Posts Tagged ‘ammunition’

Ex-FBI agent convicted of S. Calif. robbery plot

March 18, 2009

By AMY TAXIN, Associated Press Writer via Yahoo! News

SANTA ANA, Calif. – A jury convicted a former FBI agent and another man of plotting to rob a drug stash house in Southern California using a machine gun.

The verdict was read Wednesday after jurors reached their decision late Tuesday in the trial of 44-year-old Vo Duong Tran, a former agent from New Orleans.

Tran and Yu Sung Park, 36, were arrested in July and accused of planning to rob what they thought was a drug stash house in the Orange County city of Fountain Valley. The site was actually part of an FBI sting operation.

“I think it’s disappointing that (Tran) is a former agent and he turned to this kind of conduct,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Keenan said. “He and Mr. Park were dangerous people.”

Tran’s wife, Nia Bui, held the couple’s 1-year-old son on her lap and sobbed loudly while the verdict was read. Outside the courtroom, Bui said she believes her husband was set up by the FBI.

“He’s a good father, he’s a good person. He’d never kill people or rob,” she said. “I can’t believe they do this to him. They break families like this.”

During the trial, prosecutors played recorded conversations in which men they identified as Park and Tran were discussing whether to shoot residents of the drug house.

Jurors deliberated for a day before convicting the defendants of conspiracy to obstruct commerce by robbery, interstate travel to commit a crime with a firearm, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a violent crime and possession of a machine gun. Each faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 years in prison at sentencing, set for June 15.

Tran was an FBI agent in Chicago for more than a decade before being fired in 2003. Defense attorney Alex Kessel previously said Tran was fired for identifying himself as an agent while on suspension, though he was never convicted of the allegation.

Telephone messages left Wednesday for Kessel and attorney Brian Steel, who also represents Tran, were not immediately returned.

The arrests of Tran and Park followed a federal probe in which conversations between Tran and an FBI informant were secretly taped for nearly six months.

Authorities said Tran flew from New Orleans to raid the home, where the informant had told him there was $300,000.

Authorities said they found a machine gun, rifle equipped with a silencer, handguns, bulletproof vests, fatigues, zip ties, black ski mask and more than 600 rounds of ammunition in a rental car and hotel room the men used.

Defense attorneys said Tran was passionate about his law enforcement career and was playing along with the robbery scheme to gather evidence on informant Alex Dao so he could turn him over to authorities.

Yolanda Barrera, Park’s attorney, said it was hard to understand how the jury could seriously consider the massive amount of evidence and testimony in just a day. “This was a four-week trial and the jury basically deliberated for five hours,” she said.

(This version corrects that although decision was announced Wednesday the jury reached it late Tuesday.)

 

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Feds reverse policy cutting ammo supply

March 18, 2009

Posted: March 17, 2009
9:00 pm Eastern

By Drew Zahn
© 2009 WorldNetDaily

Respond to senators representing outraged gun owners nationwide

 

Responding to two Democratic senators representing outraged private gun owners, the Department of Defense announced last night it has scrapped a new policy that would deplete the supply of ammunition by requiring destruction of fired military cartridge brass.

The policy already had taken a bite out of the nation’s stressed ammunition supply, leaving arms dealers scrambling to find ammo for private gun owners.

Mark Cunningham, a legislative affairs representative with the Defense Logistics Agency, explained in an e-mail last night to the office of Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., that the Department of Defense had placed small arms cartridge cases on its list of sensitive munitions items as part of an overall effort to ensure national security is not jeopardized in the sale of any Defense property.

The small arms cases were identified as a senstive item and were held pending review of policy, he said.

“Upon review, the Defense Logistics Agency has determined the cartridge cases could be appropriately placed in a category of government property allowing for their release for sale,” Cunningham wrote.

One of the companies that brought attention to the issue is Georgia Arms, which for the last 15 years has been purchasing fired brass shell casings from the Department of Defense and private government surplus liquidators. The military collects the discarded casings from fired rounds, then sells them through liquidators to companies like Georgia Arms that remanufacture the casings into ammunition for the law enforcement and civilian gun owner communities.

But earlier this month, Georgia Arms received a canceled order, informed by its supplier that the government now requires fired brass casings be mutilated, in other words, destroyed to a scrap metal state.

The policy change, handed down from the Department of Defense through the Defense Logistics Agency, cut a supply leg out from underneath ammunition manufacturers.

Learn here why it’s your right — and duty — to be armed.

The policy compelled Georgia Arms to cancel all sales of .223 and .308 ammunition, rounds used, respectively, in semi-automatic and deer hunting rifles, until further notice. Sharch Manufacturing, Inc. had announced the same cancellation of its .223 and .308 brass reloading components.

