View Full Version : Discussing Conversions = Conspiracy?

Rich Lucibella
February 8, 1999, 10:52 AM
I rcently read in a historical novel that the very discussion of parts used to convert semi-auto to full auto weapons can result in a Conspiracy charge. Can anyone confirm or refute this.

We already have enough of our population behind bars for "thought crimes". I don't wish to contribute to the trend.

February 8, 1999, 01:25 PM
How can something be conspiracy if it can be done legally under limited circumstances?

Rob Pincus
February 8, 1999, 05:34 PM

It is my understanding that "Conspiracy" charges chan only be filed if there is criminal intent. I am familar with this as it relates to financial matters, not in the eyes of the ATF.
FWIW, while it is well within the realm of possibility that the Federal gov't would assert such a charge, I think it is highly unlikely that an internet disucssion on the mechanics of conversion could result in a conspiracy conviction.


Rich Lucibella
February 8, 1999, 06:16 PM
Thanks. I'm not real concerned about someone arresting TFL members for a discussion of this sort....at least not today.

However, I've noticed that when a Federal Agency gets innocent individuals in their sights for *whatever* reason, conspiracy charges are usually the only alternative once action is authorized. Sometimes this is just an excuse for property seizure; sometimes worse.

If my understanding is, in fact, law then I think people should be aware of it. There's enough instances of entrapment cases which have resulted in successful conviction cases for "thought crimes". It would be relatively easy to engage someone in such a discussion at a Gun Show or on the Net and then use this as grounds for a bust. A far out possiblity for 99.9% of us today; but tomorrow?

cornered rat
February 8, 1999, 06:29 PM
If such an event happens, you can thank the govt. for alerting you to the overall state of affairs. While it is not a custom to declare war on an individual or a social group overtly, we can read between the lines.

Same way German Jews should have tried to acquire Mausers instead of waiting further back in '38, when the intentions of the Nazies became all too clear...

War is not fun, but an improvement over the alternatives. Moreover, it would be a war that cannot be won except through attrition, as the citizens would not be organized. Any organization would be awfully vulnerable to infiltration...so, work alone and <A href="http://www.ddb.com/RKBA/smg/s_takesome.JPG">take enough of the bastards with you</a> to make for a good escort.

If you believe in freedom and means of protecting it...you might be a gun nut.

February 8, 1999, 07:18 PM
I imagine you are referring to the info in U.C., and I would suggest you call Kent Lamont -- as I believe he was the model for the class III dealer in the book.

Kent has relocated from Indiana to Idaho. Number is 208 756 6819. Another good source would be Dan Shea, who authored the Machine Gun Dealers Bible, 207 683 2959, E mail, [email protected] The info on Dan is from SAR.

Last, I would not give information/advise on modifications to make guns full auto, just because I do not have the kind of money that can be chewed up in a court case. The government does not have to win, all they need to do is bankrupt the individual. Ask Bill Fleming, they did both to him. GLV

Rich Lucibella
February 8, 1999, 08:16 PM
Thanks. You're correct. I am, in fact, referencing John Ross' Unintended Consequences. As I've not not finished the book, I can only assume what happens to Kent's character.

So, come on...don't be stingy with the info! :) Is this a possible scenario or not? I fully understand your concern about financial attrition when a govt agency seeks to destroy an individual. Common knowledge that yopu can't win the fight is the cornerstone of today's property confiscation laws.

February 13, 1999, 09:12 PM
Rich, I do not have the answer. When I was a class III dealer, we did not sell the ' how to ' books, and we were not manufacturers.

Let me put it this way, I don't know of anyone who has been prosecuted, or even arrested for this type of conspiracy. That said, I still would not want to become an example. GLV

Rob Pincus
February 14, 1999, 12:07 AM
Kent is the model for one of the characters, he and JR are very good buddies. There is quite a bit of JR himself in the book, too. As well as his uncle. Funny Story:

There is a scene in the book where a sporting shotgun competitor (based on JR's uncle.. true story) is attending a huge tournament with a Calcutta and cash prizes (as was common during the era). This relative unknown shooter buys himself in the calcuta and goes on to win the event.

