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Interview with Ryan Horsley of Red's Trading Post

Interview in MP3 format


Aaron Zelman This is Talking to America. I’m your host, Aaron Zelman. Our guest today is Ryan Horsley of Red’s Trading Post in Twin Falls, Idaho. Ryan has been a victim of BATFE abuse and we’re going to talk about his story and some of the fascinating aspects of it. Ryan, welcome to Talking to America.

Ryan Horsley Thank you, Aaron.

Aaron Zelman Ryan, why don’t we start with you just giving us a brief history of the family business.

Ryan Horsley Well, Red’s Trading Post was actually started back in 1936 by my great grandfather. We’re actually Idaho’s oldest gun shop. We’ve been here for quite a number of years we’ve always had an honorable, upstanding business.

Aaron Zelman Well, then why would the ATF or the BATFE or some people call it the Bureau of Arbitrary Technical Findings Edicts, why would they harass you?

Ryan Horsley Well, when they came in, in 2000, they did an audit in 2000 and that’s when I just took over as manager of our family store. They found violations and, I mean, these were, you know, minor violations such as writing why you’re in instead of yes or no and their response to that was it could - you know, on some of these questions is why you’re in could be misconstrued as something else. And we had another agent come back in 2005 to do another audit. We’ve had other audits since, and at that time he had told us we were one of the best small gun shops he’d ever inspected.

So I wasn’t too concerned and he started writing us up on violations and, I mean, some of these violations, when you took a look at them, wrote us up on a poster, and a pamphlet. These posters and pamphlets, these were each separate violations, one for the poster and one for the pamphlet, both stating that handguns are dangerous around children. He also tried to write us up on gun locks, not having any free gun locks available; however, most new fire arms are supplied with gun locks. And finally I was able to find one gun lock that was down there that - and he made sure that that did not have a price because it has to be a free gun lock.

The other issue that they brought us up on was the biggest violation they got us on was, county - not having the county down. And, - you know, and I had asked him at that time, you know, what about some of these areas in the country that don’t even have a county? He didn’t want to address that. And as we read it and as we were defending it as well, is that it’s county and/or city, but they wrote us up on 320 violations of not having the county, although it had the city.

All in all we had a 99.6% success rate. They went back five years. We average about 2,000 firearm sales per year so he went back through about 10,000 forms. And, you know, keep in mind on some of these violations - these are not laws, they’re not ordinances. What these are, are policies. The ATF comes up with these policies. And what’s interesting is we were written up in 2005. It was - these were none of the violations that were written up in previous audits and so that’s what was interesting is that, you know, in walking through in this 2005 audit, I questioned this agent several times saying, you know, we’ve never been told of this or this issue or this issue. It’s never been brought up. And he told me at that time different agents look for different - have different - items that they look for. So it’s - all up to interpretation right there.

Aaron Zelman Let’s see. You’ve got 10,000 forms to go through and there’s about 40 hand-entered spaces, if I remember, on a 4473 so that’s 400,000 entries all done by hand.

Ryan Horsley Yes.

Aaron Zelman And you had a 99.6% rate - that was accurate?

Ryan Horsley That is correct.

Aaron Zelman All right. So that’s why they want to revoke your license because there’s some - someone - didn’t put an N in where there should have been a no and things like that or-?

Ryan Horsley Exactly.

Aaron Zelman Okay. Well, it’s too bad they can’t be held to the same standards of congress. Okay, so you go through this craziness where they want to revoke your license and you have to go through an appeals process. So what was that like?

Ryan Horsley The appeal process was ridiculous. I was excited about the appeal process because, you know, at the same time I didn’t even think that they would re - revoke our license over, you know, petty paperwork violations and a missing poster and pamphlets. And I was absolutely shocked that they would attempt to revoke our license. So - I was excited to go through the appeal process. And then our attorney warned me, he said, Ryan, don’t get excited. He’s actually an attorney who has been legal counsel for the NRA, he’s handled cases like this all over the country. He said, don’t get excited. He said, in all of my cases I’ve never seen anyone make it through the appeal process.

What the appeal process consists of is you sit in front of the agent that did the audit, the ATF attorney, and an ATF employee and they all report back to the DIO, the Director of Industry Operations. And so it’s just - it’s not a fair appeal process because the attorney reports back to the DIO. This is like the prosecuting attorney prosecuting you and then turning around and acting as an advisor to the judge.

