A gun expert who alleges the U.S. government is retaliating against him for his testimony on behalf of a man sentenced to prison after his gun malfunctioned now has challenged the feds to go ahead and confiscate one of his own products.
“Your suggestion for forfeiture of company property is an excellent solution to this most unfortunate controversy. The initiation of forfeiture proceedings by ATF against the firearm serial number V1, will afford the opportunity for both parties to be heard and will provide a fair and equitable determination of the issues while preserving all processes that are due for both parties,” Len Savage, owner of Historic Arms LLC, wrote in a document prepared for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
“Accordingly, the company awaits notice of seizure of the property and the institution of forfeiture proceedings. Historic Arms LLC requests that this is done without delay. You will be notified without delay of the company decisions for proceeding with forfeiture action upon receipt of notice,” he wrote in the letter, a copy of which was forwarded to WND.
The dispute is over a part he submitted to the agency that he is proposing for an existing line of legal machine guns in the U.S. The part would convert the weapons to operate with ammunition that costs 1 or 2 cents per shell, instead of 25 cents or more.
Such devices, he told WND, are not uncommon.
Savage said he submitted the part to the BATFE, even though it technically was not a gun, and was stunned to get a response that not only was his repair part a gun, it was a machine gun, and he had only hours to “register” it properly.
And all it took was some metal, a length of chain, some duct tape and some plastic wire ties for the federal inspectors to make his gun part operate in that fashion, he said he was told.
“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 responded to John Spencer, chief of the agency’s Firearms Technology Branch, in a letter about the situation.
Reviewing the agency’s modifications to his gun part that allowed it to fire automatically, Savage agreed. Sure, he said, that’s what happens when you add the components of an automatic weapon to any part such as his.
“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,” he wrote.
Now the BATFE has responded to Savage’s request for a review and re-classification of his gun part.
“AFT stands by the criteria and methods used to classify your firearm as a machine gun because it is designed to shoot automatically more than one shot, without manual reloading, buy a single function of the trigger,” the letter from Spencer said.
“Additionally, it has the design features of a machine gun and, even if the qualifying features were removed, it would be readily restorable to shoot automatically as a machine gun. For these reasons, AFT will not grant your request for an alternative classification. No further evaluation is necessary, and none will be conducted for classification purposes,” the letter said.
A BATFE official told WND today he could not comment on the situation because such disputes are considered confidential.
Savage told WND that he got the letter yesterday, and was given until today to get the firearm registered as a machine gun. However, his letter in response to the BATFE made clear he wasn’t going to do that.
“Your claim that it was improperly registered based on your use and addition of separate devices not submitted by the company, that are NFA firearms themselves, conversion devices, is self serving and specious,” he wrote.
“With all due respect … the firearm now in your possession was designed by the company with specific intent to prevent it from being readily converted to shoot more than one shot with a single function of the trigger, your use of a separate conversion device in testing proves this,” he said.
“It is axiomatic that one must completely ignore the plain meaning of the verb ‘restore’ to accept your interpretation of the ‘readily restorable’ phrase as it appears in your letter. It raises the metaphysical question of whether a thing that never existed or never has been can be restored,” he said.
Savage earlier told WND he works with classic and historic firearms but also with designing gun components for various makers. His current proposal was a part that would have allowed the use of a cheaper ammunition in an existing class of machine guns in the U.S., which are used by police and military agents.
He 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 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.
At an online forum run by David Codrea on weapons issues, the comments were one-sided.
“Uh-oh. I have plastic ties and duct tape, and a semi-auto rifle. There may be an old chain somewhere in the yard or the basement,” one contributor said.
Savage, who holds a federal license to make guns of all types, said, “This is what they do to anybody who speaks about against them.”
He said even the agency’s offer in its most recent letter could be viewed as suspicious.
“What is noteworthy is … contained in the last paragraph: ‘Although the time to register this firearm is past … AFT is allowing you [to register it now],'” he told WND.
“AFT acknowledges that this would be an unlawful act. Not [to] mention the Notice of manufacture ATF form 2 that was sent in April is ‘executed under the penalties of perjury,'” he continued. “In short it would be improper [unlawful] for me to accept AFT terms. It was a trap in hopes I would take their advice, then I get charged with perjury, false statements, and other unlawful acts.”