JR, being a relative unknown in this crowd, bought himself last year at the IMCS#2 Celebrity Calcutta and proceeded to win the event. Art imitating Life which was then imitated by life again.. of course, almost everyone missed the irony. Not a lot of people had read UC... JR spent the rest of the weekend explaining it.


February 14, 1999, 11:38 PM
Rich, The only way that I could foresee you getting slammed with a conspiracy charge would be as a secondary charge to someone else's charge of committing a firearms felony. That is if you either had a business, ie. Class 3 or had made or supplied the parts to make a conversion for someone else. You could not be charged unless you had an integral prt of the happeniings that make up the firearms felony (making an illegal part). If you have your own business I would not advise discussing with anyone about circumventing thelaw. But talking about it with a friend would otherwise would be okay. As long as you still aren't talking him through the process so that he could make his own illegal parts.

Rich Lucibella
February 15, 1999, 12:11 AM
Thanks for the clarification. I think you're saying that a mere discussion "could" result in a conspiracy charge, but absent facts (assumption?) that you're a "bad guy", the authorities would be "reasonable".

If that's so, I'm not feeling comforted.

Michael Carlin
February 15, 1999, 11:25 AM
Rich Lucibella,

My experience with the IRS tells me that "reasonable" has a lot in common with"common sense" with many government agencies. I too am not comforted.

Ni ellegimit carborundum esse!

Yours In Marksmanship


February 16, 1999, 10:29 AM
Rich, to clarify my statement a little. The mere discussion of illegal activity does not make it a crime. Only when your discussion is an integral part of the 'act' does it become illegal, and turn into conspiracy.

February 16, 1999, 10:33 AM
Rich, p.s. Not all law enforcement officers are "reasonable" in all of their actions. And if someone should ever get "caught up " in a conspiracy charge their best course of action should be to get a really good NRA attorney and pray for the best. As I have seen before it is always best to get your story out in the open and not to conceal anything. Unless you are trying to conceal something !!!

Byron Quick
February 18, 1999, 08:52 AM
I have had the impression for many years that to be successfully prosecuted for conspiracy requires planning (discussing) an illegal act plus at least one ACTION furthering that plan.

In the early '80's in Augusta, Georgia a group of people were arrested on a variety of charges including conspiracy in a "guns for drugs" scheme. The federal agencies dubbed it "Operation Flying Circus." One thing that stuck in my memory was that only one person was convicted of conspiracy. All of her co-conspirators were found innocent of conspiring with her. Go figure :(

old biker
February 19, 1999, 12:16 AM
A GOOD NRA Attorney????? You must be joking, right? I spoke to a NRA lawyer about the Full Auto device to see if I could sell them as curios or maybe keychain fobs. He informed me that as it was just a part like a selector for a M-16. No problem. WRONG, I called BATF the next day and they informed me that it was classified as a auto sear and must be numbered and registered with them the same as a SMG. Glad I did'nt trust the famous board member/lawyer!!



March 5, 1999, 08:41 AM
Correct, the only people that you should get info on restricted weapons or parts is the ATF. And if you are still unsure , ask for it in writing, or get a copy of the regulations yourself.

March 5, 1999, 08:47 AM
Spartacus, even if your actions were only involved in the 'conspiracy' and the other person comitted the act, you can still be charged with conspiracy. If you had KNOWLEDGE that the other person was going to commit an illegal act, you will be charged with both the conspiracy and with the act.

Byron Quick
March 5, 1999, 11:28 AM

Sure, I understood that part and it is logical. What gets me is how someone can be found guilty of conspiracy and all their co-conspirators be found innocent. About like the cases where a person is found guilty of accepting a bribe and the other person is found innocent of giving it. It seems to me that at least two people would need to be found guilty for any one conspiracy conviction to stand and that for a bribery conviction to stand that the person accused of giving the bribe must be found guilty and vice versa. Anything else is unjust, unfair, and not evenhanded. Am I naive to expect this from American justice?

