"Talkin' to America" Show

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Experiences with the BATFE and the Department of Justice
an interview with firearms expert Len Savage

Interview in MP3 format

Welcome to “Talkin’ to America”. I am your host, Aaron Zelman. Our guest is Len Savage, prolific firearm designer, President of Historic Arms, an expert witness for firearm issues, and to many Americans, a hero who pursues justice for all gun owners.

Our subject today is the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. This interview is an update based on the numerous articles about Len’s experience with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms that are posted on the JPFO.org site. We will be talking about the arrogance and treachery of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Aaron: Len, welcome to “Talkin’ to America”. Would you please tell our listeners about your background and Historic Arms?

Len: Alright. I designed and built my first gun in the 8th grade in shop class and have worked as a journey machine builder for the better part of my life, and as you know and most folks should know, a firearm is just a smaller version of a machine. It is bigger than a pocket watch and smaller than a car. The principles are the same. My company specializes in research development. We design reproductions of historic firearms. We make sure that they comply with all the U.S. Government laws and we tried very hard to work with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. My company also specializes in research and development to sort of double-check for other people in the industry. We have become so familiar with the federal laws involving firearms that we kind of give them a pre-check and sometimes we’ll submit their device or firearm for them, mainly because of their fear of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

Aaron: You know, you have had some problems with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, or actually they have caused you problems, so I guess the question is when did they start to lean on you and why?

Len: The answer to that is not real simplistic. It began when I started asking questions. You know, what is your procedure, what is the criteria? If I am going to build this, how can I make sure that it meets your criteria? They didn’t like that. When they leaned on me when I asked questions, I shared some information with you and your organization, and they got posted on the internet and they really seemed to take offense to that. Offense to the point where the director of Enforcement Programs and Services of the BATF actually told me I was threatening them by posting my opinions on your website. They really got hostile when I was asked to basically be a technical advisor in the Glover case and we have showed up for that test and we made a point of videotaping it, as you well know, and that seemed to really set them off, that the truth was starting to creep out there.

Aaron: The Glover tape that we offer, BATFE Fails the Test, shows you in action. Maybe you could tell people a little bit about the Glover case and what your findings were.

Len: The government asserted that Mr. John Glover of North Carolina possessed an illegal machine gun. He was an avid enthusiast and quite the expert marksman. He has many trophies. The guy is a crack shot. John worked as a gunsmith and helped out people from time to time when they had problems with their match guns. What basically happened is the government came in, seized all of his firearms and tested them, and they asserted that one of his firearms was a machine gun.

Because with this specific ammunition, they were able to get it to slam fire or double tap and they indicted him, and I was asked to come and take a look at the firearm and to view the test firing from the expert that the ATF was sending down for this. We found out real quick on the range that it wasn’t doing it all the time. As a matter of fact, out of 12 tests, it would only do it twice and only with one particular brand of ammunition and not every time with that brand of ammunition. When he was ejecting his empties and I saw that there were dents in the primer which causes the cartridge to ignite, I realized right then and there that a very dangerous situation was going on, and we disassembled it.

We found out that there was a broken and worn part inside the gun that allowed this to happen, that this was a malfunction and as a matter of fact, it is a malfunction that occurs regularly with semi-automatic firearms and it needs to be looked at and repaired by a gunsmith. Some of the more amazing things that this gentleman who claimed to be an expert said: he was from Firearms Technology Branch, we found out that he worked in imports and I thought he was truly incompetent at the time. He admitted that he didn’t even disassemble the rifle to find out why it was doing this, what it was doing, but since it had more than one shot go off with the pull of a trigger, it was a machine gun. Under that definition, a malfunctioning double-barreled shotgun would be a machine gun. Anyway, everybody needs to get the tape and see this for themselves. The DVD, which I prefer, can take you right to the spot that are just amazing. You just wouldn’t think that the U.S. Government prosecuted people this way. It is interesting to say the least, and if you own a firearm, get the DVD.

Aaron: Especially if you own a semi-automatic firearm and especially if you want to see some information you were never meant to see.

Len: Oh, exactly. They told me that they had charges pending against me when that DVD was made available through JPFO. It hasn’t happened and we didn’t violate any law, but it goes right in line with their tendency to threaten people.

Aaron: Can you elaborate a little on the charges that they were telling you they were going to press against you?

