The following is a completely true story. The names have not been changed, because if you’re going to accuse me of committing a crime you’d better be right or else something like this is going to hit #1 in your Google results. This is a story about how one person’s misunderstanding of the law, even when no crime has been committed, can quickly lead to criminal charges and permanent damage. It’s a story of a bureaucracy gone horribly wrong. And what makes it even scarier is that it can happen again to any one of us at any time . . .

As I was wrapping up the recent review of the Weatherby Vanguard Series 2, I came to the conclusion that I couldn’t let this firearm go back to Weatherby. It had to be mine. So I purchased it figuring that I’d fund my impulse buy with the revenue generated from the sale of the old Weatherby Vanguard sitting in my closet.

I grabbed some pictures from the review, slapped up an online ad and within a few minutes had offers to buy it from across the country. The eventual buyer was actually a reader of the site who bought it specifically because he figured that he could trust a used gun from a TTAG writer over anything else. We quickly concluded the sale and pretty soon I had the cash in hand and the information for an FFL in Florida to whom I would ship the rifle.

Next, I went through the exact same motions I had gone through dozens of times before with both T&E guns and my own personal firearm sales. I first verified that the destination was an actual legit FFL capable of receiving firearms. Then I boxed up the gun – bolt removed and ammunition absent – in a nondescript brown box.

Then I brought it to the local customer service center UPS, a common carrier, disclosing that the package contained a rifle. I used the FFL’s address as the destination and sent it via ground shipping. I then walked out of the office believing that I had heard the last of the gun, having promptly and properly shipped it to its destination.

Boy, was I wrong.

The first sign of trouble came on Saturday. The buyer in Florida arrived at his FFL, Ad-Tek of Tallahassee, Inc., and the FFL refused to transfer the firearm. The buyer gave me a call from the shop explaining that the FFL holder, Bob Morrison, did not want to transfer a firearm from an individual in a different state. I talked to him, explaining how I had done this exact same thing dozens of times before and asking whether it was store policy or some law he thought we were in violation of, but his response was clear as a bell: “I don’t want to discuss it.” That was the end of the conversation, and he did not want to answer any more of my questions.

At that point, I got it. I can understand. It’s his gun shop and if he doesn’t want to transfer a firearm from some random guy in Texas, that’s fine. Worst case scenario, the firearm was still legally mine as he had not completed the transfer, so I didn’t see an issue with him doing a direct abort and sending it right back where it came from. No harm done, no laws violated, everyone goes home happy.

He then offered something that to this day I cannot believe someone would actually suggest: he said he would do the transfer if an FFL on my side, in Texas, would falsify their bound book to say they had shipped the firearm.

I’m going to let that sink in for a second: Bob Morrison, licensee at Ad-Tek of Tallahassee, Inc., wanted to defraud the ATF.

He wanted an FFL who had never even seen my gun to put the serial number in their book, in effect swearing that they were the entity transferring it. He wanted another FFL to knowingly participate in a fraud.

He hung up before I could formulate a response to his little proposed scheme. I contemplated the scenario for a bit, and quickly concluded that I wasn’t comfortable with it at all. It’s not something I would even consider asking an FFL here to do, let alone expect they’d actually do it. I told him that no one I knew was willing to do that and if he didn’t want the gun, he should ship it back to me so I could go through another FFL.

Apparently William Morrison had another idea. He called the ATF.

Agent Don Williams of the Tallahassee office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) called me at 4 PM CST on Monday. I was at work with my cell phone off, but thankfully Google transcribes and forwards all of my voicemails to my Gmail inbox for me. As soon as I saw the words “It was shipped improperly and illegally” in my inbox, I knew I was in for an interesting afternoon.

The very first thing I did, like all law abiding citizens would do instinctively, was call the ATF agent back. I’d passed more background checks than I can even remember. I’m the legal owner of an NFA weapon which required the FBI to run my fingerprints and perform a thorough background check. I held a security clearance, the investigation for which was so thorough that they found my ex girlfriends and interviewed them. I’m the most squeaky clean, law abiding individual on the face of the earth and the mere idea that I’d broken the law was preposterous. I had done this exact same dance many times before and according to everything I had read and researched, I was in the clear. There had to be something going on that I didn’t know about.

I stepped outside my office, dialed the number he gave and when he picked up, I simply said “Hello, this is Nick Leghorn returning your call.”

His tone of voice instantly changed. When he answered the phone, he initially sounded businesslike and detached, but as soon as I told him my name, he started in with the most condescending tone I have ever heard in my life. “Nick! Hey buddy!” He said it in a sing-song manner. It was like he was the cat, I was a cornered mouse and he was just playing with me. I’m kicking myself for not having recorded it. It’s been a few hours since the conversation so I’m going to paraphrase as  accurately I can.

The very first thing Agent Williams did was try to get me to admit to committing a crime, something I wasn’t going to do. I had fond memories of listening to Kevin Mitnick‘s stories about his tangle with the FBI. I was trying to be as helpful as possible without admitting any guilt or illegal activity.

Agent Williams insisted that I had shipped the rifle to an individual instead of an FFL, but that didn’t make sense. The FFL had clearly received the firearm and I kept trying to point that out. I had shipped the gun to the FFL, the license holder in Florida. The same person that had called him. The person currently in possession of the rifle.

At one point he tried to claim that the issue was that I had sold the firearm to an individual and that the FFL needed to be involved in the actual sale. That made even less sense. I kept trying to get him to explain exactly what law I had broken, but he became more and more agitated because I wasn’t simply standing down and admitting guilt.

At that point Agent Williams tried to get me to admit that I didn’t have an FFL. “Do you have an FFL?” he asked. “Yes, I have a Type 3 FFL” I truthfully replied. You could see the OODA loop in his mind resetting as it clearly wasn’t the answer he was expecting. His tone of voice then dropped back down to that of a normal conversation and he stopped being a condescending dick for a brief moment.

