Cop agrees to sell machinegun, others make illegal SBRs and sell silencers, ATF says meh
Violations of the National Firearms Act carry with it a fine of not more than $10,000, or imprisonment for not more than ten years, or both, for each offense. This is the act that was brought about in 1934 to regulate things like sawn off shotguns, short-barreled rifles, and suppressors. With that much potential time you would think that people would stay on the right side of the ATF and not fool with unlicensed and unregistered versions of these devices. You would also expect that to be double true for cops, who know the penalties.
Well, about that.
Psst, wanna buy a machinegun?
(Many departments have bought, issued, and use select-fire weapons for high-risk operations such as SRT raids, counter robbery, fugitive apprehension and counter-terror purposes. But they usually frown on it when officers try to sell them)
CBS News Atlanta reported this week that a Doraville, GA police officer was fired after allegedly agreeing to sell a department-owned select-fire machine gun to parties unknown.
The officer, Woodrow Mann, according to Doraville Police Department spokesman Gene Callaway confirmed that the department investigated now-former patrol officer Mann after receiving a tip that he accepted money for a class 3 weapon. Mann was not charged however because Doraville Police officials consulted with the ATF who determined no laws were broken because Mann did not actually deliver the gun.
Mann can appeal for reinstatement.
This is not unheard of.
A New Jersey officer who was found in possession of an illegal machine gun in a state with some of the harshest gun control laws last year was initially charged, then six months later had the charges dropped. In New York a decade ago some 43 department owned Class III guns were quietly collected from former officers who never turned them in, some of whom couldn't because they had sold them years later.
Is that a case of suppressors or are you happy to see me?
In 2012 a former Boulder, Colorado cop was given the stiff penalty of three years probation for selling two unregistered, and probably top of the line, 5.56mm suppressor to an undercover cop for $800. We say top of the line because the officer, now identified as Eric Lee, while serving with the Army National Guard in Iraq in 2006 stumbled across a crate of 25 military grade suppressors in a burn pit.
Now you can imagine what you would do in that situation and weigh your options. Unfortunately for Lee, he brought them back to the US on the low low and held on to them for years until finally selling those two to a guy he thought was cool. Well, that was bad choice number two and the resulting search warrant brought about the other 23 suppressors.
During the trial in federal court Lee's attorney said sentencing Lee to prison would have been overly harsh, since he would likely face abuse from other inmates because he is a former police officer.
Not making excuses, Lee at least took his medicine like a man, saying, "I take full responsibility for my actions," Lee said Tuesday during his sentencing hearing. "I have no one to blame but myself for being here today."
SBRs and DIY guns in the land of Cheddar
A former Wisconsin state drug agent blew the whistle on other state law enforcement officers illegally shortening the barrels of both their issue and personal rifles below the 16-inch minimum as required by the 1934 National Firearms Act enforced by the ATF. Doing so without a tax stamp for a Class III short barreled rifle already in hand is a felony.
(Now thats a SBR! ....and it requires about a one year wait these days along with a $200 tax stamp)
Former Division of Criminal Investigation Special Agent Dan Bethards, a 14-year veteran of the agency with more than 20 years working in public safety and law enforcement, drew attention to the activity.
According to the Associated Press who found out more about the scandal through Freedom of Information Act requests for emails,
"Bethards wrote in a January 2013 email to DCI Administrator Dave Matthews that multiple agents were shortening the barrels on their state-issued and personal rifles without registering the modifications with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Bethards didn't name any agents but alleged multiple agents were guilty of federal felonies.
DOJ spokeswoman Dana Brueck said the ATF investigated the allegations and determined one weapon had been improperly modified. The gun was reconfigured to conform to ATF regulations and no one was disciplined, she said.
Bethards said in a text to the AP that he was surprised ATF let the violation go without charges."
"I wonder if Joe Citizen would get that same opportunity?" he wrote.
This came at the same time that another Wisconsin special agent was under investigation for making homemade guns, which is not a crime, but he was also accused of selling them for profit as an unregulated business without an FFL or SOT.
No criminal charges were filed in that case either.