Len: Well, they wouldn’t tell me. They just told me that they had charges pending against me. This was Mr. Sterling Nixon. He is the branch chief of Firearms Technology Branch. I refer to him as FTB for short. FTB is the federal law enforcement agency’s laboratory that is responsible for testing every criminal case in every criminal court that involves firearm technology issues, should people say it is a machine gun or it has been sawed off, or it has been modified in some way. These are supposed to be the best of the best of our federal law enforcement.

Aaron: That is interesting. I am glad you brought up the DVD because this has been very useful to many attorneys who have clients who are being harassed by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. In fact, not just harassed, that is putting it mildly. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is trying to destroy people’s lives, especially if they are gun owners and it seems to be going on with the blessing of the Republican Party.

Do you want to mention about Jim Sensenbrenner?

Len: By all means. What he is doing there is a very simple solution to this problem with FTB and it was introduced by Congress and Gingrey. It was called HR1603 – The Fairness in Firearms Testing Act, and basically it is very short. It is about a paragraph and it says these guys if they are examining a rifle or if they are test firing a rifle, it has to be video-documented. If it is not video-documented, it can’t be used as evidence. All this funny business that goes on behind closed doors would go away overnight. It would cost literally maybe a dollar per case. This would be the cheapest investment our government ever made, but Mr. Sensenbrenner has made a point since last April not to even assign HR1603 to even a subcommittee, so it can’t be discussed in the House of Representatives.

Aaron: Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner is Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. Do you have an opinion as to why they are opposed to the videotaping?

Len: Well, they just told me that they are opposed to it, and in my many discussion with ATF management, quite frankly, they don’t want anything defined, as that would make it too easy to defend one’s self. They have a lot of systems in place. People don’t realize that they have no business in being in America first of all. Some of the things that they are up to, the Kremlin during the Cold War would have been downright proud, and looks to be taken from the pages of a Gestapo manual quite frankly.

Aaron. If I could interrupt you just for a moment. You know, there is a book I am sure you have read it by now called Gun Control: Gateway to Tyranny, which JPFO publishes and the book is a side-by-side comparison between the 1938 Nazi Gun Control Laws and the 1968 United States Federal gun control laws. I just think people if they have a chance to look at that they will be appalled at what the Republican Party and the Democratic Party is saying is okay in America, because both parties support the 1968 Gun Control Act without hesitation.

If I could just give you one more example: We talk about they don’t want anything to be defined, they being, BATF. There is a term that they have come up called sporting purpose. Sporting purpose is lifting right out of the Nazi concept of gun control. The Nazis used the term not suitable for the hunting of fair game and sporting purposes. As you know, and hopefully some of our listeners realize, it has been defined to outlaw, to ban, to stop the importation of any type of military-style firearms that they determine is not suitable for sporting purpose. I didn’t mean to be so talkative, but go ahead.

Len, No, no, no, you brought up a wonderful point, because guess what branch of the ATF determines whether something is of sporting purposes? Firearms Technology Branch. You can look at any law, you can look in the reference manual that is available publically, you can look on their website and the funny thing is that there is no definition for sporting purposes. Just as there is no definition for readily restorable or readily convertible. That is a term that they use when they want to call a gun that even though it doesn’t fire full auto and it is not a machine gun in any way, shape, form or fashion, if they feel that you can restore it readily, they will charge you with a machine gun possession charge anyway. Even it doesn’t fire as a machine gun.

Aaron: That is an interesting word that you use, “if they feel” that you can restore it. It is an amazing way to run a government depending on how somebody feels on any given day. Talking above Glover, this is an isolated incident?

Len: No, no. It really opened my eyes because I looked at this from a very levelheaded, calm, cool and collected way and thought surely this is the exception and not the rule. Now I have been involved in both court cases, both as a technical advisor and sometimes as an expert witness, and what I am finding out is that this is the rule. It is not the exception and there are many insidious ways that they get around this. To give you a background – Firearms Technology Branch, whether it be a criminal submission, somebody says this is a machine gun and they send it off to their folks in West Virginia to examine, or whether I as a manufacturer have come up with a new and innovative design and send it off to them and say please classify, because that is all they are supposed to is to classify firearms, pigeon-hole them. They can only go in about a half dozen slots.

Now you would think that a government laboratory with things hanging in the balance so large, especially on the criminal end that: 1) You would think that these folks would have some engineering education or worked in the firearms industrial. That is not the case. The BATF will train you "on the job". The only requirement for being an expert is to be a BATF agent. Case in point, their assistant chief is a high school drop who entered the Marines and after he was honorably discharged that is basically how he came to work for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. He is second in command of this nation’s foremost firearms laboratory.

