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Experiences with the BATFE -- An Update
Talkin' to America Revisits Len Savage


This is Talkin’ to America. I’m your host, Aaron Zelman. Our guest today is Len Savage. Len first was on our program November 1, 2005 talking about the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives, and he is back again today. Some things have happened since November and you can consider this program an update. You and JPFO were noted in a CRS report. This is also known as the Congressional Research Service of October 5th, and I think maybe we should tell people what that report is about and what has been going on since then.

Len: Great, and a pleasure to be here. The CRS report basically put in writing for Congress in a memorandum that verifies what JPFO and I knew along, and that is ATF did not have any testing procedures, and I don’t think the impact of that memorandum has been fully impacted yet, because every case prior to the Wren case which happened in November, which was also after that report, weren’t running with any procedures and could make it up as they went along and could manufacturer evidence. Nobody would ask any questions, and nobody has even looked into the previous cases and how many people now are sitting in prison because the ATF manufactured evidence against them.

Aaron: Are you sure our government would do something that dastardly?

Len: Well, I wouldn’t have believed it until I saw it with my own eyes. I have personally experienced it. US Vs Wren was a case that happened last November. I was a technical advisor for the Defense and supposed to testify as an expert witness in the case. About midway through the trial, there seemed to be a little bit of pandemonium going on and the outcome of that was that the government dismissed all the firearm charges against Mr. Wren if Mr. Wren would accept a plea-bargain of one count of mail fraud and one count of a false statement to an ATF officer, and I think they said they would recommend the sentence of $100 fine and six month probation, and being 60 years old, he took the deal or spend another half million dollars to continue the fight. That is the problem. You are worn down financially. It was just a very interesting trial and I think in the future its importance will play out. What was important more than anything is that the judge finally picked up on the fact that the ATF added a conversion device and had altered the evidence to make it go full auto. She told them that they could test the evidence in front of the jury but only if they remove the conversion device and they were embarrassed by this, and that is when all things kind of fell apart there in that trial. The ATF since then has certainly let me know that they didn’t appreciate my presence at the trial and more recently has sent me some paperwork that would be termed interesting to say the least, possibly threatening.

Aaron: Before we get to the paperwork Len, let’s just spend one more moment or so on the government’s attitude towards even its own prosecutor during the trial when they realized that they were going to lose.

Len: Oh goodness, yes. Out in the hallway when this ruckus was raised, I was sitting on a bench and the U.S. prosecutor, Mr. Jonathan Gasser, came walking by and he got on his cellphone as they are allowed to have cellphones in the federal buildings and just a very interesting conversation, even with the “I don’t care, I don’t care”. He kept repeating “You can have this position. I am only temporary anyway. I am only acting”. Then he hangs up and he looks at me, "That was the U.S. Attorney General, Alberto Gonzalez, chewing me out for offering Mr. Wren such a deal!" and stormed off and I just stood there openmouthed. I couldn’t believe it. The Attorney General of the United States was actually monitoring this one little lowly trial and what the ATF was doing and was upset because the U.S. attorney pretty well figured out something fraudulent was going on and pulled the plug on those charges, is what it appeared to me. I can’t tell by trying to read all the spin what happened after the trial. Something happened that was very interesting that a cabinet-level individual would be monitoring such a trial that shouldn’t mean anything.

Aaron: That is fascinating. You were going to mention some letters that you received from ATF in the last month or so. Do you want to tell people about their arbitrary and capricious approach to doing business?

Len: We now have some things documented that I would like to share with you. #1 We now know, and it is in writing, that the ATF is above the law. We have always asserted that they acted that way, but now they assert that they are. On April 4th an assistant director wrote me a piece of correspondence and specifically stated that the employees of the ATF are statutorily exempted from having to follow the NFA or GCA.

Aaron: Explain to people what the NFA/GCA is?

Len: The NFA is the National Firearms Act and the GCA is the Gun Control Act of 1968. For the most part, these are the two statutes that the ATF assists for. Their existence is only required because of these two statutes and that is their sole purpose in life, to define whether or not things are under the purview of the NFA or GCA.

