NATIONAL CITY, CA — When the ATF insisted a firearms parts retail shop hand over the names of 5,000 customers, the store owner refused and obtained a restraining order against the harassing agency. Nonetheless, gun-wielding ATF agents showed up in force, broke into the shop, cracked the safe, and stole client list and a large amount of merchandise.
Striking the Root
Throughout March, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF or BATFE) has been on a quest to stifle the business of anyone who carries a firearm part called the EP Armory 80% Billet Receiver. This is an fabricated polymer part that can be used as a component in building a firearm — a process that is very popular with enthusiasts across the country.
The part by itself is an arbitrary item with no firearm capability whatsoever. But the ATF has declared it to be a “regulated firearm” and not a firearm part. Even though this part has been in production and sold to hobbyists for years, the federal regulators began striking at shops who carried the part.
In early March they raided the home and business of the part’s creator, Chris Cook. Cook owns EP Armory in Bakersfield and was stunned to find federal agents swarming his home on March 7th. His business manufacturers parts only, and does not construct firearms at all.
Cook and all his employees were put into handcuffs while the agents stole his merchandise. They also confiscated his cell phone, laptop computer, and iPad.
The ATF then set its sights on stores that resold the “80 Percent” products.
The federal bullies contacted the owner of Ares Armor, a retail store, and demanded that he surrender all of his polymer receivers as well as the list of every customer who had purchased one. Revealing the names of 5,000 clients was no small request, and owner Dimitrios Karras refused to comply, saying that he was not willing to violate their privacy.
“I was advised that the BATFE had offered to forego obtaining a warrant if Ares Armor was willing to: (a) Hand over all of EP Armory’s 80 percent Lowers, (b) Turn over Ares Armor customer’s private information to the BATFE,” said Karras in a statement.
“In exchange for turning over our customer’s private information, the BATFE said that they would not ‘raid Ares Armor’s facilities and would not pursue ‘criminal’ charges. This made me feel as if I was being extorted,” said Karras.
On March 10th, Mr. Karras filed for and was granted a temporary restraining order against the ATF. “I am now in constant fear for the safety of my employees, my customers and myself,” he said.
The restraining order was short-lived. Four days after it was issued, U.S. District Judge Janis Lynn Sammartino granted an ex parte application order to the ATF, revoking the restraining order and prohibiting Ares Armor from taking any steps to “destroy, transfer, sell, or otherwise divest themselves” of the polymer lower receivers in its inventory.
The following morning, on March 15th, paramilitary federal agents surrounded Ares Armor at its storefronts in both National City and Oceanside. Bearing weapons that they would attack others for wanting to own, a team of agents broke open the front door to the business, then poured in to complete their heist.
Video of the entry can be seen here:
Once inside, the team went to work, sifting through the shop to find the coveted customer list as well as the polymer parts. Several agents filled up plastic bins with merchandise. Special safe crackers went to work on the safe vault.
Several supporters of the shot had gathered outside in support of the store and were now documenting the crime. They recorded the raid as best they could from their vantage point. One pressed a camera against the window and recorded video of the interior. A man with a sledgehammer could be seen working feverishly to bust open the safe.
The heist continued for some time as the team collected the loot they sought after — allegedly 6,000 of the polymer parts. They also seized all the computers in the store.
“I’m sure they’re going to pour through my computer,” Karras said. “We don’t do anything illegal.”
“We wholeheartedly believe that they are wrong in their actions and we will be relentlessly pursuing remedy through the courts,” posted Karras on Facebook. “This is just the beginning!”
The scope and power of the ATF is something to be feared. The infamous agency has been the involved in such incidents as the deadly ambush at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, and the mass immolation of 76 men, women, and children in their home in Waco, Texas. Innocent Americans continue to suffer under the oppression of the agency which ought not exist in the first place.
“It’s an object that’s in the shape of a receiver, but it hasn’t been completed to a point that it would be considered a firearm,” Karras told Reason TV. “This was a nice way for them to get their arm inside of the business and grab the information that they are actually looking for. To think that this is over a piece of plastic is ludicrous.”
“Every single day is just another adventure,” Karras said. “Most people have to sit at home and watch this on TV to have a life…I’ve fought in two wars…been an executive officer of a company…This is an adventure in life.”
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UPDATE: The owner of Ares Armor believes the ATF was out of line and is defying them to raid his shop again.
“I don’t care what they do, but if they have a problem with it they can come and see me,” said Dimitrios Karras, owner of Ares Armor.
“We are in complete compliance of the 1968 Firearms Act, and unless the ATF changes the laws, there is nothing they can do about it,” said Karras.
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Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives
Los Angeles Division
Phone: (818) 265-2500