“Well…” he sputtered, “…you should have included a copy of your FFL!” I replied, “It doesn’t fall under my license as a collector of curios and relics. I didn’t log it in my bound book as it doesn’t meet the requirements. There’s no reason I should have included my FFL. I was simply answering your question as truthfully as possible.”

As he started to piece together the information I had given him, his demeanor started swinging back towards condescension, but not quite as bad as it was when the conversation started. I wanted to know what I had done wrong since, as far as I could tell, I was in the clear. I had shipped a firearm to an FFL, a license holder. So I asked him again to explain to me exactly what he thought I had done wrong. I can remember the words almost exactly.

“You as an individual cannot ship a firearm to an FFL interstate. You need to give the firearm to an FFL in Texas, who will ship it to an FFL in Florida.”

At the time it sounded plausible. It had been a while since I had read the statutes and with a memory like mine, it’s possible that I forgot something. Possible, but extremely unlikely.

The solution, according to Agent Williams, was to “un-ring the bell” as he put it. We would roll back the whole thing, get the gun back to me and I’d send it back to Florida through an FFL on my end this time. I asked whether the firearm could be shipped back to me as it was still legally my firearm. He said he would look into it and get back to me. I have to give him credit, it wasn’t a terrible solution to the problem.

What scares me is that, had he not decided to “be nice” and roll everything back, he had some terrifying options at his disposal. Taking down an “illegal arms dealer” who was “trafficking firearms” near the Mexican border would have looked great on the news.

The jackbooted thug option would definitely have left some marks both on my record and my person. I’m a U.S. citizen who’d done nothing wrong, yet my name could have easily been splashed across the news and smeared as an illegal gun trafficker. I could see the thin line separating me from the same kind of treatment George Zimmerman is getting right now.

How does one even deal with that kind of situation? What if he hadn’t called and instead simply sent the local ATF branch to come collect me? Even worse, what would have happened if they had decided to raid my apartment in force? There have been more than enough reports of raids by gang members dressed as police officers along the border, so how does one distinguish the real from the fakes? All the possibilities of what could happen flowed through my mind, scaring me more and more with each passing second.

That’s when we ended the call. Agent Williams had described the situation as he saw it, outlined the law he thought I broke and proposed a solution. He said he would look into sending the rifle straight back to me and hung up.

The very next thing I did was call Sean Cody, the attorney behind some of a friend’s gun trusts. Even though he didn’t know me, he was more than happy to listen to the facts of the case and proclaim that the ATF agent had their head completely up his ass.

I quote directly from the ATF’s own Frequently Asked Questions page on their website:

“A nonlicensee may ship a firearm by a common or contract carrier to a resident of his or her own State or to a licensee in any State.”

I lost my goddamned mind.

I would have understood if the agent, Don Williams of the Tallahassee office of the ATF, had screwed up an obscure bit of firearms law minutiae. If there was some minor technicality that was at issue, I wouldn’t blame him for being slightly off base. But in this case the agent was completely and totally wrong. What made it worse was that Sean Cody found the correct answer on the ATF’s own Goddamned site after less than three minutes of Googling.

The slightest bit of effort on Agent Williams’ part would have proven that the FFL’s concern about receiving firearms from unlicensed individuals was unfounded. But he didn’t bother doing even that much. It sounded illegal, so it was illegal.

How could this possibly happen? I assume the ATF put Williams through training of some sort before they gave him the title of “agent.” Or am I wrong? Does the ATF let these guys make it up as they go along? Is it common practice among the ATF to be so ignorant of the laws they enforce that a quick look at their own website proves them wrong? How incompetent can one agent possibly be?

As I was sitting at my desk contemplating whether to call the agent back and point out his mistake, he called me back. He stated that he had been mistaken. He admitted that I was completely correct and had done nothing illegal. He added that the transfer would take place to the buyer as soon as possible. The call ended at 5 PM.

There was no apology, though, for almost ruining my life.

When I was in college, I read John Ross’ Unintended Consequences. There was a group of us reading it actually, as we had heard it was a terrible book and wanted to find out exactly how terrible it was (spoiler: it’s pretty bad). One thing I could never understand was the distrust and contempt that Ross has for the ATF’s agents. I refused to believe that an agency of the government could be so terrible at their jobs that it would warrant their murder.

I’m not saying I’ve come to the same belief as Mr. Ross, but I can understand where he comes from now. My life could have been ruined thanks to an FFL with an itchy dialing finger and an incompetent ATF agent. If either had been just a hair more malicious, I could be facing a felony charge and huge legal bills right now instead of relating a cautionary tale to TTAG’s readers. Now I understand how Mr. Ross could see battling it out as the only option, especially against a bureaucracy that would rather send an innocent man to jail than spend three minutes actually looking at the law and doing their jobs.

Let me just make this clear: I don’t blame the FFL for calling the ATF. I do blame the FFL for not discussing the situation first, though. Five minutes of reasonable conversation could have avoided this whole mess. And I blame the ATF agent for being so utterly incompetent that it only takes three minutes on Google to prove him completely wrong. I also blame him for being an officious, condescending dick to someone whose only intention was to follow the law.

122 Responses to Annals of Bureaucracy: How a Shady FFL and Incompetent ATF Agent Almost Landed Me in Jail

  1. Hey, they didn’t shoot your dog, so you got off lucky (a touch of sad sarcasm here). Seriously, what you describe is golly gee whiz scary! Glad that it worked out correctly.

  2. Thanks for posting that. A cop in Roseville, MN once threatened to arrest me for having an unloaded pistol in a latched box behind the seat of my truck while I was on the way home from my job as an armed courier. Carrying it that way would have been completely legal even if I hadn’t had a valid permit. So, I can kind of relate.

