had made in the past,” he wrote.
The inspectors, however, suddenly left, and within days, the federal agency’s version arrived in the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho.
“[The federal agency] notifies the court than an inspection of Red’s Trading Post … was initiated on July 17, 2007. The inspection was suspended due to the threat to the inspectors’ safety created by Ryan Horsley, the Manager of Red’s,” the court filing said.
The filing documented how some unidentified person had taken pictures of the inspectors at work.
“At about this time, Supervisor Young’s assistant from the Spokane office contacted her and advised that Mr. Horsley had updated his internet blog (http://redstradingpost.blogspot.com/) to include the information that ATF, and Supervisor Young personally, was at the store conducting an inspection,” the filing said. So Young contacted others.
“The Director of Industry Operations, Richard Van Loan, agreed with Supervisor Young’s assessment that the photographing of the rental car used by ATF personnel, coupled with the instantaneous posting on the internet of ATF’s presence … posed a credible threat to their safety and was designed to harass and intimidate,” the court filing said.
The court filing noted two other times when the inspectors had been photographed, including once by a news team.
“The ATF has resorted to a smear campaign on my character to present before the judge, they are now spinning the fact that I wrote a recap of the events on our blog…” Horsley said in an update.
“My point was to show the excess spending of the ATF, many of you know that in our 2005 audit the ATF brought in one inspector to cover five years. I was merely pointing out that they were flying in two inspectors and a supervisor from out of state to cover three weeks worth of paperwork,” Horsley said.
“The person in question who photographed them was a 70-year-old man in a Hawaiian shirt who is balding (Sorry, Al) and has a broken foot. Yet three inspectors felt that they were in danger,” he saida.
“Continue to pray for myself and my family during these attacks, also pray for these people at the ATF. I mean that honestly, Luke 6:27-28,” Horsley said.
A writer, David Codrea, of The War on Guns documented the court filing.
He reported that Horsley had asked him to hold the information for a time.
“BATFU had threatened him that he needed to cease all blogging and keep their agents and inspectors free from being photographed or observed, or they would go to the judge and file a complaint of harassment,” Codrea wrote.
“The new complaint is calculated to be a death blow to Red’s – both financially with additional legal expenses they cannot afford, and by giving the judge an excuse to side with thugs portraying themselves as victims,” he said.
“I repeat my call for a rapid response team of ‘minuteman’ volunteers to make themselves available via a phone tree to go to gun stores being audited, and audit/document/photograph the auditors,” he wrote. “Don’t let creatures of the shadows hide there – expose them to the light and make them live there – or cravenly slink back under the baseboards where they belong.”
Larry Pratt of Gun Owners of America told WND that as recently as 15 or 20 years ago, there were 250,000 licensed gun dealers in the United States. The federal government confirms there are only about 108,000 now.
The saga with Red’s began when the ATF inspection in 2000 discovered various paperwork violations, Horsley said, just shortly after he arrived to take over the store, mistakes such as a customer failing to write down the county in which he lived.
In 2001, “they couldn’t find any violations,” he told WND. A few other minor problems were found later, including a failure to put up a poster.
“I wasn’t alarmed because this agent … had told us we were one of the best small gun shops he’d ever seen,” Horsley told WND.
Then early in 2006, “We get a letter that ‘We’re [ATF] revoking your license,’” Horsley said. “I just came unglued. I couldn’t believe it.”
After an expensive appeal process within ATF, he ended up with the same result, and sought out a lawyer for the federal court challenge, a challenge which now is pending.