“They just reclassified brass to allow destruction of it, based on what?” Georgia Arms owner Larry Haynie asked WND. “We’ve been ‘going green’ for the last dozen years, and brass is one of the most recyclable materials out there. A cartridge case can be used over and over again. And now we’re going to destroy it based on what? We don’t want the civilian public to have it? It’s a government injustice.”

As WND reported, firearm sales have spiked since the election of a perceived anti-gun president, and Americans stockpiling bullets have produced a stressed ammunition market.

The Orlando Sentinel reports months of steady, heavy buying have left gun dealers in Florida facing shortages of ammunition.

“The survivalist in all of us comes out,” John Ritz, manager of a Florida shooting range, told the Sentinel. “It’s more about protecting what you have.”

“People are just stockpiling,” said a spokeswoman for Georgia Arms, which has seen bullet sales jump 100 percent since the election. “A gun is just like a car. If you can’t get gas, you can’t use it.”

WND contacted the Defense Logistics Agency, the Department of Defense’s largest combat support agency, several times seeking comment or explanation for the policy change but received none.

The National Rifle Association confirmed to WND that the DLA had been instructed to require the scrapping of the brass casings but declined further comment at this time.

Other gun advocates, however, sounded off on the issue, eyeing the change in government policy with suspicion and filling the blogosphere with speculation that the effects of the policy change may be deliberate.

“It is an end-run around Congress. They don’t need to try to ban guns – they don’t need to fight a massive battle to attempt gun registration, or limit ‘assault’ weapon sales,” writes firearm instructor and author Gordon Hutchinson on his The Shootist blog. “Nope. All they have to do is limit the amount of ammunition available to the civilian market, and when bullets dry up, guns will be useless.”

A writer named Owen at the Boots & Sabers blog suspects the policy change is an effort by an anti-gun administration to raise the cost of ammunition.

“This policy didn’t come out of the blue,” writes Owen. “The Commander in Chief is clearly sending a message to gun owners that they should be paying more for ammunition. If he can’t do it through regulatory action, he’ll do it by forcing ammunition manufacturers to spend more on production.”

Hutchinson reports Georgia Arms was manufacturing over 1 million rounds of .223 ammunition every month, but without the ability to purchase expended military ammunition, the company may be forced to lay off up to half its workforce.

Gun trial witness: Feds out for ‘vengeance’

February 1, 2009
Posted: January 31, 2009
10:55 pm Eastern

 

By Bob Unruh
© 2009 WorldNetDaily

 

An expert who testified against the government in a disputed Wisconsin gun case involving what the defense has described as a “broken” gun says federal agents ever since have been retaliating and the government’s actions are costing his business hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“I am a witness in a still pending case, and I am being ‘leaned on,'” Len Savage, of Historic Arms LLC, told WND. “This is not the first time ATF has taken out vengeance during a court case.”

The dispute stems from Savage’s testimony during a Wisconsin gun dispute. There a man loaned out a gun, it fired several shots at one time at a gun range, and the federal government prosecuted him for transferring a “machine gun.”

Savage’s testimony contradicted government opinions that the gun was, in fact, a machine gun, because the type of rifle was known to have a problem with misfiring. The defendant, David Olofson, nonetheless, was convicted and his case is on appeal.

The agent whose opinion Savage had contradicted, Max Kingery, shortly after was assigned by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to review a gun part that Savage was proposing to build and sell as part of his business.

The government’s review involved Savage’s part, a conversion unit intended to allow a small number of owners of a specific type of legal machine gun to be able to shoot ammunition costing 1-2 cents per bullet rather than 25 cents.

But the agent added several pieces of metal, some chain, some wires and some duct tape to the conversion unit, allowing it to fire, and then classified the conversion unit itself as a machine gun.

“Max Kingery was assigned to evaluate the submitted product from my company. He is the one who contrived the test, and made the determination,” Savage told WND.

But he said he’s not going to let the decision go unchallenged, and he’ll contest the government’s opinion at a trial over its “arrest” of the gun part in question.

That case now has become formal, with the filing of documentation in federal court in the Northern District of Georgia and naming as a defendant “One Historic Arms Model 54RCCS ‘7.62x54R Caliber Conversion System’ machine gun, Serial No. VI.”

“Plaintiff requests that the court issue a warrant and summons for the arrest and seizure of the defendant property; that notice of this action be given to all persons known or thought to have an interest in or right against the defendant property; that the defendant property be forfeited and condemned to the United States of America…” the government’s civil filing claims.

Several WND messages left with two different offices of the federal agency over a period of two days requesting a comment were not returned.

“Don’t forget the guy who did the evaluation is the guy I testified against four months previously,” Savage said. “That’s impropriety.”

He said, in fact, if anyone made a “machine gun” in this case, it is the government, since its agents added the materials needed to make the conversion unit fire a bullet.

“I didn’t submit it with those parts,” he said.