And what was interesting is when you talk about error rates, on one of the facts that they brought forth, one of the documents that they brought forth, it was - they listed my mother as the owner of our competitor who they revoked their license. And so even that we asked them to strike that - that they listed my mother as the owner of Blue Lake Sporting Goods, our competitor.

But - and then after we filed in and then what was interesting is then we filed in federal court. It was okay for us to sell - buy and sell guns until then, but after we filed in federal court, the ATF - well, the DIO, Director of Industry Operations, Richard [phonetic] Vanlone, made the decision that we could no longer acquire new guns. We could sell out our remaining firearms, but we could no longer acquire any more new or used guns.

And this Richard [phonetic] Vanlone had said that we were - his reasoning behind this it was that we were “a threat to public safety.” And I even asked as far as law enforcement sales. I had several law enforcement orders to fulfill and he would not allow me to fulfill our law enforcement orders. And when I contact our congressional delegates, they were all told, you know, to back off, that they were in federal court. They had waited specifically until we filed in federal court and then they’re off limits. There’s absolutely nothing they can do.

One of our congressional delegate staff had told me is, well, he said, this is the response we keep getting from them - that any time we question them on any of - anything that they’re working on, they’ll pretty much say back off, we’re running an investigation. Now at this point they say back off, we’re in federal court. And so basically he had told me that only if things are pretty much peachy keen then that’s the only time that they can question them on anything.

Aaron Zelman Well, it’s interesting they consider you to be a threat to public safety, but it’s all right if they murder people at Waco and they’re not considered a threat to public safety. I know we had some discussions about the judge who found out that ATF left out some critical information. Would you like to talk about how sloppy that the ATF folks are or else how dishonest they are?

Ryan Horsley You know what? An interesting fact on - on the judge, we had - the judge that, Judge Edward [phonetic] Blige,he was the same presiding judge in the Randy Weaver Case against the ATF where they killed his wife and others at Ruby Ridge. You know, what the judge found, in asking for injunction, he found that indeed, we are not a threat to public safety and he also questioned the ATF leaving out critical information such as other audits, a 2001 and a 2007 audit that we were found in full compliance, you know, 100% in those ones.

They also left out missing information as well, as far as things that we had improved on. And also the judge had kinda pretty much slapped their hand on the fact that they were double counting violations as well.

Aaron Zelman Sounds like standard procedure for people who are dishonest to begin with. This is happening to dealers nationwide. What kind of response are you getting from other dealers and then what kind of insights do you have, since you’re part of this industry?

Ryan Horsley You know, it’s interesting because, you know, they had shut - one of our competitors - they had shut them down a couple years ago and I watched part of that and - they weren’t even allowed to have an appeal process. They weren’t even allowed to, you know, go through the appeal process. Nationwide it’s staggering. If you take a look at the numbers, you know, revocations are up nearly six times. The number of dealers has decreased by nearly 80% from ’94 to 2005. A lot of this started with what they would term as the kitchen table dealers and has moved on to gun deal - small gun dealers - such as our self.

Earlier this year I was at a distributor show and an attorney who’s represented manufacturers and distributors named Chris - Chris [phonetic] Shipulo, he got up, he was speaking to hundreds and hundreds of gun dealers, and he was letting them know that the ATF is going after gun dealers and they’re - they couldn’t go after manufacturers and they couldn’t go after the distributors so they’ve been going after dealers and they’ve been picking them off left and right. I’m sitting next to this guy who, you know, kinda leans to me and says Ryan, is this for real? And I said, yeah, in fact, we’re going through it right now.

And what’s interesting is, you know, so many dealers are going through this. Take a look at some of the numbers. The dealers if they can’t fight ‘em in federal court, then, you know, they pretty much go bankrupt, you know. It’s tough to go against the Federal Government. And you know, when I’ve spoken to a lot of dealers and let them know that there’s no room for error you know, at all for some of these businesses.

And, you know, I’ve spoken up and telling people as well that we’re an old established business with a 99.6% success rate in the most Second Amendment friendly state in the Union where our senior senator sits on the Board of Directors for the NRA and that this can happen anywhere. And - and so this is what - you know, this is what these dealers are going up against.