What this means is that an employee of the ATF could turn around and send you through the U.S. mail a machine gun. No paperwork, no nothing, and say, “Mr. Zelman we have now declared this not to be a machine gun. We would like you to have this. We would like you to possess this. This isn’t even a firearm. This is off the books, off the record, and it all yours, alright?” Then they could come back later and say “what are you doing possessing that? You know possession of that is against the law. We want to prosecute you”. If you said, “hey wait a minute” and that they illegally transferred it to you, then no, no, you could be prosecuted for illegal possession. This is something that the government has given to you and put in your possession the first time.

They threatened me with it and again they documented and I couldn’t believe it. They gave me the item and said "You know this item is against the law and needs to be registered and if you don’t do it, you need to abandon it and we can prosecute you," after they gave me the item, but I said "well, didn’t you violate the law by illegally transferring it?" "Oh no, we are statutorily exempted. We can’t be in violation of these two statutes." They pointed out and cited the verse in the law that that is it.

It is even more arbitrary when the most recent article in SWAT Magazine Boot the BATF which was about your efforts and mine, and in particular, the DVD, BATFE Fails the Test. When that happened, the government seemed to be rather upset at that and immediately after that went to print, I received three letters in succession, all dated the same date, all negative, and I won’t even go into the technical aspects of the letters and they were technically wrong, but there are some things involved in this paperwork that on its face is far more intriguing and far more valuable than the technical things that the ATF got wrong. I thought it was rather interesting that basically a week after they received their copy, I received these three nasty letters all dated the same day. It has been a tough time.

Aaron: You have all these letters from the BATF saying, well, we have changed our mind, just because we told you could do something nine months ago, we have now decided to change our mind. I assume that you did not ask for the reconsideration and I assume that the Firearms Tech Branch does not normally do this or is this something new.

Len: Yes, the reconsideration letter, one of the three. "Upon reconsideration they have decided to revoke a previous classification". No this isn’t something that you normally get. I have never received one before. We had an item and actually an accessory that my company had designed over a year ago. We had submitted it because we wanted to be lawful for the tech branch to verify that this was compliant and not under the purview of the National Firearms Act or the Gun Control Act of 1968. They sent the item back to me and told me that it was not a firearm, it was not a machine gun, it did not contain the frame of a firearm nor did it contain the frame of a machine gun. It was nothing, it was parts, it was an accessory.My company started to go into production of these and sold a few units. Nine months later after being threatened by Mr. Nixon for showing up at the Wren case, I get this letter stating that upon reconsideration, they didn’t say why they would go back and reconsider something, the motivation for the reconsideration I think is really fascinating.

They claimed to always be underbudgeted and behind on everything, and yet they had so much time on their hands they could just go perusing the files and say, you know what, I am going to reconsider this one, or was there something a little bit more nefarious involved like maybe a little retribution. Maybe they wanted to send a clear message to the industry of don’t ever show up in a federal courthouse and tell us that we have made a mistake in our testing, and I think they wanted to send that message loud and clear to the industry and have. So they have gone back on their word, and even though we have it in writing that it is nothing, it is not a firearm. They now say, no, nope, this is a machine gun, these are all going to have to be registered, these are all illegal, and it was done just to create financial harm and to teach me a lesson for speaking out against them.

Aaron: This is Talkin to America. Our guest today is Len Savage and we are talking about the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosive, otherwise known as the Bureau of Arbitrary Technical Findings and Edicts, and today we are definitely talking about some edicts from the government criminals at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives. Could you give us a little more information or insight into the terms that they were used in characteristics and features of the weapon, actually the nonweapon that you are talking about, and also what you think that portends for all the guns in American when the BATF is talking about characteristics and features?

Len; Yes sir, that is very important because they got caught fudging tests, so they no longer test any submissions at the Firearms Technology Branch. Now they are evaluating them on their design characteristics and features, and the features and the characteristics and stuff pointing out and saying, this is what makes this a machine gun.

We have a big problem because almost every firearm has the same characteristics and features that they are calling out. It is very scary because they are setting a precedent here that down the road; the Ruger 1022 is going to be discovered to have the design characteristics and features, you know, it can take a high capacity mag. It can be made to do this. You can put this stock on it. You can make it look, you know, this is all about appearances.