He said he had proposed building about 350 of the units to sell to customers who already have been approved by the government to have and use the type of machine gun they would fit. But the government’s decision to add parts and define it as a machine gun stymies not only that plan, but apparently is costing him possession of the unit he submitted for examination.

Savage told WND the logic behind the addition of the parts and then the determination the conversion unit is a machine gun doesn’t follow.

“If you tie a string on both triggers of daddy’s double barreled [shotgun] then that would be a machine gun too,” he said, citing the government’s definition of anything that causes multiple shots with a single trigger action.

He said the government did, in fact, make just that determination, but eventually backed away partly.

In 1996, the Firearms Technology Branch of the federal agency determined that “a 14-inch long shoestring with a loop at each end” when attached to a rifle “caused the weapon to fire repeatedly until finger pressure was released from the string.”

“Because this item was designed and intended to convert a semiautomatic rifle into a machine gun, FTB determined that it was a machine gun…,” the agency confirmed in a 2004 letter.

However, in 2007, it followed, “Upon further review, we have determined that the string by itself is not a machine gun, whether or not there are loops tied on the ends. However, when the string is added to a semiautomatic firearm … the result is a firearm that fires automatically and consequently would be classified as a machine gun.”

Savage said such logic should apply in his case, because his conversion unit – without the addition of the extra materials added by the government – doesn’t fire.

He said the government is in the processing of “arresting” the conversion unit, and then a trial will be scheduled for a determination. The government wants ownership of the unit as well as its costs in the case.

Savage wants a determination that his unit is a repair part or conversion unit.

And he said if the government wins its argument, there will be further complications, since the agency has made conflicting determinations in the past.

Specifically, he said, the AFT has ruled that for MAC type machine guns, the upper portion “that contains the bolt, recoil system and barrel … to be a ‘gun part,’ not even a firearm.”

“All of these without exception would fail the ATF’s contrived test,” he said. “If I took the tape and zip tie route that ATF demonstrated in detail and put that on the stock unit, I have a zip gun, just as illegal.”

“This ‘test’ will turn any upper that has a feed device into not only a firearm, but a machine gun,” he said.

Savage’s testimony in the Olofson case, in Berlin, Wis., harshly criticized the government’s weapons testing procedures. In that case, the defendant was convicted and sentenced to 30 months in jail for loaning a rifle that misfired, letting off three bullets at one time.

The government then classified it a machine gun, and convicted Olofson of “transferring” such a weapon. He surrendered to federal authorities and is serving his term, prompting the Gun Owners of America to issue a warning about the owner’s liability should any semi-automatic weapon ever misfire.

“A gun that malfunctions is not a machine gun,” Larry Pratt, executive director of GOA, said at the time. “What the [federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives] has done in the Olofson case has set a precedent that could make any of the millions of Americans that own semi-automatic firearms suddenly the owner [of] an unregistered machine gun at the moment the gun malfunctions.”

When U.S. District Judge Charles Clevert imposed the sentence, a commentary in Guns Magazine said, “It didn’t matter the rifle in question had not been intentionally modified for select fire, or that it did not have an M16 bolt carrier … that it did not show any signs of machining or drilling, or that that model had even been recalled a few years back,” said

“It didn’t matter the government had repeatedly failed to replicate automatic fire until they replaced the ammunition with a softer primer type. It didn’t even matter that the prosecution admitted it was not important to prove the gun would do it again if the test were conducted today,” the magazine said. “What mattered was the government’s position that none of the above was relevant because ‘[T]here’s no indication it makes any difference under the statute. If you pull the trigger once and it fires more than one round, no matter what the cause it’s a machine gun.’

“No matter what the cause.”

Savage had told the agency in an earlier letter the decision to install the additional parts on his conversion unit “in order to induce full auto fire [is] clear and reliable evidence that they were contrived to deny my constitutional rights.”

He said during an interview with Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership that Olofson had been instructing a man in the use of guns, and the student asked to borrow a rifle for some shooting practice.

“Mr. Olofson was nice enough to accommodate him,” Savage said. So the student, Robert Kiernicki, went to a range and fired about 120 rounds. “He went to put in another magazine and the rifle shot three times, then jammed.”

He said the rifle, which was subject to a manufacturer’s recall because of mechanical problems at one point, malfunctioned because of the way it was made.

Savage said once the government confiscated the gun, things got worse.

“They examined and test fired the rifle; then declared it to be ‘just a rifle,'” Savage said. But when agents demanded another test, a different ammunition was used and the result was a machine gun classification.

David Codrea, in the Gun Rights Examiner, wrote, “Given enough added parts that are not part of the submitted design, I know a lot of people who could turn a banana into machine gun.”

“Why are they doing this, especially since many other caliber conversion uppers exist that are not so classified? Will this area be revisited? Or is this payback for Savage testifying on behalf of David Olofson and in other cases?”