    I guess all I would say is this: You have congress critters for a reason.

  3. Amazing incompetence from the ATF. The FFL was also a jerk. I do also blame you for not confirminf the FFL would accept a gun shipped from a private party. Its well known a lot of FFLs dont like that and require transfer from another FFL. I dont see how this ordeal “almost ruined your life” but what a hassle. Glad it worked out.

    • Guilty until proven innocent. Something like that stays on your record. Especially with a security clearance. A lot of application don’t say if you have been convicted of a felony, but have you been CHARGED with a felony. This is also not counting in the thousands of dollars in legal bills.

  4. Amazing incompetence from the ATF. The FFL was also a tool. I do also blame you for not confirming the FFL would accept a gun shipped from a private party. Its well known that a lot of FFLs dont like that and require transfer from another FFL. I dont see how this ordeal “almost ruined your life” but what a hassle. Glad it worked out.

      • Improper transfer of a firearm across state lines is a felony, if I’m not mistaken. Bye-bye, 3-gun competitions. Bye-bye, hog hunting. Bye-bye carry permit. Bye-bye, job (more than likely). Hello, criminal record!

        I’d say Nick’s “OMGWTF” response is more than justified.

      • I can totally understand.
        In Nick’s case not only would he lose his FFL, but also not be able to posses any firearms. I have held clearances as well, so yes say good by job and lively hood. It doesn’t even matter if you were acquitted.
        Taking life style poly’s is so much fun aint it Nick!!!

      • Guys. HE BROKE NO LAW (and in his gut he knew it). Therefore Mr ATF couldnt do squat! Lying or being uninformed Mr ATF was but our boy here wasnt even remotely close to charges that could stick. Maybe scary and frustrating in the moment (until the head cleared)….but again, he wasnt close to having this “almost ruin his life”.

        • I’ll paint a picture for you. Suppose Agent Williams was unable to admit that there was egg on his face. Suppose he’s also overzealous and bucking for a promotion. Suppose he thinks he can get an indictment for conspiracy to defraud the BATFE(ASRBF). Suppose Mr. Morrison (who IMHO is clearly in cahoots with the BATFE(ASRBF)) is his star witness. I’m not a lawyer, but I suspect that a he said/she said is a 50/50 shot at best with a jury (Ralph, correct me if I’m wrong). In Vegas some people might consider 50/50 to be betting odds. When the stake is your life, though, I’d walk away from that bet. Check that; I’d run.

    • Motojob is way off base. When you work with guns for a living merely being investigated and/or charged will ruin your career and cost you up to hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees. The author here and his lawyer were the only compitent parties in this whole messed up fiasco. Stuff like this just shows how much these govt agencies are after law abiding gun dealers/owners. Randy Weaver was my neighbor when i was a kid, Hard for me not to feel a little nervous even when your trying to comply with every law

  5. Three paragraphs below your bolded line, you changed Bob Morrison’s name to William.

    You say you don’t blame the FFL for calling the ATF. This is the same FFL who wanted you to do something fraudulent? I would absolutely blame him for calling the ATF. He was wrong to begin with, and he tried to incite you to illegal activity.

    Did you at some point tell the ATF agent about the Florida FFL’s willingness to commit fraud? Or did you think that would just be adding fuel to the fire? It does occur to me that leveling accusations of your own could reflect back on you. Maybe the FFL would say that the falsification had been your idea, and who is the ATF going to believe, their licensee or some random Joe Schmo they’ve never heard of? Maybe discretion was the better part of valor. I’m just curious about your thought process.

    I’m glad you came out of it in no worse shape than you went in. In these situations it’s nice to come out a little wiser, but I don’t think you did. You already knew what you knew, and you knew you were right. It’s not really possible to improve on that. Sadly, there’s not much to learn from this situation except that, “You never know.” You can do everything exactly correct and still (potentially) run afoul of someone else’s incompetence.

  6. AN INCOMPETENT GOVERNMENT AGENT?!?!

    Color me shocked.

    Glad everything worked out for you, but damn if that’s not an unnecessarily close call.

  7. I agree with MotoJB in the fact that the only mistake you made was not checking with the FFL personally before shipping. Some FFLs are funny like that.

    The stupidity of the ATF in general and this particular FFL is just disturbing.

    Glad to hear it turned out ok.

    • I assume… Well, USED to assume… that it was the responsibility of the buyer to pick an FFL and let them know that the gun is coming. At least, that’s how I always ran things.

      Never again. Trust but verify.

      • Then again Nick, my question to the FFL dealer in FL is if you don’t except private person transfers, why not just say so? I mean no harm no foul, if you have your license and it was good enough for him to make an exception even though it wasn’t bound then why not. It sounds like he was being a jerk. If he would have simply stated that, and apologized for the confusion the he could have shipped it back end of story.
        You both deal in firearms so I would expect some common courtesy at minimum.

  8. Why should he be blamed for not making sure the FFL would accept shipments from private parties? If it is a legal transfer then there is no blame to be issued. I place blame on the receiving FFL for not understanding, nor have any desire to understand the law. Also based on the impression of Nicks initial conversation with the ATF agent, it doesn’t seem like the FFL guy was very good at telling the story. I would say you should’ve reported the FFL for suggesting the fraud, but no one likes a tattle tale lol.

    • I know this is an old comment, but I am going to comment anyways.

      Just because something IS legal does not mean that it is alright to assume that somebody will do it.

      That is just like me sending YOU a box of GS cookies and EXPECTING you to transfer them to your neighbor just because you sell GS cookies. Just because it is legal does not mean you would want to fool with it.

