Channel 4 News Story on Gun Show Sales

by Dudley Brown, Executive Director

Nov. 11, 2002 - Tonight (Monday, Nov. 11th) Channel 4 News at 10 p.m. will air a "story" about gun shows and the parts sold there. It is a companion piece to the story that air on Sunday evening about explosives being sold at gun shows.

I was contacted by reporter Rick Salinger last week, and viewed a video tape of a purchase made at a gun show. The part purchased was a selector lever for an M-16 (4 position). Salinger then taped my comments.

For those who are not knowledgeable in this area, it is illegal to own that particular part if you have an AR-15. The ATF claims it proves you are attempting to convert your rifle to select fire (full auto), which is in violation of the 1934 National Firearms Act (NFA, foisted upon gun owners by none other than the National Rifle Association).  However, it is not illegal to sell that part: there are many Title II weapons owners who need replacement parts.

This entire story stems from a gun owner whom the ATF is prosecuting for owning an AR-15 and the M-16 selector group. This gun owner didn't use the weapon in a crime, nor did he attempt to convert the weapon to full auto (at least, that is what we understand). He committed a crime of possession.

When this gun owner and his attorney realized that he needed to prove how easy it was to violate this law, they hired a private investigator to smuggle a hidden camera into a gun show and film the sale of these parts. Presumably the film failed to convince the jury and so the defendant found a reporter to air the story.

According to Salinger at Channel 4, this gun owner is going up the river. Though we do not know the specific sentence, we do know that violations of the NFA are punished severely -- this man could spend the better part of a decade behind bars, all for having the wrong parts.

In our view, federal agents should be pursuing REAL terrorists, not unwitting and law-abiding citizens who run afoul of the 22,000 gun laws in America. When interviewed I defended the sale of the part and sympathized with the ATF's victim on one specific point: even experts can't agree on what is legal and illegal, leading gun owners into a no-win situation.

Salinger admitted (hopefully, he admits it on camera) that the ATF agents had only a loose hold on the legalities of purchasing/owning these kind of parts. As John Ross details in his book "Unintended Consequences" the ATF knows little about the laws they attempt to enforce. If the information about the sale of M-16 selector parts is accurate, the seller did nothing illegal. In fact, if the News 4 story even alludes to illegal activity by the seller we will urge him to sue the channel.

What should alarm gun owners is the tone of this prosecution, and where the ATF could possibly get the revenue to operate this kind of investigation.

This prosecution, and thousands like it across our country, are the direct result of an insidious program called Project Exile.

We have dubbed Project Exile with a more accurate moniker: Project Gestapo (credit goes to KHNC's witty talk show host and great American Mark Call).

Project Gestapo is a private/public partnership designed to do one thing: prosecute ANY firearms violations at the highest level possible and with the most resources at the prosecutor's disposal.

Some gun owners have bought into the Project Gestapo trap, banging the "don't pass new laws, just enforce those we have now." Much of Project Exile is an attitude about gun laws -- that violating these laws cannot be tolerated in any form. But banging that gong is dangerous, since it empowers bureaucrats to launch a witch hunt for gun owners.

To many gun owners (undoubtedly including some of the readers of this diatribe) Project Gestapo is an appeasement to the gun control monster. This attitude -- I don't have that kind of weapon, so I don't care if they make it illegal" is widely prevalent in America's shooting culture, and may even be held by a majority of competitive shooters, who care so deeply about their sport that they are willing to throw a bone to the gun ban crowd in order to protect their specific, cherished method of shooting. Winston Churchill said "An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last."

Why call it Project Gestapo? Simple: its program encourages citizens to stick their nose into their neighbors business and rat on them for "illegal firearms." The secret police of the Nazi regime used these kinds of tactics not only to corner those in disfavor with the state but also to inflame a populace against a particular group in their society.

Where does Project Gestapo get its money? It has numerous sources, including leftist foundations and corporations, but it's most prominent donors will surprise many.

The most alarming sources of Project Gestapo's funding are the NRA and Sarah Brady's gun-grabbing organization. In February of 2000 the NRA's Wayne LaPierre joined James Brady and a bevy of lawmakers at a Denver news conference to unveil the launching of Project Gestapo in Colorado. They showed TV advertisements, billboards and other tools used to get citizens to turn in their neighbors for "illegal guns."

Gestapo Billboard in Colorado

Why would the NRA fund this kind of project? The NRA is terribly sensitive to the media and the perception of politicians. They desperately want to avoid being branded as the radicals on the issue, and so they dabble in projects that bolster their image with these two groups.  LEAA, which is the NRA's shill organization for law enforcement officers, is just one example, while Project Gestapo may be the most damaging example.

If you think you are insulated from this type of case because you don't touch illegal guns, think again. Project Gestapo wants hides hung on the barn, and care little if they only prosecute paperwork violations. That retractable stock you may own, for instance, could be used on a rifle that isn't allowed to have one, making you a target for prosecution. One prominent Denver attorney estimates that Denver's federal bench is using 70% of its time to prosecute "gun crimes." As a gun owner, expect to be vilified.

For more information about Project Gestapo, click here.

You can also see a list of organizations and individuals who have condemned Project Gestapo by clicking here.

RMGO will work tirelessly to strip the funding for Project Gestapo and others like it, but we need your help.

If you aren't a member of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, you can join by clicking here.

You can also make a simple, anonymous donation from that location.

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