Agency likely creating a centralized gun registry by fiat
April 16, 2014

Barely a month after the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms raided a California gun parts manufacturer for its customer data, the agency is now trying to force a Maine gun store owner out of business after he rejected an ATF agent’s demand for his customer records last year.

The ATF is targeting gun shops for their customer data. Credit: Dannielle Blumenthal / Flickr
The ATF is targeting gun shops for their customer data. Credit: Dannielle Blumenthal / Flickr

Despite not being charged with any crimes, Phil Chabot, the owner of Pac N Arms in Sanford, Maine, received a “notice of revocation” of his gun dealer license after he prevented ATF investigator Wayne Bettencourt from “scanning a copy of every page” of his customer records, according to Chabot’s attorney Penny Dean, who also added that the ATF has not even scheduled a hearing regarding the revocation.

“If he was really this bad person like ATF says he is, wouldn’t you have a hearing right away to revoke his license?” she said to the Portland Press Herald. “He has disputed every one of their allegations.”

“We say, ‘Show us the evidence.’”

The ATF accused Chabot of making “straw sales” to an intermediary on behalf of a convicted felon, but Chabot said that the ATF’s attempt at mass collection of his customer data during its investigation “appeared to be little more than a thinly veiled attempt to create a registry of my clientele.”

An ATF spokesperson, Debora Seifert, even admitted that ATF investigators are allowed to copy only records that are alleged to contain errors or information related to a criminal investigation, a statement which indicates that a dragnet collection of customer data is clearly not allowed.

And the ATF recently raided Ares Armor in National City, Cali. for its customer data as well.

The company’s owner, Dimitrios Karras, said that the ATF targeted his company under the false claim that Ares Armor was making AR-15 lower receivers, which are classified as a firearm, and then reverting them back to unfinished receivers not classified as firearms according to the law.

Even though the ATF was informed of their mistake, according to Karras, the agency proceeded with the raid anyway in order to gain access to customer records and to seize the company’s inventory of unfinished receivers, known as 80% receivers.

“They said either give us these 5,000 names or we’re coming in and we’re pretty much taking everything, which is a huge, huge privacy concern and something we are not willing to do,” he added.

By harassing gun stores across the nation for their customer data, the ATF is likely creating a gun registry by fiat because gun dealers keep the most comprehensive records.

“Well, because of this system, which is all relying on manual records, it’s not like CSI on TV,” a retired ATF agent, David Chipman, told NPR when asked how the agency tracks firearms. “Someone at the ATF National Tracing Center has to call the manufacturer of that gun. They have records of when they sold it to a wholesaler. ATF then calls the wholesaler. The wholesaler has records.”

“And then ATF calls the dealer from which the wholesaler sold the gun. And then that dealer goes to this record that we talked about earlier, which is kept on paper form in their business records.”

These business records are exactly what the ATF wants.

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