March 5, 1999, 11:12 PM
Conspiracy is added to some charges as a means of Federalizing and making some misdemenors a felony. And it can be used as a means of circumventing the double jeopardy rule. Conspiracy also gives the prosecution a wide latitude in investigation

"Quis custodiet ipsos custodes"

Rob Pincus
March 5, 1999, 11:21 PM
Old biker,

I suspect that the problem is that the Lawyer was unaware that there is a difference between the M16 selector switch and the Semi-auto version.

Furthermore, opinion of the individual ATF agent you spoke with aside, there are portions of the M-16 trigger group that are sold everday at Gunshows and in some gun shops (Springfield Armory's blister bakc tri-burst modification being especially common). ATF has decided that owning those parts AND a semi auto AR is commiting a felony, but they have never charged anyone for owning the parts only.

For anyone interested in an Opinion form the ATF, Riss is right on. You need to get it in writing. Preferably from the Research bepartment at the ATF headquarters, rather than a field office or an individual agent.

Rich Lucibella
March 7, 1999, 01:15 PM
I have been apprised by a federal agent friend that consiracy charges require *ation* toward the spoken goal. Talking about something alone, does not warrant conviction.

However, as DC has pointed out, conspiracy charges tend to be rather nebulous and can be easily abused by prosecutors. The result is what I refer to as "thought crimes".

Brett Bellmore
March 17, 1999, 09:21 AM
It's my understanding, from reading news reports anyway, that 1. The "action" can be taken by anyone in the "conspiracy", even the government's informant. 2. The "action" can be a legal act; Hypothetically, in this instance, purchasing a home shop setup. The question I'd have is this: If you don't violate STATE law, and you keep the gun in your own home, would you be safe? The Supreme court HAS taken the idea that "interstate comerce" has to be actual comerce actually crossing state boundries seriously of late, after all.

Daren Thompson
March 17, 1999, 08:38 PM
Brett I think (and I may be wrong) the interstate commerce on full-auto weapons only applied in the original NFA 1934, the GCA of 68 made it so a civilian had to pay the $200 tax just to have the machine gun. Then with the passage of FOPA in 86 they banned the manufactue of machine guns for civilian use. Therfore if you made a machine gun at home U would be guilty of not paying a $200 tax in wich the government has told U they will not let U pay. For in FOPA there is somethiong that says U can posses the gun if the government says U can, but BATF says this applies only to government agencies and law enforcement.
Hope this helps

Brett Bellmore
March 18, 1999, 07:04 AM
Darren: Yes, I understood that bit about requiring people to pay a tax, and then refusing to accept it's payment. My point had to do with the enumerated powers of the federal government; If I build a machine gun in my basement, and don't sell it to anyone, I'm not engaging in "interstate commerce". As I read the Constitution, outside of the D of C, and a few military bases, the Federal government lacks constitutional jurisdiction to ban ANYTHING, let along guns. Of course, I do understand that by this reading of the Constitution, 90% of what the federal government does today is unconstitutional.

March 18, 1999, 11:30 AM
My understanding is that you can build the Class Three weapon, but you must still register it and you cannot sell it. I'm not sure but I think you may also need to get a Class Two license to manufacture if you're going to make more than a couple of weapons.
Manufacturing includes making an SBR, SBS or AOW from scratch or from an existing weapon (such as cutting down a barrel).

B. Strong
March 18, 1999, 11:51 AM
The question really depends on the circumstances of the situation in question. If an individual approached one and requested information as to the proceedure involved in leaglly converting his semi auto to select or full auto configuration in compliance with fed. & st. laws, and is told to contact ATF before doing anything ,I would think that one would have no problem. As to the scenario in UC, I could see how an ATF agent could try to stick it to someone who would go into technical detail as to the mechanics of conversion without first ensuring that fed. & st. laws were being complied with. BTW, in the old pre-86 days many of the so-called "conversion kits" for sale were intentionally sold in a "out of tolerance" condition so the seller could avoid prosecution in the event that ATF got a hold of one of their kits.These sellers knew that the kits were being used W/0 the form 1's, and they also probably hoped that some of the people buying the kits would be unable to re-engineer them to get the kit to function, thereby relieving the kit dealer of possible liability in the event that the kit was used in a criminal act.

