Why is ATF seizing 'toy guns'?
The KOINLocal6.com lede says it all:
A local business owner is flabbergasted after a shipment of 30 toy guns for his store was confiscated by ATF agents in Tacoma.
It gets more flabbergasting:
Special Agent Kelvin Crenshaw said the toys can be easily retro-fitted into dangerous weapons.
"With minimal work it could be converted to a machine gun," Crenshaw said.
Really? Define "easily." Define "minimal work."
MyNorthwest.com gives us some clues:
"In its present state, our firearms technology branch classified this as a machine gun," said Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms special agent Kelvin Crenshaw.
ATF agents determined that the rifles as shipped from Taiwan were tooled to shoot plastic balls. However ATF says a relatively quick retooling could allow them to fire live ammunition.
Relative to what? Would "a quick retooling" involve completely replacing the barrel, bolt, upper and lower receivers and trigger assembly? What all needs to be swapped out to handle the immense pressure differences between something capable of firing plastic BBs and something that can fire...let's see, it's being reported as an M4 copy, so I'd assume this...
The Seattle Times' "The Blotter" has made some assumptions:
The machine guns were turned over to the ATF to be destroyed.
What, they're real guns, no "conversion necessary"...?
We can perhaps forgive the reporter, though--he's only following the government's lead:
On Feb. 8, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at the Tacoma Seaport seized a shipment of 30 machineguns (M-4 automatic rifles) that arrived in a 40-foot ocean container on Oct. 20, 2009.
Is that official ignorance—or a calculated lie?
When this story first came to my attention, I thought it must be a satire piece from The Onion and all the news agencies had fallen for it. For now, absent further information, all we can do is speculate and ask questions.
For instance, where does ATF get authority to seize these facsimiles? Does the FTB classify them as "firearms"?
(3) The term “firearm” means
(A) any weapon (including a starter gun) which will or is designed to or may readily be converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive;
(B) the frame or receiver of any such weapon;
(C) any firearm muffler or firearm silencer; or
(D) any destructive device. Such term does not include an antique firearm.
If so, can we expect to see charges filed beyond shipment seizure for violations of firearms import and transfer laws?
Can we see a list of steps, tools, materials and component parts necessary to "easily retrofit [the seized toys] into dangerous weapons" so that they won't blow up in your face the first time you try to fire one?
What level of gunsmithing skills would be required?
How about a public demonstration, perhaps on YouTube, to show us the "minimal work" involved?"
How much would all this conversion cost?
See, it's critical that we all know what they mean by "readily...converted." Because based on what they have to do to turn parts and materials into a U.S. Code-defined "firearm," many of us may unwittingly be in possession of all kinds of things that meet their criteria, and thus unknowingly in very real and serious legal jeopardy. And woe unto us if they further decide what we have innocently purchased and possessed qualifies as a "machinegun," carrying attendant National Firearms Act violation penalties. That's not something that ought to be arbitrary, or at the government's discretion to have us to find out by surprise.
It gets better. The business owners victimized by this have been told they need to file a Freedom of Information Act request in order to see the procedures ATF used to determine these toys are readily convertible. And as noted in this YouTube video, ATF's "expert" authority on the matter initially tries to insert a magazine backwards! Seriously!
[Click on link for access to video. -bkt]
Of most immediate concern, should every shop selling similar Airsoft-type guns, and every owner of one, now fear a raid and confiscation?
And of most importance, with "shall not be infringed" as their mandate, just where the hell do federal "Only Ones" armed with real machineguns get off not trusting sovereign adults—who are supposed to be their masters—with toys?
UPDATE: "Airsoft Outlet Northwest gives the scoop on the Tacoma Seizure, an industry without a standard"
* The WE TTI M4’s lack any sort of functional gas tube which is integral to an AR15’s operation
* The upper receiver of an AR15 fits onto the lower of the WE TTI M4
* The stock trigger pack in the WE TTI cannot strike the firing pin of a AR15 bolt
* The body of the WE TTI lower is several mils thinner than an AR15 lower, and shims would be needed for any AR trigger pack to work
* The trigger pack of an AR15 appears to be able to fit onto the lower receiver of a WE TTI M4, one of the AR15 trigger pack retaining pins is impossible to insert without major modification, and the hammer isn’t operable with the WE TTI lower.
So essentially these Airsoft replicas cannot even operate an AR15 trigger pack without heavy modification with a precise tooling system operated by someone who knows the specific measurements to drill and tap the WE TTI lower receiver.
Way to go, boys. You sure protected us all from those eeeeevil toys. Thanks a pantload.