ATF agents raided a gun parts store over the weekend to obtain a customer list.
The raid began after Dimitri Karras, the owner of Ares Armor, in National City, Calif., refused to turn the customer list over to the federal government as demanded. A retired Marine, Karras said agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) wanted to investigate a list of 5,000 customers who unknowingly had purchased an allegedly illegal part at the store.
The customers reportedly purchased a specific 80 percent lower receiver — used to build an AR-15 rifle – that the Department of Justice and the ATF contend is illegal because it does not have a serial number.
Ares Armor was among a handful of stores which recently received a letter from ATF agents demanding that they not only turn the non-compliant gun part over to the federal government, but provide the names of all customers who bought the item as well.
Karras’ attorney asked for and received a temporary restraining order against the ATF from a federal judge, Janis L. Sammartino, who was nominated by President George W. Bush. A preliminary hearing is scheduled to review the situation on March 20.
But on Saturday the ATF agents did break in and enter Karras’ gun parts store, which was closed at the time. They walked out with several boxes of files. Federal attorneys had obtained a judicial “ex parte order,” which allowed them to search the store as long as no one was there. Sammartino had issued that, too.
Karras previously had said federal officials had told him to turn over the files “or we are coming in and taking pretty much anything.”
“Which is a huge privacy concern and something we are not willing to do,” he had said. “They were going to search all of our facilities and confiscate our computer and pretty much shut our business down. The government invades our privacy on a daily basis and everyone thinks it’s okay. This is one of those situations where hopefully the government institutions come in and say, ‘This is protected and you’re not taking it from them.’”
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During the Saturday ATF raid on Ares Armor, the agent converged upon the store in full tactical gear and confiscated the remaining AR-lower receivers. Just prior to the raid, both plain clothes and undercover ATF agents reportedly questioned customers outside of the California gun store.
The customers who purchased the part likely will be contacted by federal officials soon.
“If you have purchased an 80% lower receiver from a storefront location or over the Internet from any vendor, I think it is safe to assume that the federal government either has your customer data, or is in the process of trying to obtain your customer data,” wrote BearingArms.com editor Bob Owens. “If you want a truly anonymous 80% lower, pay cash via a private sale, the same as you would with a serialized firearm.
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“We have to wonder if this raid wasn’t as much an attempt to send a message to 80% lower customers as it was a raid for user data. Perhaps they’re attempting to scare people away from buying from these companies, so that they go out of business.”
What do you think? How do you feel about federal agents raiding the gun store and claiming possession of the customer list? Let us know in the comments below.