Now there is another thing here. Not only are they not following a scientific method, which you would think would be expected in a so-called scientific laboratory , but they don’t have any method and this recently came to light when the Congressional Research Service released a memo last Friday that plainly states that there is no testing procedures manual. There is no written procedure other than some safety protocols and those were only recently written, and one of the insidious devices that if you find yourself on the receiving end of the BATF charging you, indicting you, your lawyer is going to file what is called a Freedom of Information Act request to try to get information on like devices and like classifications. Basically, what have they done in the past. Now how do you think is in control of this database?

Aaron: I will take a guess, your friends.

Len: Firearms Technology Branch, alright, so they are the people who know that they have charged you and they are the people who are in control whether or not you are going to have the information to defend yourself. Now it goes one step further in this Congressional Research Service memo to congress. They document the fact that they have 300 cubic feet of classification letters, that is 1 foot deep, 3 feet high and 100 feet long. All this time nobody has ever thought to index them or catalog them, so physically there is no way that you could get at the information to protect yourself. The final arbiter of what information you will get if you file a Freedom of Information Act request is, of course, Firearms Technology Branch.

So the deck is stacked against you and it is no wonder that these federal courts have got a 95% conviction rate. There is no way to defend yourself against this. These folks control all the information. They don’t have to file a testing method. They can say, go figure out a way to make this a machine gun, and since "readily restorable" is not defined in the law and not defined in the regulations, the ATF has two completely opposite standards that they run by – Fifteen minutes with basic hand tools, alright. The other one is 8 hours in a modern machine shop and they will hand it off to some guy in a machine shop and give him 8 full hours and say make this a machine gun. Well, it is not a matter of it. I can take a kitchen sink in 8 hours and build you a machine gun. Modern machine shops with CNC capability, it is not even a question of if. It is a question of how many would you like sir? So it is totally unrealistic on how they are applying these laws and twisting them, and this one little group of folks, the Firearms Technology Branch, control everything from definitions to what is readily restorable, what is of sporting purposes, and we got a distortion of that about 2-3 months ago.

The so-called Barrel Ban of 2005, and this is a distortion of a law that was set up years ago to ban the importation of "Saturday Night Specials"; supposedly, the gun of choice of criminals. And this is how legislation can be twisted later because the people who enforce it can reinterpret it at will and there is no checks and balances whatsoever installed in this.

Aaron: The CRS report that Len is talking about is available to be downloaded at JPFO.org and it is a real eye opener. The Congress of the United States is finally acknowledging that they have been giving money, your money, to a government agency that has been involved in activities that can be best described as highly questionable. Len, I am just wondering, well you know the CRS report came out, but how many people in Congress really know or care from your perspective?

Len: Very few. Very few understand it and very few understand the issues. It seems they don’t want to touch the second amendment issue. The Republican Party seems to be afraid of it except for very few exceptions and Congressman Gingrey of Georgia being one of those exceptions. Nobody would cosponsor or cosign HR1603. Nobody, no other representative across this country thought that gee, maybe we should be at least videotaping these guys and see what they are up to. If you are a criminal, it is going to slam the door on you, I mean, this is going to make it very tough if you are a criminal. If there is documented video evidence that a gang-banger or somebody who is a violent criminal who really needs to go to prison, it is shows it on tape that hey, he illegal converted something, then the door is going to be slammed shut. This is a good thing.

The better thing is is that if there is some funny business, it is going to show up on the tape. If it doesn’t fire as a full auto, or if the guy says “well, I just feel this is readily restorable but he can’t readily restore it”, then this nonsense case that has been pushed by the BATF Antigun Agenda, and that is what it is, very systemically, very methodically, very calmly, they are doing everything they can to eliminate gun ownership and have. You know, I can’t help but think that we had this situation with Ruby Ridge. We had the situation with Waco. Everyone says ya, but they were kind on the fringe, they were kind of wackos, so everyone kind of allowed them to get away with it, but now we have a report. Since this report has been out, only two senators have been interested to date and we really, really are surprised that there just doesn’t seem to be any interest right now in the republican—controlled administration that someone needs to rein this in. No other law enforcement entity in the United States can basically look at something, write a letter, and it is enforceable as law, these folks are getting away with basically writing law as they go along.