Aaron Zelman How many dealers do you think - in those percentage of dealers - you think are really tuned in, fully aware of how the government is trying to destroy them?

Ryan Horsley I think everybody’s just trying to keep their heads low at this point. I think quite a - I -

Aaron Zelman Why would you think they want to keep their heads low when they’re in the right and the government’s in the wrong?

Ryan Horsley Because, as you know, there’s a fear of the Federal Government. A lot of people do not want to speak out against the Federal Government. A lot of these dealers who - even a lot of, who I’ve spoke with, I’ve said, why aren’t you speaking out against this? And they said, you know, we don’t want to, you know, raise the error of the ATF. And it - and they don’t understand that they’re not gonna back off. You know, that if you keep quiet, they’re not gonna be your buddy, they’re not gonna be your pal.

You know, when I spoke - starting speaking up, you know, my mom asked me is this a good idea? And I said, what’s the worst that they’re gonna do, revoke our license? They’re already attempting to do that.

Aaron Zelman It’s interesting that a lot of firearms owners fear the government and the government realizes that and so it makes it easier for the government to destroy people. The government thrives on citizens who are fearful. There’s a term that the ATF uses called willfully. They claim that you committed violations willfully. Can you go into that a little?

Ryan Horsley [Phonetic] Raken in congress in the ‘80s put the word willful in, the wording. , it was made the responsibility of the ATF to show that dealers committed these acts willfully. They’ll come in for the - and what they’re doing is they’re using that against dealers. They’ll come in the first time, find violations, whether it’s one or a hundred violations, and they’ll come back in later at another time and say okay, we caught you once, you know, we caught you again, you know, the second time it’s willfully. You know, they can’t do an audit - they can - more than - it’s got to be only once a year that they can do an audit, but they’ll keep coming in until they - they find it.

Willful is a word that’s up to interpretation. Most dealers view willful as the word - as intentional, that you committed these acts intentionally. In our case, you know, did we commit these acts willfully or intentionally? No. The ATF says that if you committed any violations once and you do it again, it’s willful. What’s interesting though is - in our case is that our violations in 2000 and then again in 2005 weren’t even the same. So it doesn’t even have to be the same violations. It just has to be any violations.

Aaron Zelman It’s interesting, you know, the ATF holds everyone to a higher standard than they’re able to attain. In our film “The Gang” we show documentation of how the ATF will lie in court, perjure themselves to claim that they have accurate records of gun owners and machine guns especially. What kind of response have you gotten in support from gun groups and how has this affected your business?

Ryan Horsley Well, right now we’re sitting at well over $50,000 in legal fees and we’re not even to court yet. We went from 1,000 guns to - down to 160, we let two of our employees go, you know, got a little bit of bad press early on. The problem is, is everyone believes the government assumes the worst. I’m getting phone calls from people saying, you know, how many missing guns do you have and explaining to them, you know, no missing guns or anything like that. You know, it’s - but a lot of people don’t believe it. A lot of people sit there and, you know, assume the worst, go okay, there must be something funny because the government wouldn’t just shut down dealers for petty violations now, would they?

And so, you know - we also dropped all of our advertising so our walk-in traffic was - you know, it dropped significantly as well. And - in speaking with some of our manufacturers, the manufacturers and distributors they’re aware of this, but a lot of them don’t know what to do. You know, you get groups such as the NRA and the NSSF. They’re aware of this, but haven’t really spoken up against it. A lot of them have, you know, a lot of other relationships with the ATF and so they really have not spoken up against this.

In fact, one with the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, Joel Waldron, who’s their executive director, had actually spoke up against us. He had said you have to ask yourself is the ATF out headhunting or maybe Red’s has some issues. It’s a serious business and you have to ensure you and your employees are keeping up with the law. And the problem is, is that most people assume the worst.

You know, I used to do this. I used to hear about some dealer being shut out of business and I thought oh, okay, good. It’s another bad dealer who must be doing something completely dishonest. Because if you look on the ATF’s website, they tell these slanted stories about some of the work that they’re doing, you know, and what they do is, you know - and then they have this small little line at the bottom that says everyone is innocent until proven guilty. Everyone in the industry right now is aware of this problem, but the problem is the general public isn’t aware of it.