Haven’t we heard this before? Didn’t this expire? It sounds to me like the ATF has taken it upon themselves through reinterpretation of existing regulations to basically litigate. I mean they are making law through reinterpretation. They are short-circuiting Congress and the President, and decided you know, that Clinton Gun Ban we had, the assault weapons ban, well, we want to bring it back but we don’t want to be troubled with that bothersome thing in Congress and votes and President’s signature. Let’s just reinterpret what we do and go right back to where we were anyway and that seems to be the case. When you start talking about features and characteristics, you are not talking science, you are talking appearances, and it is a very slippery slope as we know.

Aaron: The previous ban really was based simply on cosmetics as most people know or else they should know. Well giving all this flip-flopping by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives, how is the jury going to figure it out when this finally goes to trial and all these people who have been erroneously put in jail because of the actions of the government criminals, how is the jury going to figure all this out?

Len: First of all, that is a great question. What the jury is going to see is a man in a three-piece suit who says he has been working for the government for decades come out and gives a bunch of technical-sounding stuff, it is so many millimeters long, it is so many millimeters wide, shoots a 762 x whatever millimeter cartridge, but there is no way for them to know whether this man is a real expert, whether this man is a high school dropout. They are not going to know any different.

Here is a question for you. If in 9 months the ATF can’t figure out whether something is or isn’t even a firearm or is or isn’t a machine gun, in 9 months if they can’t figure it out, how in the world is the jury going to figure it out? If the regulations are so vague that the government’s own experts cannot discern them, then aren’t they unconstitutionally vague and overly broad? If their own experts can’t figure it out, there is no way a jury with a finite amount of time to figure this out is going to be able to.

I see a toenail hold for striking down of the Gun Control Act of 1968 and the National Firearms Act in 1934 through the ATF’s handling of the regulations. Regulations are interpretations of the law and this is very strange because the ATF can say, okay, we are going to create this regulation for this law that Congress wrote and the President signed, and they seem to think that they can go back and reinterpret these and reinterpret these, and just short-circuit Congress, and they can’t. You are not allowed to do that and there is a constitutional mechanism to prevent that, and that is if it is unconstitutionally vague or overly broad. Well, they have now documented the fact that they, the expert’s expert of the United States of America, the government, on one day says that no, this is unequivocally our answer for this item and then 9-10 months later says no, no we are taking the opposing point of view now and citing the same reasons in both letters, so they have just proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that even they cannot discern the regulations.

Aaron: You mention Congress, but I guess the question is, this is really based on your own gut feeling, do you think gun owners have any friends in Congress, because you know some effort has been made to bring all this information to certain individuals in the U.S. Congress, the Jim Sensenbrenner crowd, and actually some Congress people who are quite decent and yet nothing is happening, nothing is getting done as of yet, so do we really have any friends in Congress?

Len: A very few unfortunately. We have those that when they want our vote, they will be there come election time. We have Phil Gingry who has stayed on top of this now for 2 to 2-1/2 years and has introduced HR1603 with the fairness and firearms testing act. He can’t get anywhere but he has hung in there and so has Senator Chamblis here in Georgia who has tried to do everything he can to get this moving in a direction or something is going to be done. The oversight committee in the house that oversees the ATF, Crime Terrorism and Homeland Security, rather fitting, the ATF seems to be able to do all three.

Aaron: Birds of a feather flock together.

Len: Well, they seem to be timid. They seem to be afraid of the ATF. Ms. Stucco who gave me the same letter telling me that they are statutorily exempted from having to follow the laws that they are enforcing told the Congress that she was seeking to induce voluntary compliance. She just testified at the end of March and then four days later sent me a letter stating that I was not allowed to call the ATF. I had lost my phone privileges, my fax privileges, and my email privileges because they are upset that I had submitted 30 different products since 2002 and I guess I had used up all my minutes per se’. I am not quite sure that they have the authority to do that, but that is what they have told me. I am not allowed to contact them anymore. It is interesting. It is going to be a situation to see whether or not Congress comes to the rescue or not, but except for a very few voices, nobody is jumping to our aid.

Aaron: Well I can’t say that I am surprised. It appears that some of your rights have been violated more than just Second Amendment rights.

Len: This is no longer a Second Amendment issue. This is a First Amendment issue. The Federal Law Enforcement Agency is now openly hostile with me. I sought redress to grievance. I pointed out something that I felt that they were doing wrong.

