– New Jersey v. Pelleteri, 1996
Alternate title, “RESPECT MAH AUTHORITAH!”
Ah, the BATFu_ers have been busy little beavers again, ruining someone else’s life and livelihood for “not cooperating.” Ayn Rand put it best:
There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What’s there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced nor objectively interpreted – and you create a nation of law-breakers – and then you cash in on the guilt. Now that’s the system! – Atlas Shrugged
And if you can’t get them for actually breaking one of those laws, all you have to do is convince a judge and jury that they have.
Here’s the background on the case of Mr. Albert K. Kwan, a gun collector in Bellevue, Washington:
Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Wales was an 18 year veteran of the U.S. Attorney’s office in Seattle. He was also, in his spare time, the president of the Seattle branch of CeaseFire, a gun control group. Mr. Wales was shot in his home the evening of October 11, 2001 and died the next day. The firearm used was a Makarov pistol, but ballistic examination of the recovered evidence lead the investigators to conclude that the pistol – a cheap, reliable, compact imported handgun – had been rebarreled. The original four-groove, right-hand twist barrel had been replaced with a six-groove, left-hand twist barrel. This led investigators to conclude that the barrel was one manufactured by Federal Arms Corporation. The FBI did a little research and determined that some 3500 of the suspected replacement barrels had been sold prior to AUSA Wales’ murder.
Initially the investigation focused on a man who had been prosecuted by Wales for fraud, but who had eventually had the charges dropped. When that investigation reached a dead end, they decided to track each and every replacement barrel down.
Apparently records showed that Mr. Kwan had purchased two of the “barrels of interest,” but when the FBI showed up, he could only produce one and stated that he did not remember having purchased the second. In addition, Mr. Kwan had lived only a few miles from the original suspect, and though they could not connect the two men, this set off alarm bells with the FBI. Mr. Kwan was apparently less than cooperative, and got himself arrested as a “material witness” in 2005. While he was in custody, with a little “inter-agency cooperation,” Mr. Kwan’s gun collection got a once-over by the BATF.
Things went completely to hell at that point.
Mr. Kwan was charged with illegal possession of a machinegun – in this case, a “re-weld” M-14 rifle that had been converted to semi-automatic. Another machinegun that he legally possessed – a Heckler & Koch VP70M machine pistol with a detachable stock – was also confiscated, along with several other firearms from his collection. Cue now Heartless Libertarian for more on the case:
Now, about that M-14. Here’s what the ATF agent had to do to it to make it fire more than one round per trigger pull. Testimony comes from the Oct 10, 2006 dead tree edition of Gun Week (article not available online.)
“I examined (the firearm) and determined that it was originally manufactured as a machinegun by the Winchester Company in New Haven, Connecticut. (The rifle) can accept machinegun components and has machinegun components installed, but the engagement surface of the sear release has been removed, and the sear release has been welded to the selector shaft. In this condition, (the rifle) is functional as a semi-automatic firearm, but the machinegun parts have been locked in place by the welded sear release/selector shaft.
“To determine if (the rifle) could be readily restored to shoot in an automatic manner, I used a multipurpose rotary tool with a cutting wheel to cut through the sear release. I then removed the sear release, selector shaft, and selector-shaft lock from (the rifle) and installed a sear release, selector shaft, selector spring, and selector from an M-14 machinegun.”
The technician did not modify the receiver during all of reassembly, and then fired the gun to see if it would fire full auto. At that point, he wrote, “I discovered that the sear … did not have an engagement surface for the sear release.” So, he replaced the trigger group of the rifle with another trigger group which contained the sear with an engagement surface and eventually got the rifle to fire three rounds with a single press of the trigger.
The jury had more common sense than the ATF and decided that this did not meet the standard of “readily convertible.”
But the .gov never goes to trial with only one charge. They also charged Mr. Kwan with possession of a short-barreled rifle. How? Well, in addition to the (legally possessed) VP70M and two detachable stocks Mr. Kwan also owned a semi-automatic VP70Z.
Put a buttstock on the semi-automatic pistol, and you’ve got an unregistered short-barreled rifle!
Or so their “logic” went.
Except we’ve already been all through this with Thompson/Center and their Contender model.
But the jury didn’t know about this, so:
A Bellevue gun collector once arrested as a material witness in the 2001 slaying of Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Wales was convicted Thursday of illegally possessing a short-barreled rifle, a felony that will require him to give up his arsenal.
However, a federal jury acquitted Albert K. Kwan, 53, of another charge of unlawful possession of a machine gun.
The jury deliberated for three hours after a three-day trial.
Kwan, who is not suspected of killing Wales, has been a person of interest because sales records indicate he purchased two Makarov gun barrels in the mid-1990s that were like the one used in the slaying of the longtime federal prosecutor. Kwan has turned over one such barrel but insists he does not remember buying a second one. Prosecutors said he failed a polygraph test about the second barrel.
The judge, however, has apparently been made aware:
A federal judge has granted a new trial to Albert K. Kwan, a Bellevue gun collector who was found guilty of illegally possessing a short-barrel rifle after a three-day jury trial in June.
U.S. District Judge Thomas Zilly granted the new trial Aug. 3 after concluding the jury received flawed instructions about the short-barrel rifle charge. Joseph Conte, Kwan’s attorney, contended the jury should have been told that a pistol and stock seized from Kwan had to be connected in order for the jury to conclude he illegally possessed a short-barrel rifle. Zilly agreed with Conte’s argument Friday, according to Conte and a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Seattle.
Now Mr. Kwan did fail a polygraph that he volunteered to take. Here’s a newsflash for you. I’ve failed a polygraph, too. And I’ll never take another one. In my case it was a matter of someone at a place I worked stealing cash from the registers. I got fired. Other people got fired. The theft continued after I and a couple of others were let go. Apparently the polygraph didn’t catch the guy that was doing it, but he sure tagged at least one innocent.
Mr. Kwan’s crime was apparently being uncooperative. The reaction of the FBI was to arrest him, hold him for 23 days, and bring in the F-troop who then manufactured charges against him.
This is known as “justice.” It’s not strictly limited to gun owners, but we sure seem to be high on the .gov’s dance card.
Like the New Jersey court decision in Pelleteri said, “When dealing with guns, the citizen acts at his peril.”