You know, people, when I’ve started speaking to people, people are outraged because they see the writing on the wall and they know this another backdoor attack on their Second Amendment rights, you know, but, again, there seems to be this fear of the government that, you know, a lot of the people in the industry - even some of these organizations are afraid to speak up against them, you know. And that’s just it is, you know, at what point do you speak up? You know, at what point - you know, at - how many losses do we have to take, you know, until some of these manufacturers and distributors say enough is enough and we have to speak up?

Aaron Zelman That’s a very good question. I think that with our film “The Gang” that people will finally understand how the ATF is a bunch of government gangsters. That’s why we call the film “The Gang”. I think this will be a great step forward using the film to wake people up, including dealers who are just ducking, as you say, trying to just, stay away from trouble, but only helping trouble find them. How would you say this issue has affected the industry and what kind of response you’re getting from other dealers and-?

Ryan Horsley You know, most dealers are just saying - I’ve had a lot of other dealers say hey, do you have a legal defense fund? Can we help you out? You know, what can we do? A lot of them are sitting by waiting for some kind of leadership, waiting for someone to act. You know, I’m getting some dealers who are going hey - you know, calling me up and saying hey, Ryan, I think you’re wrong. I just went through an audit and they just gave me a warning. And I said, okay, well, that’s - you know, you’re not listening to me. That’s your first warning. You know, that’s your first warning. That was the setup for willful. The next time they find anything, you know, they’re gonna shut you down.

And, you know - the problem is, is that we’re - you know, this industry is faced with so many attacks. You got the Bloomberg attacks right now. You know, we’re they’re going after dealers on, you know, setting up these cases against dealers. And - you know, and everybody’s just - you know, a lot of dealers are going, is this even worth it? And a lot of ‘em are saying, you know, gee, if the ATF comes for me, I’m just gonna close shop. This isn’t an industry that - you know, you make money hand over fist and, you know - and the regulations are just absolutely absurd. So a lot of these people just choose to give up.

When you take a look at the numbers, you know, even the revocation numbers, you know, that - a lot of these dealers aren’t even getting their - well, oh, okay, I’ll give you a for instance. If all of a sudden at this point I said, hey, you know what, I’m done, you know, I’m done, I can’t afford this anymore, there you go, they would not count at as a revocation. Okay, well, he gave us his license. And so the numbers really don’t match.

Aaron Zelman Well, I’m not surprised. Have you ever told dealers of the 68 Gun Control Act? And then - and if so, what kind of response do you get from gun dealers?

Ryan Horsley You know, I think at first there’s a lot of dealers who sit there and, you know, go oh, okay, well - you know, when they start taking a look at- when I’ve started delving more into this and taking a look at - a lot of history and - and realizing, you know, what has happened and - and realizing as far as how a lot of this relates, you know, it makes more sense to me.

You know, a lot of these guys are just taking a look and saying you know, hey, listen, it’s a business, you know it’s - we have to deal with the ATF and that’s all there is to it. A lot of people aren’t educating themselves and not really looking into it and saying what can we do or, you know, looking at the history, looking at how the Gun Control Act was started.

Aaron Zelman Why do you suppose it is that dealers, distributors, manufacturers have become accustomed to having to accept laws that are unconstitutional, that are destructive for their business? And also why do you suppose it is that there are 2,300 BATFE agents in America focused on the firearms issue and 100,000,000 armed Americans commonly called gun owners? Why would you think 100,000,000 armed Americans are on their knees groveling and begging 2,300 arrogant bureaucratic thugs to enjoy their rights?

Ryan Horsley We all tend to seem to fall in line. We don’t question – you know, what’s supposedly our authority and we say okay, this is how it is and - and we don’t see that - you know, that this is not how it should be, you know, that we look at it and say okay, this what we have to do and this is what we will do and nobody questions it. Nobody - you know, everybody sits there and says okay, this is what’s been giving to me, these are the rules and - and guidelines. When, you know, these ATF agents come in - come into your store and begin barking, out orders to you, you have to step in line and you have to do whatever they do or they will ruin your livelihood and that’s just what it boils down to.