  9. Disgusting.

    Lets be candid folks:the reason were reading this here instead of on the front page of New York Times.com is because Agent Williams didn’t have any evidence to work with. When it comes to the ATF, there is no such thing as a fixed concept of “law and order”. There is what is legal, and there is what can be twisted to created a career-building case out of thin air.

    Speaking of thin air, the receiving Texas FFL in this story sounds like someone playing Agent Provocateur for the ATF.

    Think for a moment:the FFL first raises an objection because the rifle was sent by an individual,legally .Obtuse, but not unreasonable if the dealer is trying to head off any appearance of impropriety. Then they blow that hypothesis out of the water with the illegal and nonsensical notion to suggest that if Mr. Leghorn colluded with another dealer to lie on an offical document, they’d be happy to transfer the weapon.

    When Mr. Leghorn properly refused that course of action, suddenly the ATF starts making ominous phone calls. Id say that FFL is playing informant to the ATF , best case scenario. Worst case is they called the Feds first thinking Leghorn would blow the whistle on their illicit strategy.

    Either way, id get in touch with the Texas field division and get that dealers license pulled ASAP. Guys like that are scandal waiting to happen, and another innocent gun buyer could wind up in Leavenworth if you don’t. Just because an agent in Florida said its cool doesn’t mean the local offices in Texas will get the memo, especially if this FFL spins another yarn.

    Link to the ATF’s Southern Texas contact info:
    http://www.atf.gov/field/houston/fo-texas-southeast.html

    • It was a Florida FFL that was receiving the transfer.

      I had the same thought about the FFL calling the ATF to beat Nick to the punch about blowing the whistle.

  10. It suprises me when I discover a “gun guy” that isn’t already totally cognizant of the ATF’s incompetence and maliciousness.

    Well, now you know, Nick. Tread carefully around those snakes.

  11. Can I speculate for a moment? What if an FFL found himself in trouble with the ATF. An ethics challenged ATF agent might offer this FFL an option to get out of trouble. Bring me some prosecutable smuck. Just call me and point me in the direction of a suitable goose ready for the grinder of indictment. The FFL who was in trouble might just drop a dime on some unsuspecting out of state guy he never met and would never see again.

    Just speculating of course…..none of the above would have any relationship to what you described of course…..yeah I know, its totally unrealistic of course…..

  12. So Bob Morrison, licensee at Ad-Tek of Tallahassee, Inc., suggested that you commit a federal crime? He conspired to involve himself and at least two other persons (you and the sucker of an FFL who’d presumably go in on this) in the act?

    Wow. Bozos like him make all FFLs look bad and give plenty of ammo to the folks who want to restrict our rights. I’ll make sure I keep his name in my memory, maybe post it around a bit.

    Also, Agent Williams needs an official reprimand in his file.

  13. Thankfully you knew the law better than the Minitrue agent did, Nick.

    I must say, though, that calling him back instead of having your lawyer call him back either with or without you on the call was a bit risky.

    We’re all one step away from being put in prison for something.

  14. This sort of thing is why incidentally, I rely on a local FFL who does a lot of sales on Gunbroker to sell my guns for me. Sure, I could sell them myself, but going through him insulates me from the liability, plus, his reputation on Gunbroker is much higher than mine would be as a newbie, so customers are more likely to trust a used gun purchase from him than from me. Sure, I gotta pay a commission, but its money well spent to avoid a run-in with the jack booted thugs.

    The thing is that in Nick’s case in the end, he would have been acquitted. He has a proof of shipping document that shows he mailed the gun to the FFL’s address on file per the ATF registry, so the claim that he shipped a gun interstate to a non-FFL is bogus. Secondly, as he found out, it is completely legal to ship a firearm to an FFL holder in another state. This situation would not likely have ruined his life, but it would have made things very difficult and expensive as Nick would have had to get an attorney to fight this and might have been the guest of the state for a bit of the cops decided to do a no-knock warrant.

    Unfortunately, when Nick was proven not-guilty, Uncle Sam would not have written him a check for his trouble.

  15. I live in Tallahassee and was thinking of using Ad-Tek for transfers in the future. i will be sure to remove them from my list.

    • I have done business with Ad-Tek years ago…and I have heard other people’s reviews of them. I really wonder how he stays in business.

    • I too live in Tally. Suffice it to say that Ad-Tek would not have been my choice of a receiving FFL.
      The buyer should be faulted for not confirming his FFL would receive an out of state transfer from an individual. Many will not, but as you found out, it is COMPLETELY LEGAL!! I have had it done numerous times but always through my favorite FFL who I know will accept an OOS individual transfer.
      For the ATF agent not to know one of the most basic allowances of firearms transfers is egregious, but not surprising.

      • There’s also the chance, since this FFL made the suggestion of breaking federal law, told the buyer that there was no problem, and still pulled this little stunt.

        Lesson here: Investigate the rep and policies of any FFL you plan to use to receive or ship that you don’t already know those about.

  16. Scary story. My own close call with law enforcement over a gun could have easily ended with me crumpled on the ground; I was at the local gun shop examining an HK USP at the counter. A Texas DPS trooper came into the gun shop and I guess he forgot what kind of shop he was walking into, because when he saw me with the HK he immediately went for his sidearm, then stopped when he realized where he was at. I remember him walking past me and pretending like nothing happened afterwards. A .357 SIG round would have really ended that day on a bad note for me…

  17. Oh, and one more thing from someone who spent a brief time at a sister agency to the ATF. Don’t ever “return” a call to a police organization when you suspect something is a miss. That is what lawyers are for. So don’t go calling up the ATF yourself and complaining etc. If you are going to pursue anything, please have an attorney do it for you after consulting with him/her. Consider that you’re on the ATF radar screen now. That ain’t gonna go away for years, if that. Remember that they are the big dog in the neighborhood.

