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Old November 3, 2009, 09:27 PM   #1
B. Lahey
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Argument with a Federal Prosecutor

I had to convince a fed today that all NFA arms are not completely illegal.

He didn't buy it at first. To be fair, he does practice almost entirely in Michigan, where just about all NFA stuff is illegal, and where all the SBSs and the like he has run across were certainly illegally owned. But I have to say I was a bit shocked by his ignorance. He isn't a green lawyer by any stretch of the imagination, he's been doing this for 30+ years and is a head honcho of some sort.

Apparently, some ATF agent told him it is "nearly impossible" to register an NFA firearm, and he took that as gospel. In fact he ridiculed me a bit for suggesting that in a large number of states it's only a matter of $200 and a few forms.

"If you ever try to do it, you'll find out it's not that easy."

After I talked him through the process of CLEO signoffs that brings state law into it (didn't get into trusts, he was having a hard enough time understanding individual ownership), the background check, tax, fingerprints, and whatnot, he seemed to understand, but stayed a bit incredulous. It took about 20min just to get it through his skull that not all states are as oppressive as Michigan, or that state law has anything to do with it in the first place.

It was fairly maddening. The man prosecutes NFA violations at least a half dozen times a year, but had no clue that many people own them legally.

Grrrrrrr! Freaking unbelievable. Just had to vent...

Anyone else ever run into a situation like this where a high-level fed, who deals with this stuff constantly, was completely ignorant of the basic facts of the ownership of these intensely entertaining arms?
"A human being is primarily a bag for putting food into; the other functions and faculties may be more godlike, but in point of time they come afterwards."
-George Orwell

Last edited by B. Lahey; November 3, 2009 at 09:44 PM.
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Old November 3, 2009, 09:38 PM   #2
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Every day. None of my clients are guilty
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Old November 3, 2009, 10:14 PM   #3
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I grew up in NYS....I didn't even know that citizens in many other states could own a NFA firearm till I traveled when I was in college. I lived one heck of a sheltered life, kind of like the Fed you ran into...LOL
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
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Old November 3, 2009, 10:17 PM   #4
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Doesn't surprise me. While I've never had that experience with a Federal prosecutor, I have had to educate a Judge or two on a variety of drug laws. The first time I was surprised but a prosecutor friend told me something I've never forgotten. Just because they're a judge does not automatically mean that they know the law. Scary but true. And as we all know, more then a few ATF agents are fairly ignorant when it comes to firearms (espicially the NFA stuff)

In any event, hopefully, your session with the Fed showed him the light. At least you have a good enough rapport with him to where you can sit down like that and explain things.
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Old November 6, 2009, 01:13 PM   #5
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Apparently, some ATF agent told him it is "nearly impossible" to register an NFA firearm, and he took that as gospel.
The Agent may have been talking about getting a new machine gun added to the Registry, and the Lawyer misunderstood, thinking he meant ALL NFA weapons.
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Old November 8, 2009, 11:06 AM   #6
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Unless they have prosecuted a similar case(s) they are going to do the same thing I do when I run into something I am unsure of. Open a book! Laws are all in there, everytime I had a question that I was not sure of and talked to a prosecutor, the first thing they did was open the statute book and look for themselves. Nobody knows every law, nobody.
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Old November 8, 2009, 12:13 PM   #7
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Many professions (law, accounting, engineering) are specialized more than those not working in the profession realize. Most lawyers tend to specialize in just a few practice areas. They know those areas, in their jurisdiction...
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