My Recent Run-In With The ATF

    I have been in the gun hobby since I turned 18. On their 18th birthday, many young men and women will go out and buy a tobacco product or lottery ticket as a sort of rite of passage, but I knew what I wanted: A gun. I went to my local sports emporium and picked out a bolt action 30-06 Savage rifle as a sort of all purpose firearm and the rest is history. For 9 years I have been collecting, buying, shooting, and growing my gun collection to an arsenal that would have made my 18 year old self salivate. Over the years I have kept a close eye on the gun market too. When I was in college with no money, I would always look at auction sites and big gun shop’s prices to keep a firm grasp on the market so I could, foreseeably in the future buy what I lusted after while in school. After I graduated and got a job my dreams became reality and for all intents and purposes, all of my extra money went into my shooting hobby. To people not engaged in this great pastime of ours this may seem foolish, but as of yet I have lost money on very few firearms and have always felt like they are a safe place to keep money. A gun is a complicated mechanical device that other people are always interested in buying, and as such are very liquid assets. Precious metals are fine and dandy, but with firearms you can go out and have fun with your investment rather than put it in a safety deposit box and look at it occasionally.

    As stated, I have followed the gun market closely for many years so I know when a deal is too good to pass up. As such, a major online retailer was running an incredible special on VZ2008s shortly after I did my review on them. I have absolute faith in the rifle, and at the price point they were selling them at I bought all the ones I could afford. I picked them up from my FFL a few days later, put them in my safe, and was very excited to have them as an asset.

    In the United States, you cannot legally buy guns to sell for a profit without a federal firearms license, and of course I had not bought these to sell but rather keep as a stable investment. It is of course not illegal to sell a personal firearm, but as stated it is a big no-no to be engaged in commerce without the appropriate license. Also in border states like Texas, multiple sales of semi-auto centerfire long guns must be reported to the ATF. My FFL simply filled out a multiple form and I did expect a call from the ATF asking what I was going to do with eight rifles like this (my friends have gotten calls for multiple AR15 lower receivers). Now I went to college in Waco, where the ATF does not exactly have the best reputation. However, my only real experience in dealing with the ATF was when I bought my select-fire Uzi SMG from an ATF special agent who just happened to be a huge gun guy. As a matter of fact, he was selling the Uzi to fund the purchase of an M16! We filled out the form 4s at my place of business and I learned a lot about his line of work.

    On the 14th of November I got a call from an ATF special agent, let’s call him John, who asked if he could come by and have a quick conversation with me. I was at my shop at the time overseeing a construction project and told him that I was busy and would be unable to meet that day. He was fine with that and I said I could potentially meet tomorrow. I called the agent I mentioned above (Uzi agent) and asked what this could be about, and he said it was a pretty standard response to someone like me who has many firearm transfers on the books in a border state. He laughed and said “man, I didn’t know you were an arms dealer!” which made me chuckle as well. As the day went by and things started coming to a close I figured I could go ahead and knock it all out so I called him back up and told him I could meet that day and where he could meet me. About 15 minutes later John and another agent (let’s call him Nick) pulled up in two sedans. They were both in plain clothes, both introduced themselves kindly, and both provided credentials and business cards before I let them in. I sat the two men down in my office as I was legitimately curious as to what was going on. The men had lists of every firearm I had ever received from an FFL where I had done multiple long guns/hand guns. Since I write for this blog, I do a tremendous amount of transfers for reviewing and I also buy firearms off of popular auction sites and whatnot, so it would definitely seem like I might be a straw purchaser to the onlooker. Luckily I keep a bound book and a digital PDF copy of a firearms record I have created with all of a firearms information and a photo in case one ever gets stolen so I can report it missing. John and Nick went down the lists they had reading off firearm serial numbers, while I described the firearm by reading off information about it from my PDF document. John asked if I could print off a copy of my file for him, and I said no and that I would not be comfortable disclosing that information, which he was perfectly fine with and understood completely (hell, I did not even have to let them in as they did not have a warrant, but I did not mind).

    It got down to the last one on their list, an AR15 lower receiver I bought years ago at a gun show and I did not have it (I could account for everything else). I said that I guess it was one I sold at a gun show about a year ago that had a slide fire stock on it. I built it as cheaply as possible and threw on the SSAR15 stock and when the novelty wore off I sold it at a loss (one of the only guns I have ever lost money on). They asked why I had so many transfers and I told them that I was a collector and that I write for The Firearm Blog on the side. Guns I did not have I showed them the articles I did on, and they were satisfied with that. After some hesitation, I told John and Nick that I would take them in my gun room if it would help them out. They said it would so I unlocked it and we entered. My gun room is a pretty serious gun room. While many guys have a media room with a big TV and sports memorabilia (I don’t even have cable, as it costs ammo money), I have a safe and gun rack with cleaning supplies laying all over. Pictured here is my C&R rack that greets you when you enter:


    Both agents thought my rack was awesome and Nick said “now this is what I call a gun room!”. It was at this point that I guess the two men felt more comfortable and we started talking about old guns, shooting, and typical hobby related stuff. When I opened my safe they were also taken aback. “Man you have some really nice stuff Alex,” said Nick as he peered in. Now in my safe I have NFA items laying out very evidently. My Gemtech G5 is sitting in its box clearly marked Gemtech, my little MP5k is sitting on a shelf by itself, and my Mac 10 machine gun sits prominently at the front. The agents did not ask about or notice these items until I pointed them out as well as a stack of form 4s. Once they saw I was an NFA guy they really figured that I was a safe and lawful gun owner and I guess they decided to spill the beans.

    John told me, “well, the reason we are here is not for multiple transfers,” which surprised me. “Typically when someone does as many transfers as you do especially with the type of firearms you have received we will do a knock and talk, but the AR15 you cannot account for has showed up at a crime scene in Mexico”. Funny how the one gun I have sold in a year was the one that made it to Mexico, and I was shocked as I was almost certain it was about the VZ2008s. John and Nick asked for any details about the gun, who I sold it to, and when. Luckily I had the man’s name, phone number, and e-mail address (call me overzealous, but in this case my cautiousness worked on my behalf). The man I sold it too was also a reserve police officer, so the agents knew he was at least not a career criminal or gun runner (while not impossible I suppose, it would be unlikely). I provided them with the information they needed and they went about their business. Since I had not broken the law, nothing came of it. They didn’t even give me a slap on the wrist, talk sternly, or give me a paper explaining the law pertaining to selling firearms (which is common in these cases).

    So all in all my run in with the ATF was quick, painless, and informative. It has been instilled in our minds as gun folks that the ATF are the fun police or the proverbial boogeymen that are out to get you. In my experience (at least in Texas) these men and women are good people just doing their job. Hell, I have heard of some agents seeing illegal machine guns and they said they have seen them at the gun range. They won’t even ask if it is a legal, registered MG until bubba starts bragging about his home-built full auto (d’oh). They will tell him that he needs to destroy it and that they better not catch him with an illegal MG again. Getting let off the hook for a felony is a pretty big deal when you think about it. So folks, be weary of your multiples, but most importantly be kind and courteous and you will be treated the same way.

    If you have experiences with the ATF, good or bad, I would love to hear about them below!

    Alex C.

    Alex is a Senior Writer for The Firearm Blog and Director of TFBTV.