  18. It’s bullshit like this that drew me into the practice of law. Having a license to practice doesn’t insulate anyone from government persecution, but part of the government’s strategy is to bleed a defendant dry. It’s harder to do that when the defendant is perfectly capable of defending himself.

    Now that I’m retired, I’m an experienced attorney with time on my hands and a hardon for bullies. While I hope never to have to defend myself against the government in court, I’m willing to make that my second career if I have to.

    As for the ATF, there’s this: “If I were to select a jack-booted group of fascists who were perhaps as large a danger to American society as I could pick today, I would pick BATF. They are a shame and a disgrace to our country.” Rep. John Dingell (D-MI)

    • Which is something for everyone to note the next time one is tempted to grumble about lawyers: they’re really your last shield against stuff like this and the government is working double time to take that away.

      In the post due process world we live in, it really doesn’t take much for your life to get trashed. There’s no indication that’s going to change: this is the new normal.

      • Just saw this quote here yesterday. It’s my new “go too” for explaining my take on today’s society:

        “America is at that awkward stage. It’s too late to work within the system, but too early to shoot the bastards.” – Claire Wolfe

        I would only add the words “way too late” but only “a little too early”.

        • Sounds about right. We’ve legitimized indefinite imprisonment without charges and assassinating American citizens now, so there’s not really much farther down to go. Right now it only applies to “bad” people (i.e. terrorists), but it’s really only a matter of stretching that definition to fit whoever’s inconvenient at the time.

        • That quote always bothered me because who, exactly, is she talking about shooting?

          The electorate? They’re the ones responsible for this mess.

        • Michael, Claire was clearly talking about politicos and bureaucrats. The quote is a leadin to her book “101 Things to Do Until the Revolution”. It’s about screwing with “the system” in the meantime.

  19. Hey Nick, I wonder if you could somehow send Agent Don Williams a link to this story.

    Have you thought of submitting this story to any other news outlets, local news papers etc? Oh, and Agent Williams’ Supervisor.

  20. One more anecdote supporting the line: “you may sometimes regret buying a firearm, but almost always regret selling one.”

  21. Perhaps you should have called the attorney first.

    Remember, the ATF and the police are allowed to lie to you, such as telling you that you can’t ship the rifle. If it gets you to panic and tell them something that incriminates you, then they win.

    Don’t talk to the cops.

    • +1 As an attorney, I believe the best course of action is to call your attorney first and have the attorney make the initial contact. The attorney can gather the facts without making any client admissions. Depending on where the phone conversation is taking place, it may even be legal for the attorney to record the phone call without first getting the other party’s consent.

      • Dead on the money. Always…always…contact your attorney first. Never speak to the police…ever.

      • We live in fear of our lawmakers and law enforcers. Ask yourself if this is how free people should live.

        • No, it isn’t, but people have been much too willing to trade freedom for safety for much too long.

          So here we are.

  22. We need stricter gun laws, more agents, agencies and regulations to keep this type of debacle from happening again.

    On second thought, why couldn’t they just let your rifle “walk” to it’s new owner?

    Seriously, you TTAG guys need to be EXTRA careful. With all the venom that gets spewed toward the govt and ATF specifically (rightfully so), I’m sure they would love to get their mitts on one of you. Holder probably has his own flight path over RF’s place for ATF drones. I’m not kidding here.

  23. To receive a gun from a non licensee is up to the dealer. Your first mistake was not taking it to an FFL in Texas for shipment. Having had an FFL for some 30+ years this is something I would never do.

    • Why? As noted, IT IS LEGAL TO DO SO. The only mis-step here was not verifying the out of state FFL would accept a transfer from a non-licensed individual. First blame should be on the purchaser of the firearm for not confirming that.

  24. You did an awful lot of talking to the ATF agent. STFU applies in situations like this too.

    Glad it worked out for you though.

  25. In 1989 as a senior in college I interviewed for the ATF. I remember being asked if I went undervover, would I be willing to do some blow or smoke some weed, have unprotected sex, or beat the sh1t out of someone. I guess when you are undercover all moral reason gets set aside…a shame. I was later offered the position, but chose graduate school instead. To think, by now I would have been retired with a gov’t pension. Or dead.

  26. This is why I do my absolute damnedest to avoid conversations with ANY law enforcement officer not personally known to me.
    I know there are good folks in the field, just trying to do a good job. However I don’t trust random people I meet out in the world either….these are just strangers with the ability to take a giant s**t on your life if they see fit. If he thought he had a chance in hell of pinning something on you, you’d currently be awaiting a bail hearing.
    Glad to hear you aren’t wearing orange, man. That must have been scary.

  27. I shuddered reading about your innocent, lawful act becoming a psychological trauma. Thank God it would never come to a trial, let alone a conviction.
    I wonder how things might have worked out if you had suffered physically — say you suffered a heart attack at the false accusation of a crime, with all that was entailed by such an accusation. I don’t suppose you have any recourse for what you were put through; no wounds or broken bones, just someone “waving his badge around”.

  28. Let me just make this clear: I don’t blame the FFL for calling the ATF.

    What the hell? How can you NOT hold this moron accountable for not knowing the regulations on his business? That’s like saying you wouldn’t blame an owner of a restaurant for selling sandwiches made with rotten meat.

  29. Nick, please, PLEASE tell me that you reported Mr. Morrison to the ATF for attempting to conspire with you to defraud the ATF and commit a federal crime. People like that make us all look bad and give the ATF more ammunition to restrict and hamstring our 2A rights, and no matter which side of the fence you are on, someone like that has no business selling firearms.

    And I’m glad the situation was resolved without the necessity of legal action. I imagine it would be difficult to write witty gun commentary from the slammer. Not to mention your family’s feelings about the matter.

