A licensed gunmaker who has reported retaliatory attacks on his work by federal agents upset over his testimony on behalf of a man sent to prison for having a broken gun has ordered the government to return one of his projects.
“You have seized company property without any cause or court order to date. The company firmly demands the return of the firearm in question,” Len Savage told John Spencer and other officials at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in a letter, a copy of which was sent to WND and also later posted online at the War on Guns blog run by David Codrea.
“Therefore please return the property of the company [the firearm in question] immediately,” he wrote.
The part is intended to allow a certain type of gun to be used with a different size and less expensive ammunition. Savage, owner of Historic Arms LLC., said his part would convert the caliber of the guns to operate with ammunition that costs 1 or 2 cents per shell, instead of 25 cents or more.
He said such devices are fairly common. But he told WND he was stunned to get a letter from the BATFE stating that not only was his repair part a gun, it was a machine gun.
That conclusion came after the agency’s testing bureau added some metal pieces, a length of chain, some duct tape and plastic wires to his gun part in order to make it fire a bullet.
“The materials [BATFE] added converted the firearm submitted by Historic Arms, LLC into a machine gun; therefore, the materials constitute a machine gun receiver, a machine gun, or a conversion device,” Savage told the BATFE in an earlier letter. He then told the agency to go ahead with a proposed “forfeiture” plan so the issues could be heard publicly.
However, in yesterday’s letter, Savage told the federal agency managers, “I have not heard from you or the ATF since our last communication. … Your letter of July 22, 2008, informs the company that you were going to proceed with forfeiture proceedings. The company asked that you proceed without delay.
“The company has not received any notice of proceedings. You have seized company property without any cause or court order to date. The company firmly demands the return of the firearm in question. The company also firmly stands by its finding that the ATF applied testing methods are invalid, therefore FTB classification is also found to be invalid, and not supported by documents issued by ATF or basic common sense.”
He said the agency’s claims to forfeiture are “meritless.”
“Even your own staff documents the fact that a ‘Notice of Manufacture’ [ATF form 2] was filed by the company. There was no attempt to defraud or avoid paying tax. … Therefore please return the property of the company [the firearm in question] immediately,” he wrote.
Savage explained that the multiple components added to his gun caliber modification part very well might have allowed the discharge of a bullet. That’s what happens when a technician adds the parts of an automatic weapon to a part such as his, he said.
But he argued that doesn’t make his repair part a machine gun.
“If the criteria FTB applied to the testing of our latest submission was applied to testing the many caliber conversion uppers that are sold at retail with no restrictions, such as the .22 long rifle MAC upper made by ‘Flemming,’ (1) all of them would fire in fully automatic mode until the ammunition supply was exhausted, (2) there would be no way for the shooter to stop fire,” Savage said at the time.
Savage alleges he’s being targeted by the BATFE because of his testimony against the government when David Olofson of Berlin, Wis., was on trial for loaning to an acquaintance a gun that misfired.
His testimony in the Olofson case harshly criticized the government’s weapons testing procedures. In that case, the defendant was convicted and sentenced to 30 months in jail for loaning a rifle that misfired, letting off three bullets at one time.
The government then classified it a machine gun and convicted Olofson of “transferring” such a weapon. He surrendered to federal authorities just a few weeks ago to begin serving his term, prompting the Gun Owners of America to issue a warning about the owner’s liability should any semi-automatic weapon ever misfire.
“A gun that malfunctions is not a machine gun,” Larry Pratt, executive director of GOA, said. “What the [federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives] has done in the Olofson case has set a precedent that could make any of the millions of Americans that own semi-automatic firearms suddenly the owner [of] an unregistered machine gun at the moment the gun malfunctions.”
When U.S. District Judge Charles Clevert imposed the sentence, a commentary in Guns Magazine said, “It didn’t matter the rifle in question had not been intentionally modified for select fire, or that it did not have an M16 bolt carrier … that it did not show any signs of machining or drilling, or that that model had even been recalled a few years back.
“It didn’t matter the government had repeatedly failed to replicate automatic fire until they replaced the ammunition with a softer primer type. It didn’t even matter that the prosecution admitted it was not important to prove the gun would do it again if the test were conducted today,” the magazine said. “What mattered was the government’s position that none of the above was relevant because ‘[T]here’s no indication it makes any difference under the statute. If you pull the trigger once and it fires more than one round, no matter what the cause it’s a machine gun.’ No matter what the cause.”
Savage told WND shortly after the trial that one of the government witnesses against Olofson within the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was transferred to a position of overseeing Savage’s work.