Aaron: You have been telling people this information now for probably a year and you came to JPFO for help. What has happened to you. You know, what have they threatened you with, if they have, what have they done to you because you came to JPFO for help?

Len: For starters I was told that they were going to send a SWAT team to come take me out, which I assume means, kill me and I asked what for? I made a point of that, even though it scared me down to my socks, and they told me for irritating the ATF. I have been told that I would be put in prison for 30 years and it goes on and on. I have been threatened by field agents and I have been threatened by AFT management.

I have appealed to the director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, Mr. Carl J. Truscott, in a letter last June. I sent it Fed Ex with a copy of JPFO’s DVD. Now I know he signed for it. I have tracking information. I also know that 48 hours after he signed for it, Mr. Glover’s attorney got a call and he got his guns back, so I assumed he watched the DVD and was appalled but Mr. Truscott hasn’t sought fit to even acknowledge my letter, let alone, investigate it and I laid it out in specific terms:. Look, this person on this date made this threat. This other person made this threat on this date. You know, I am seeking your personal guarantee that the threats and the intimidation will stop, and instead of stopping it has gotten worse.

Right now they have declared war on me to say the least. They are performing what is called an economic Waco. Since the life blood of my business is research and development, they refused to even communicate with me. I am talking they won’t communicate through written correspondence. They will not answer the phone and even though I am a licensed manufacturer and a special occupational taxpayer, SOT is what it is called for short, (an SOT holder means that I am allowed to build machine guns if I so choose), but they won’t. They ceased my property. They haven’t given it back. They won’t give me any classification letters. They won’t talk to me on the phone and they won’t answer any other correspondence that has been sent there way.

Aaron: This is because you are working with JPFO or you think this is just standard procedure.

Len: Well, it has more to do with working with JPFO. Like I said, Mr. Spurgeon who abruptly retired last month, the Enforcement Programs and Services Director, told me that basically the ATF didn’t like those opinions being posted and they saw it as a threat, and because of that everything was going to slow down because they were going to have to run everything that they gave me through their general council, Ms. Theresa Ficaretta. I have spoke with Ms. Ficaretta once. Her parting words were rather chilling “Don’t worry Mr. Savage, we will get you, I mean, get to you.”

So, it is pretty clear and it is pretty obvious what they want to do. They would love to throw me in prison, but the problem is I am going out of my way not to violate the law. I don’t want to violate the law and that is why I started asking the questions in the first place. So now with this economic Waco, they are going to burn down my company financially.

Aaron: What do you think gun owners can do to help prevent this type of situation happening again?

Len: This is an easy answer. Download the report from JPFO that came from the Congressional Research Service. Send it directly to your senator. Senators are different animals and they have a lot more power. Demand that they look into this incident. Demand that they call hearings. Let either the judiciary or in front of the Appropriations Committee. You know what I would love to do. I would love to show the Senate’s Appropriations Committee exactly how 1.2 million dollars was spent and that was in the prosecution of Mr. Glover. Just sit them down, let them watch the DVD. There wouldn’t be any reason to even speak. Here is 1.2 million dollars of the American taxpayers you entrusted to the BATF and this is how they are spending it, and quite frankly if we can’t get their attention any other way, maybe it is time to cut off funding to the Department of Justice or cut off funding to the BATF. I would like to see a layoff. To be honest, I would much rather see what Mr. David Hardy suggested and that is go ahead and just take the regulation of this industry away from these folks and let the Department of Commerce handle it. They seem to be able to do it without the need for SWAT teams, harassments and threats, and it would be the way to go, but one step at a time.

Aaron: One last question. Any speculations as to why the Government of the United States, both Democratic and Republican, in previous administrations and the present one, they seem to have had no problem with a bunch of government criminals threatening you.

Len: Well, we can look to the recent disasters of Katrina in New Orleans we can see government-endorsed disarmament of people. Don’t let the peasants have any pitch forks. They are liable to storm the castle. I think that the American public scares the daylights out of our government right now.

Aaron: That’s interesting. The government is afraid of the people. Well, that has happened before.

Well, Len, I want to thank you very much for being our guest today on Talkin’ to America. Our subject has been about the arrogance and treachery of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. I have been your host, Aaron Zelman, and I want to remind all of you that if you won’t defend your rights, don’t complain when you lose them.

Opinions expressed on this program do not necessarily reflect those of JPFO.org or its members. Talkin’ to America is a production of JPFO.org


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