  30. ATF Agent Don Williams, Tallahassee, Florida is misguided and almost ruined someone’s life. ATF Agent Don Williams should know better. Bob Morrison, licensee at Ad-Tek of Tallahassee, Inc. should have given Nick Leghorn more courtesy and a few moments of his time to prevent the entire thing. Perhaps ATF Agent Don Williams and FFL licensee Bob Morrison should apologize to Neck Leghorn.

    If enough people posted their names on the internet then every Google and Yahoo search would put the spotlight on them and hold them accountable for the stress that they made a law abiding citizen, Nick Leghorn, endure.

    Absolutely shameful, ATF Agent Don Williams and FFL Licensee Bob Morrison.

  31. Here’s a tip: ATF hands out FFLs to snitches/informants for precisely this reason.

    I drive 30 min across town to the area’s largest gun dealer and supplier to local LE for transfers even though there is a FFL 3 blocks from my house. Why? The gun store owner in my neighborhood received his FFL this way. He used to be an ATF snitch. How do I know? My father and brother are both retired from the local police department, and my father was aware of the ATF’s arrangement. When I started collecting guns my father’s advice was to never, NEVER, under any circumstances buy anything from the local gun store.

    Could this be why Bob Morrison of Ad-Tek of Tallahassee asked you do to something fraudulent, and when you didn’t bite, called the ATF? Is/was Bob Morrison of Ad-Tek of Tallahassee a snitch working to earn his keep with the ATF? The ATF will never tell. But it sure smells like it.

  32. (It’s worth repeating) NEVER, EVER, UNDER ***********ANY************** CIRCUMSTANCES answer questions from ANY law enforcement officer without first speaking to a criminal attorney. It is absolutely imperitive that you watch the above video, if you think that it might sometimes be OK to talk to a LEO w/out an attorney.

    Yes, even on a traffic stop. Another very important reference: “Arrest-Proof Yourself” by Dale C. Carson.

  33. You could have been arrested (falsely, for sure) and even if charges were dropped (and they would be after 5 figures at least), you would have a felony arrest on your record for life with no possible way to remove yourself from it. (This according to Dale C. Carson, ex cop and present criminal attorney and author of “Arrest-Proof Yourself”, a must-read).

  34. Jesus Nick. Glad this turned out OK. Imagine if it had been some young guy who doesn’t know any better how to handle himself. Two quick observations:

    “There have been more than enough reports of raids by gang members dressed as police officers along the border, so how does one distinguish the real from the fakes?”

    They’re both real gangs Nick.

    “How could this possibly happen? I assume the ATF put Williams through training of some sort before they gave him the title of “agent.” Or am I wrong? Does the ATF let these guys make it up as they go along? Is it common practice among the ATF to be so ignorant of the laws they enforce that a quick look at their own website proves them wrong? How incompetent can one agent possibly be?”

    Rhetorical questions.

  35. WOW!!!! This is probably one of the most amazing articles ever on TTAG. There are so many things that could have gone wrong, and you could have had all your guns taken away for following the letter of the law. I’m glad everything worked out in the end and keep up the great work.

  36. Thank goodness you had a Sean Cody to immediately turn to. What about the rest of us who don’t have quick access to a lawyer versed in this matter? SCARY

  37. According to government thinking this means that ‘Agent’ Williams will now be promoted and given a free trip to Hawaii.

  38. Let’s say you are a law abiding FFL and somebody “suspects” that you violated some riddle in the BAFTE code. It’s possible for a search warrant to be served by a team of well armed agents prepared to sort out the matter by force.

    Waco, TX. 1993. The names have changed but the tactics remain.

    I live 3 miles from GLYNCO, GA, where the ATF folks are trained. Next time I’m sitting next to a group studying at the local Books-A-Million, I’ll be thinking about how their young minds are being shaped.

    “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” – Lord Acton

  39. You don’t blame the receiving FFL? Let me get this right; you send a rifle to an FFL, he says he’s not going to transfer it unless you commit a crime. Did you let this guy off the hook or what? What do you think will happen to the next person that he tries to entrap? FLAME DELETED

  40. I was in a gunshop owned by a friend right after 9-11. Two ATF agents came in making inquiries about black powder sales. How much did the owner normally sell, how much did he have in stock, had anyone recently made a large purchase? I’ve never been known to be shy, so I spoke up and asked one ATF agent what this was all about. He said it was about terrorism and after 9-11 the ATF was checking all possibilities. I replied that Osama bin Laden was a multi-millionaire , capable of purchasing nukes out of Russia or Ukraine and that he was highly unlikely to even consider black powder as an asset. I further stated that it appeared to me that 9-11 was being used as an excuse to clamp down on the American people, not the alleged enemy. Surprisingly, he said,”I know, I know, I have one more year till I can take my retirement and get the hell out”. Having met several ATF agents in the past and having a very low opinion of them, I was shocked at his honesty. One, out of how many thousands? Knowing how they think, I’m surprised the author got off so easy. But, make no mistake, the special agent in Florida did contact the ATF in Texas and at some point they will try to set-up the author. It’s SOP for this gang of thugs. Never trust anything or anyone associated with them.

  41. Mr. Leghorn,

    Thank you for the grim reminder of how perilous 2nd Amentment-related commerce can be. Just for clarification, did the buyer recommend this particular FFL? I ask because I live in Tallahassee and know that we have a bunch of great FFLs and gun shops/smiths within a few blocks of the Ad-Tek folks on that NE side of town. Did anyone verify with the FFL the sort of transaction that they were being asked to take part in?

    I had an FFL for a dozen years beginning in the early ’80s, and literally never heard a peep from ATF during that time. I moved a couple of times, filed the address change form and always received the updated FFL in the mail. It’s a different world, now I suppose.

