Friday, May 25, 2012

Federal Agents

By Rob Watson

I know I have written about my gun store and my encounters with federal agents before... Wherever it is I cannot find it, So here I go again.

If you are a federal agent, you should know I have the greatest respect for you. I know that your job is sometimes dangerous and always thankless. I rank you along with the combat soldiers who do, or have, put their lives on the line for me and my country. No exceptions.

My encounters with federal agents began when I became part owner, then owner, of a gun shop in Colorado back in the '90's. These people I will describe may come across to you as complete idiots. What I think they were is educated, highly trained, federal agents, acting like complete idiots, in the hopes they would catch me being a complete idiot. (I know it is a near thing in my case, but I am not always a complete idiot)

The first encounter began on a slow business day. In the beginning there were a lot of slow business days. A man and a woman walked into the store. Neither could be said to be TV quality federal agents. The woman picked out the cheapest pistol in the store, threw her drivers license on the counter and walked out. The man took the license and began to fill in her information on the "Yellow" sheet. (the federal form that is a permanent record of a firearm sale.) "NO, NO, No" says I, "She wants the gun, she has to fill out the paperwork." (Federal Law) We tear up that sheet. He starts to fill out a "yellow " sheet. Every blank on the form is filled out wrong. We tear up that sheet. For the third "yellow" sheet I tell him to describe what he wants to write before entering it. I tell him how to write it correctly. Then he wants to buy the gun picked out by the woman. "No, No, No," same reason as the first time. (one person cannot buy a firearm for another person... Strawman sales are against federal law). Woman comes back and they decide to leave without the pistol.

Some months later I get a phone call, The caller wants a machinegun. "Sure" says I, "one of my business associates is a 'class 3 dealer."

"No, No, No," says he. "I want one under the table." "

"You, Sir are crazy, I do not have that information, and if I did, I would go to jail for passing it along" (those who know me in unguarded moments, will recognize I cleaned up the original statement.)

He hung up.

A year or so after that, another phone call. "Do you know how to make a bomb?"

"Well, yes. I have a degree in chemistry and books on the subject." (chemistry, not bombs)

"Would you teach me how to make a bomb?"... my response was very similar to the one above.

The last encounter demonstrates what I call the dual personality that most federal agents of my acquaintance seem to have. This young man stomped into the store and demanded to see my "yellow" sheets. I showed him the four foot long drawer full of them. The chip on his shoulder was so big his coat did not fit right.

After an hour of his shuffling through the several thousand sheets, I wandered over to watch him. He had a small scrap of paper and was apparently looking for a match to the name written on it. "I have that all on my computer, if you can tell me what you are looking for." He handed me the paper and asked if I knew the man. "Well, yes. he has been a customer for years, but he has gone back to England... You have his name spelled wrong" 

When I went to the computer, typed in the correct name and brought up the numbers of the customer's yellow sheets, You could hear the chip fall off the man's shoulder. (Treat them like human beings and sometimes they change into one.") I pulled all the sheets and the agent inspected them.

"Did you sell this customer a Colt Python?"

"No, That would have been my partner, before I got this computer."

The British police checked his firearms when he got there. The Python came up stolen... sometime before you sold it to him. They asked us to check the man out. I explained the customer was a good, honest, business man as far as I knew.

The agent then asked about the customer's sidekick. I looked up that customer and pulled his yellow sheets. In these few minutes the agent and I became fast friends.

If you do not know, removing the serial number from a firearm can get you 10 years in federal prison. Possessing one caries the same penalty. I asked my new friend what I should do with one that had come into the store before I realized its defect. (if he had still had his chip, he could have cuffed me right there and hauled me off to jail) He suggested I strip all the usable parts from the gun and toss the serial numbered part in the lake... I did exactly that.

All of this was brought back because I am selling a rifle on line. A question from a potential buyer asked why I insisted on following the rules strictly. The answer, of course, is They are everywhere watching every one. You want free room and board, free medical care and be a male wife... just screw up once.

An Add-on... Sept 2012...
On my recent travels, I stopped at a rather large gun store. In conversation with the owner and son, the topic of federal agents came up. It seems that on a recent inspection, done by the ATF when a gun store renews its license, the agent in charge came with friends and inspected every single item in the store, storeroom, and warehouse. Each item not properly documented was subject of a lot of yelling and lots of paperwork. The agent in charge had a bone to pick with the owner and son. It seems that as a new agent, Owner and son had great sport at her expense when she came for her initial inspection.

In contrast, when Wife and I got our Federal Firearm License (FFL) we were visited by a new agent.. He sat with us, answered our questions, and was pleasant in all respects. We were pleasant, respectful, and cooperative. Three years later, when this same agent returned to do the inspection for the renewal of our license, he made a brief inspection of our paperwork, engaged in a short pleasant conversation, and went on his way.

I could have told Owner and son about my experiences, but I didn't. Instead I silently recalled a quote from Mark Twain: "A person who will pick up a cat by the tail, will have a lesson he can get in no other way." (or something like that.)

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