Brett Bellmore
March 18, 1999, 01:50 PM
Fal308: Now, THAT is interesting! You mean to say that if I were willing to jump through the right hoops, I could get licensed to build new machine guns for my own enjoyment... As long as I kept the numbers within reason? What hoops do I have to jump through, and how much does it cost? I should pass a background check with no trouble; The closest thing I have to a legal record is a wrong left turn back in '78.

James K
March 18, 1999, 04:47 PM
Manufacturing a Title II device (includes silencers, etc.,) requires a manufacturers tax stamp, and BATF approval of the operation. A manufacturer can make devices for experimentation and for sale to authorized purchasers. But unless you have the stamp, making a machinegun in your basement is illegal, whether you ever transfer it or not. "Manufacturing" a firearm includes making it out of something, whether that something is a semi-auto firearm or a barbeque grill. No, talking about making machineguns is not a conspiracy unless there is evidence of intent to carry out an illegal act. Talking about robbing a bank is not illegal; drawing floor plans, maps, renting a hideout and buying guns would bring the talk into the realm of a criminal conspiracy. If you ever need a technical question from ATF, they will answer over the phone (and not use caller ID). Unfortunately, like the IRS at tax time, an agent's word is not official. If a question is important, write them and get a revenue ruling, which is binding throughout the US and on all agents. Needless to say, don't begin with "I've done this is it legal?" By the way, A US district court ruling is only binding in that district.

[This message has been edited by Jim Keenan (edited March 18, 1999).]

Daren Thompson
March 18, 1999, 08:57 PM
Brett I understand what U are saying with the enumerated powers thing, but if U make a machine gun in your basement and the ATF catches you they will charge you with a felony. Now I agree you have plenty of legal ammo to take this to court, but they have more money(probably) than you do and will bleed you dry and then throw U in jail. sorry sad but true (where is Bill Gates when U need him)

Brett Bellmore
March 19, 1999, 06:34 AM
Darren: Where is Bill Gates? Sadly, on the other side; He helped bankroll prop 676 in Washington! As for me, I don't think I could afford such a legal battle, unless we could somehow restrict it to small claims court!
Jim: Well, let's see: I AM an R&D mechanical designer and machinist, working in an R&D shop. And I DO have some interesting design concepts for firearms I'd like to try out. So the idea that I might want to design some experimental firearms, with an eye to getting into the business if they work out, isn't so implausible. In fact, it's the truth; I've noticed that firearms companies seem to start up with relatively little capital, and not much more equipment than I already have at home. So I guess the next step would be to contact the BATF. By the by, why do you refer to them as the ATF? You can't drink them, you can't smoke them, and as Waco demonstrated, you can't even fire them; They're the BUREAU of ATF, not ATF itself!

March 22, 1999, 11:10 PM
I know you were being funny...but, being picky about "official" titles is lame (vs ATF/BATF).

In letter, if you are a "firearms/related" manufacturer" you are, defacto, against the law if you make a working example of your design prior to notifying BATF of your intent. The letter of the law is so vague that that is the bottomline. Further, if you tell others (non-BATF) that this is what you are doing, you could be guilty of "conspiracy" at the discretion of BATF.

My point is that, if they wished to, the BATF could deem you a felon at their discretion for whatever you do in any kind of machinist/manufactering capacity...I'm not saying they always do it, but they "legally" can if they wish.

"Quis custodiet ipsos custodes"

Brett Bellmore
March 23, 1999, 06:31 AM
DC: I suppose it's silly, but for some reason refering to the BATF as "the ATF" annoys me. We don't go around refering to the FBI as "the I", do we? As far as I know, it's not that the name of the bureau ever got officially changed; They just dropped the first letter, maybe because a TLA fit better on their blazers.