I first brought it up at the ATF, they didn’t like that idea, and then brought it up with members of Congress and tried to raise awareness so that we could rectify it. Now that agency to the ATFE is openly hostile towards me and the ATF has used the power of the United States Government to deny me my property. This has cost me very conservatively in just lost contracts alone $450,000. We are approaching the half million dollar mark that this has cost me since last August. Members of that agency have used the color of authority, their badge, to exact revenge and punishment. There have been attempts to set me up and entrap me. Certainly, attempts to just rewrite history and say now we are going to reclassify this so that we can’t sell this anymore, so that we can cost you dollars and cents to send a clear message to anybody else thinking of seeking redress to grievance with this particular agency.

What I am astounded by is that members of Congress have been watching this and I know of other organizations that were also close to members in Congress. I will say their name, the NRA. These members of Congress wanted me to talk to these people. These people don’t even take my calls.

Aaron: Len, when you say these people, who are these people?

Len: Specifically, the federal liaison of the NRA, Jason Ouimet. He has been given copies of these letters that say "Look, there you go, there is proof that even they can’t discern the regulations. You know, we need your help in Congress to convey this." He won’t take my phone calls anymore and said that they are not interested in that, and I just can’t help but get the feeling because it is not their kind of firearm or because it is not about a sporting clays or hunting, and it is because is about firearms technology and issues that are pretty dry for them, they are just not interested.

I was just dumbfounded because the NRA is supposed to be fighting for gun rights but it seems almost as if they are fighting to keep their foe alive because it has become a symbiotic relationship where they both need the money. The ATF needs the NRA so that they can raise the drumbeat in Congress to raise their budget, and the NRA needs the ATF so that they can raise the drumbeat with their donations, and that each one kind of mutually needs the other one to survive. So, that is my take on it.

Aaron: You are not alone. Other people have also told me the same thing. I guess the other fair question to ask from my perspective is it appears that you have associated with Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership that you have been even more abused by BATF. Is that a fair assumption or am I pushing the envelope?

Len: No, I would say that is a pretty fair assumption. Only one time had the current Chief of Firearms Technology Branch ever brought up your name. They have told me many times how dare I express my opinion on your website and that I was threatening them by speaking my opinion on various websites, and only once could they utter JPFO. They couldn’t even say the full name. It seemed to really bother them to even speak it, so yes, they know it. They seem to be afraid to even speak your name and I for the life of me can’t understand why, unless of course they are anti-Semitic in some way.

Aaron: Well, they will have to tell us that, won’t they or they can deny it. What are the dangers you see to regular Americans, not just gun makers or gun owners, based on the experience you are now having, and some of the changes now in interpretation and the way they are trying to manipulate the law and the regulations.

Len: It is a very dangerous precedent. They have circumvented our system and new laws are supposed to go through Congress, be signed by the President, making checks and balances along the way, and this dangerous reinterpretation, what is to keep them from reinterpreting other things.

You have to wonder whether other agencies within the government aren’t watching with morbid curiosity to see if they actually get away with this. Why would you need to go through Congress and get a new law when you can just rewrite it and reinterpret it to suit your needs. It is extremely dangerous and it doesn’t just apply to gun makers or gun owners.

Here is just a wild what-if. You are walking in a grocery store and you walk in front of somebody pushing a cart and a traffic cop who happens to be in the grocery store gives you a ticket for J-walking. "I have reinterpreted the law, that is to prevent you from getting harmed and you are not supposed to cross in front of traffic, and even though this isn’t real traffic, since this was traffic and she had a load, I am going to give you the ticket anyway because that is how I am reinterpreting the law." Pretty scare stuff. That is a ridiculous example but that is basically what the ATF is saying now. "Even though this is meant to be out in the street and with motor vehicles, I am not going to apply this here because I am allowed to."

Nobody says that they are allowed to. I can’t find anywhere in the law that states that they even have the authority to reclassify. It is only says they have the power to classify. It doesn’t say anything about doing it again, but you know, they just assert that authority. They take it and to quote them they “will let the courts figure out whether or not they really have that authority”.

Aaron: Well Len I want to thank you very much for being with us today.

This has been Talkin’ to America. I have been your host, Aaron Zelman. Our guest has been Len Savage, and remember 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 or its members. Talkin’ to America is a production of

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