  42. So maybe I’m being paranoid, but what if any indication is there that this ATF agent in Florida really exists? Because from the posted story it could just as well be that the gun shop guy had his buddy call Nick and impersonate an officer in order to try to …get personal information? A copy of his FFL (apparently losing interest after finding out it was just a C&R)? Try once again to rope him into the illegal transfer scenario?

    Scam artists impersonate or otherwise try to give the impression of official credentials all the time. If it were me getting this voicemail from a “special agent”, I would first call my attorney, then look up and call the main line at the agent’s office to see if they’ve even heard of the guy.

  43. (comment editor isn’t working) Only thing I might have done differently is call the FFL in FLA where you are sending the rifle to ensure he is legit. Sounds like this Bob Morrison is a complete and utter dick!

  44. Reading this story, among many, many others, is why the paperwork I requested from the ATF is still blank, and stored away with a sticky note on it . . .

    “Don’t do.”

    I commend you and all the others that are willing to tolerate this paperwork assault with bravery and courageous ball point restraint.

    But for all of your efforts I could not own a sling shot.

  45. Yea yea I know, Hanlons Razor. But in this case, my money’s on malice. He lied to you when he said you shipped it to a non-FFL. You didn’t do that and he knew it. He wanted to trip you up so you’d admit to some other, possibly lesser, wrongdoing in an attempt to absovle yourself of his accusation. This was def NOT this agents first rodeo.

    Wether the Florida FFL was actively colluding wtih the ATF or he was just trying to cover his ass after you didn’t agree to his scheme I don’t know. The former seems more likley as I can’t see what he stood to gain by either suggesting you defraud the ATF or actually going through with it. Either way, I’ll be telling anyone who asks to not ever do business with this guy. I wouldn’t mind seeing some kind of compiled list of horror stories and the associated FFL.

    Also, as others have said already, do not EVER talk to a leo if you have even a suspicion that they’re investigating something. I know that sounds bad, and it is bad. It’s unfortunate that LE isn’t trusted. It would be great if they could be trusted and people were comfortable helping the police catch genuine bad guys but sh!t stains like Don Williams ruined it for the good guys. I wouldn’t have even called the agent back. The moment he suggested you did something illegal, wich sounds like was when you listened to the voicemail, you should have contacted an attorney and had them call Williams.

    I’m not knocking you or trying to Monday Morning Quaterback you. It’s not a matter of being intelligent or even knowing the law. It’s a matter of knowing how to play their game. This is what Agent Williams does For. A. Living. (Not to mention the ATF as a whole encouraging this sort of thing) He does this sort of thing 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. He’s a professional con/bullspit/entrapment artist. You need someone who’s equally versed in their BS.

    • Williams perhaps has Morrison over the barrel for some paperwork violation (real or imagined), and Morrison’s only hope for getting off the hook is to help entrap or frame others. He may have been framed the same way, but that’s his bad fortune: he’s toxic now.

      Not a guy you want to do business with. What he needs from you is not a business transaction. But this is LE 101. Get one guy to roll and roll up the whole cell one informant at a time.

      Now, back to your shock at his reaction, many FFLs prefer not to receive interstate transfers from individuals. Some states require all interstate transfers to go through FFLs, also (TX and FL are not among them). I wonder if the buyer just had you send the gun without asking Morrison, and he panicked (which would be easy if he were already in a jam with the ATF).

      You should never talk to law enforcement, even to a professional organization that is scrupulous about citizens’ rights. Have an attorney do the talking for you. And if you are in a state where it is legal, record all interactions.

  46. I think you are being a little hard on John Ross’s book. I found it to be a good read interlaced with interesting history (both shooting related and political). What disappointed you about the book? Was it the length? Plot? Character development? I regularly recommended the book and have given several copies as gifts.

  47. Not to worry, our duly elected sheriffs, who are the ones with the law enforcement jurisdiction in our counties, would NEVER allow out of town non law enforcement individuals (such as the atf) to invade his county and arrest you at all, let alone with extreme violence. NEITHER would your duly elected sheriff EVER give away his law enforcement jurisdiction to unaccountable out of town cowboys with no law enforcement jurisdiction in his county. No one died at Waco Texas because the sheriff showed up and disbanded the federal gang before they could murder anyone or “accidentally” burn the place to the ground. No one died at Ruby Ridge either because again, the county sheriff did his job and KEPT his jurisdiction instead of giving it away openly or tacitly to unaccountable out of town rogue individuals. Your county sheriff suddenly became DAMN important didn’t he. Electing one who keeps his law enforcement jurisdiction suddenly became a matter of life or death and/or preventing awful things from happening to you. Get the book “The County Sheriff America’s Last Hope” by Richard Mack and get enough people to understand these concepts that we don’t have to live in terror because our sheriffs will DO THEIR JOBS and retain their jurisdiction instead of weakly handing it over to out of town unaccountable individuals (or worse, allowing himself to be bought off with federal funding and/or “free” equipment).

  48. I’d love to have the audio of that agent-worth it’s weight in gold..pull them out by the roots Issa/Grassley/Boehner et al.

  49. I have never bought or sold a firearm which involved shipping on my behalf to an FFL so I don’t know the procedures, but I have noticed that many dealers with internet sites which offer shipping to FFLs that they will not ship until they get documentation (seems to require mail or fax) from the receiving FFL. This is probably a good rule to follow as long as we have the current BATF scheme in place.