You know, I was just amazed when the last, you bring up arrogant - you know, arrogant ATF agents. This, the last ATF agent that we had in 2005 this guy was just bragging to us - you know, my mother and one of my other employees, how they like to “screw with” some of these explosive dealers. And you know - he told us a story about a gun dealer who became an ATF agent so he could stop being screwed with and start screwing with other dealers. It’s just - you know, and he had even told me as well that personally, I don’t think that anyone should own a gun and this is the mentality. This is what we’re dealing with and we’re being pushed around.

No one wants to fight the government. You know, nobody has the money to fight the government and, you know - but at the same time we don’t coordinate. We sit there and, you know, like I’ve experienced as well, we throw others to the wolves and we say hey, listen, you know what? Good thing that that’s not me, you know. But what happens when it does come down and it is you? You know what happens to the ATF agent in 2005, found this one gentleman who had been purchasing too many - too many - “too many” handguns. He pointed out - he said, this guy has bought too many handguns. I said, I don’t remember there being a law against this. He asked me for his information.

He said, I’m going to go and question this person. Why has this person not bought any long guns or - you know, or shotguns or rifles or anything like that? He has bought too many handguns. And I said, there’s no law against that. I said, you’re really gonna go question this person? And I - I finally told him, I said, this is a person who lost one of his arms in a - you know, in a car wreck. He cannot own - he cannot carry a long gun. He can’t shoot a shotgun. I said, all he can shoot is handguns, but yet, at the same time, he was still going to question that person.

And you know, we get pushed around and I’ve heard tons and tons of other horror stories and asking why are people just going along with this? Why are they not questioning it? And you know, I have to ask myself that as well and say why have we dealt with this for so long and why do we continue to be pushed around by this government agency who makes up their own rules? Like I said before, these are policies, not law, that they continue to start new ones and start new policies and that we have - all of a sudden us dealers go okay, well, here’s a new policy that we have to have this poster up or we have to hand out these new free gun locks. Nobody questions it. And a lot of times we’re unaware, going okay, here’s a new policy that we have to abide by, we have to fall in line and if not, then we’ll be shut down.

Aaron Zelman What do you think is gonna have to happen to stop this insanity and the criminality of the BATFE?

Ryan Horsley Well, you know, they have your ATF Reform Act of 2006, it received bipartisan support. Our attorney, Richard Gardner, had actually spoke in front of congress to tell about the abuses going on. It was eventually held up in the senate by Diane Feinstein. I have spoken with a lot of industry advisor - or insiders who sit there and say that they do not think that they can get another ATF Reform Act. You know, a couple other people have brought up how about cutting their budget? Because what’s ironic is that their budget keeps getting increased, but the number of dealers is dropping at a staggering rate.

But, you know, I now agree with the JPFO, you know, that we have to boot the BATFE. Our leaders think that we need them, that they’re a necessary evil, but they’re not and we can get rid of them and we must. You know, if not, the ATF is going to continue to eat away at our Second Amendment rights. You know, I’ve even suggested to some of the organizations who question - if this can be done and I said, you know what? If not, you know, fire the Director of Industry Operation who loses in court, you know, because if he chooses to go after a dealer, then he chooses to, you know, sacrifice his job because he’s spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayers money to, you know, sink a legitimate business.

And that’s just it is this director that we’re going against, this Richard Vanlone, you know, he’s made every step to make our lives just miserable. And, you know - and it just goes to show, you know, what the JPFO has said all along that this is a dangerous and vindictive government agency. And a lot of people say okay, well, gee, if we get republicans in or if, you know, we get the democrats out. This is not a republican or a democratic issue. You know, this is an agency that has been out of control under both republican and democratic administrations. The change has to happen.

Like I said, we cannot sit idly by while they’re shutting dealers down. You know, at what point do we say enough is enough? At what point do we realize that we strongly outnumber the ATF and we get to a point and say we will no longer be pushed around by these thugs?

Aaron Zelman That indeed, is a good question. We’re gonna have to end it on that because of time. But, Ryan, I want to thank you very much for appearing today on Talking to America. Would you quickly give people your website address and a phone number, if you wish?

Ryan Horsley Yes. That’s www.redstradingpost.com and our phone number is 208-733-3546.

Aaron Zelman Ryan, thank you again for being with us today. Our guest has been Ryan Horsley of Red’s Trading Post in Twin Falls, Idaho. I’ve been your host, Aaron Zelman. I would like to remind you 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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