  50. This article confirms my fears and suspicions. I’ve said it here before, at my age I cannot AFFORD to step in it and spend the rest of my life and the rest of my limited assets on a confrontation of this type. As a result, I don’t even want to attempt to sell or trade or give my small collection, only two or three items would be worth much.
    I will BURY them at some time in the near future, in a presurized waterproof box in a dry area, and leave no information as to its whereabouts. I don’t even want to carry anymore because of the risk of being handcuffed and thrown in the brig. You guys see and understand what the present environment has done to most of us native-born Americans? We grew up with freedom, freedom of speech, the Second Amendment, the 4th Amendment, and a knowledge of our history and heritage. And now we have become a “Nation of Cowards”. I just don’t know what else to do. I have empathy with the blind dissident from China, he has real guts, but not enough to stay there. And there is no place else to go. Ed Cruz, a candidate for US Senate in Texas, is quoted as saying his father, a Cuban, told him that he could leave Cuba and come to the United States, but now there is no place else to retreat to.
    Nick Leghorn, I heartily commend you for prevailing in this nearly disastrous situation. Your article should be read by every gun owner and every young adult in this country.

  51. Just another in a long string of ATF abuses going back several decades.

    “Unintended Consequences” a terrible book? I certainly disagree. I enoyed it. (Do recall it is fiction.)

    You refused to believe that an agency of the government could be so terrible at their jobs that it would warrant their murder? Do you still beleive that? Especially in view of Fast and Furious? (In addition to the decades long string of abuses; eg Ruby Ridge, Waco, and many others.)

    There is no doubt there are many good ATF agents. But there is also no doubt there are many horrible, diabolical agents.

  52. It sounds like the buyer was in contact with the FFL but maybe not. No fault of your own, but I bet next time you call the FFL in advance to guarantee he knows about the transfer and agrees it’s legal. Unlike you, I place (slightly) more blame on the FFL for being stupid. At least the agent fixed his mistake.

  53. To avoid events like yours, I do several things every time I ship:

    1. I have the ATF regs, the shipper’s regs (e.g. FedEx) and a copy of a recent check on the destination FFL (EzCheck) handy when I go to drop off the firearm. I highlight the important parts in yellow. (I have twice had to show FedEx employees that their own regulations allowed me to ship firearms, and in there defense, they were very courteous and after verifying in their own manuals, took my shipments without a problem, and thanked me for educating them.)

    2. I put a copy of these IN THE PACKAGE, including the very same publication you saw on the website that says it is fine for an unlicensed individual to ship to an FFL.

    3. For good measure, I throw in my business card, maybe it helps that I am an attorney.

    My thinking is that this documentation will be there if the package is opened, and someone ignorant is unsure of the legality of the shipment. In your case, inclusion of this documentation might have avoided the entire problem.

  54. In actuality, he did suggest an illegal move, although he didn’t realize it was illegal at the time. But, ignorance is no excuse of the law.

  55. The ATF agent may or not have known all the facts. The ffl may or not have been trying to save his rear end by entrapping (with or without ATF ) our writer. But what is clear as can be to me is that this wouldn’t have gone past doj’s first screening, so no, you were nowhere near facing criminal charges. As far as innocent until proven guilty, that only applies in court; law enforcement doesn’t and shouldn’t think in those terms. Think about it.

  56. Count how many words he takes to describe what was a self-inflicted problem. Does he like to hear himself talk or what? Consider any FFL receiving a gun; no paperwork, No FFL in the box. A week later, someone comes in and claims the gun is his and he ordered it online. No proof of who sent it nor who is the owner. The way you open the door to liberal criticism is to act as though you are trying to find loopholes by doing stupid irresponsible things; right? This time, the pontificating complainer picked a shop that did NOT accept transfers from private shippers, PERIOD. Corporate policy based on the inability to prove the credentials of the sender does not allow for acceptance of private shipments. What makes this guy really look stupid is that he had a C&R license at the time that would have been accepted but he did not send the license in the box. Watch out. This guy just may be a Democrat liberal just trying to make trouble for the firearms industry. As for me, I am telling everyone he is looking for a fight by embellishing the facts in his favor. I know. He sent the gun to me. I called ATF and asked what to do. Think about what you would do and make your own, now better informed, judgement.

    • Mr. Gottschalk,

      Did I read that right? YOU are the one that Mr. Leghorn shipped the rifle to? And, YOU are the one who called ATF? Or, are you the buyer of the rifle?

      If Mr. Leghorn included no information about who the rifle was from or who it was intended for, then yes, I agree Mr. Leghorn made a huge mistake….though not an illegal one; more of a headache than a criminal charge. He should have called the FFL before sending the rifle to clarify that they do, in fact, accept transfers from individuals and to let them know it was coming and who it was for.

      In the end, what happened was legal. The steps YOU took to contact the ATF were idiocy considering you knew who the rifle was intended for (if you are the buyer)…..If, however, you are the FFL, do you have a lot of customers that just walk in and say that you have a model so and so rifle shipped from out of state that you are supposed to sign over to them?

      Regardless, as the buyer or FFL (which is supposedly Bob Morrison…though maybe you are his employee?) you knew it had been shipped correctly to an FFL. All it would have taken was to clarify with the buyer and Mr. Leghorn if you are the FFL’s employee and if you are the buyer, all you had to do was explain the situation to the FFL and have him confirm with Mr. Leghorn.

      You are to blame for this spiraling into the realm of illegality at all….and while Mr. Leghorn’s inaction and failure to call/send appropriate notification with the firearm makes for a confusing, muddled transaction; your actions bordered on malicious. A little communication and common sense would have gone a long way to avoid this issue…and that goes for Mr. Leghorn and yourself, but your actions are the ones that escalated the situation to having legal ramifications for a simple, yet entirely avoidable oversight. So, cast aspersions all you want; you’re the one who was being a dick here.

  57. This is what happens when you give up your natural right to self defense and subject it to “sensible” gun control measures.

    This example crosses so many boundaries, from free association to private property to privacy to the right to bear arms.

    The problem is we have been conditioned to accept these infringements into every area of our lives to the point that we don’t question the underlying root cause….too much government with far too much power.

  58. I literally had the same thing happen to me except I was the one recieving the rifle… what a pain how can a gun store operate when it doesnt even know the law

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