A former member of the Greene County, Ohio Sheriff’s Office found himself in hot water thanks to a Heckler & Koch HK416 machine gun, reports the Dayton Daily News. Former Sheriff’s Maj. Eric Spicer was convicted in December of two counts related to the acquisition and possession of a machine gun. Specifically, he was found guilty of “knowingly possessing a machine gun” and also of “possessing a gun that was not registered to him in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record.” . . .

The story involves more than mere possession. According to testimony at trial, Mr. Spicer apparently purchased the machine gun for use in his position at the Greene County Sheriff’s Office. He admitted to signing the name of Sheriff Gene Fischer on forms used to purchase the machine gun for $1684.80. Spicer claims it was done with the Sheriff’s consent. Sheriff Fischer claims otherwise.

The jury found Spicer not guilty of charges of falsification of documents — possibly because there appears to have been some acrimony between the two men in the lead-up to this matter. (Spicer also has a wrongful termination case pending against his former employer.)

The penalty for these crimes can be up to a $10,000 fine and 10 years in a federal prison. The sentencing judge was willing to give Spicer the benefit of the doubt:

U.S. District Judge Michael Barrett announced the sentencing, adding that Spicer’s version of events was “equally plausible” to that of the prosecution’s. Barrett said he believed that if Spicer had been asked, he would have returned the machine gun.

Spicer’s attorneys said they plan to appeal the convictions.

“I’m not happy about the conviction for Eric, but Judge Barrett has seen what this really is about and his comments up there are telling,” said one of the attorneys, John D. Smith. Spicer’s prosecution was an overreach, Smith said, noting, “This is Eric falling through the (administrative or bureaucratic) cracks and me scratching my head why somebody like the ATF and the U.S. Attorney really care about somebody that falls through the cracks.”

Whatever the particulars of this case, one thing is perfectly clear: Spicer was found not guilty by a jury of the only charges that really were a threat to law and order: the falsification or forgery of documents. As for the crime he was actually convicted of — possession of a machine gun — as far as I can tell, the former Sheriff’s Major with his machine gun was no threat to public order at all. That crime only exists because of a bit of security theater imposed on the citizenry by the federal government.

Mr. Spicer may have been able to get a fair hearing in this matter simply because he was a former member of a civilian law enforcement agency; certainly, thanks to the 99th Congress and President Reagan, non-LEO types are unable to purchase a machine gun manufactured post-1986 at all. But that doesn’t change the fact that Mr. Spicer’s mere possession of this HK didn’t appear to have hurt anyone. The criminality of possession is just an epiphenomenon of the ever-growing regulatory state.

Tennessee Law Professor Glenn Reynolds echoes the point in a recent article in the USA Today titled, “You are probably breaking the law right now“:

While a century or two ago nearly all crime was traditional common-law crime — rape, murder, theft and other things that pretty much everyone should know are bad — nowadays we face all sorts of “regulatory crimes” in which intuitions of right and wrong play no role, but for which the penalties are high.

If you walk down the sidewalk, pick up a pretty feather, and take it home, you could be a felon — if it happens to be a bald eagle feather. Bald eagles are plentiful now, and were taken off the endangered species list years ago, but the federal law making possession of them a crime for most people is still on the books, and federal agents are even infiltrating some Native-American powwows in order to find and arrest people. (And feathers from lesser-known birds, like the red-tailed hawk are also covered). Other examples abound, from getting lost in a storm and snowmobiling on the wrong bit of federal land, to diverting storm sewer water around a building.

From eagle feathers to machine guns – the feds have it covered.

84 Responses to Former Ohio LEO Guilty of Machine Gun Possession

    • Begs the question – where and from whom was it purchased (and what else did they (do they) have fore sale)?

        • B, If you will look real close, you will see I didn’t mention dealers. Dealers have them under the auspices of selling them to a LEO agency or military. Joe Q. Public can’t buy them. Until they are transferred, they aren’t “Stamped.” There is a local dealer with a G18 in inventory. They have it as a “sample.” U

        • Private individuals can fill out paperwork and submit for a tax stamp. After 6 plus months,if approved one can purchase a machine-gun. He /she has to keep this letter in their possession when going to the range. The gun can only be stored at the place of address listed on the letter from the Federal Government. This gun cannot be given or sold until the intended recipient goes through the same procedures for approval to own such a firearm. It is a time consuming and costly adventure.

        • @3006A1, you are full of crap. Unless it was made before 1986 and on the NFA registry, you are incorrect. The Hughes Amendment on the 1986 FOPA made it illegal for Joe Q. Public to get anything made after 1986. Pay attention.

    • This guy should get some jail time. The story did not say or I missed it. I was on a federal jury about 20 years ago in which a 65 year old man was charged with owning an M-1 modified to fire full auto. He got 6 years in prison, where he ended up dying. He claimed he had never shot the M-1 and did not know it could be fired as an automatic. All that mattered in the case was mere possession of a machine gun without the necessary permit. Yes, if there is to be justice in the system, former Sheriff’s Maj. Spicer needs to spend a few years in the Graybar Hotel. What is good for the goose is certainly good for the gander.

      • Look in the mirror bro! If I understand correctly YOU voted to send that old man to his death in prison for owning an M1 he never fired ( yeah right). I assume you do not sleep well at night and dream of waking up with Bubba. It was wrong for this ex-LEO to forge the paper work but…my God what did you do?

        • Yep. Acting as a juror, he was complicit in the government’s infringement of that man’s right to keep and bear arms and unjustly depriving him of life and liberty. There’s blood on his hands.

        • This trial caused me no loss of sleep. I did nothing wrong. I served on a jury to determine guilt or innocence. The man was guilty of breaking the law. I cannot help if the laws are stupid and unreasonable. The judge sentenced the man to 6 years, not the jury. There were other aspects of the man’s criminal past that you are unaware of. If he had not been convicted of unlawful possession of a machine gun, he could have been found guilty of numerous other crimes. I suppose the feds chose to charge the man for the crime that would be the easiest to try or would get him the most time. I am now an avid gun supporter, but at the time of this trial, I was not a gun owner, had little interest in guns, but was in no way opposed to them. I just had other priorities at the time (small kids, paying off mortgage, etc.). If you personally are on a jury where I am the defendant, I hope that you too will judge me on the law and and not your emotions as you consider my guilt or innocence. I do appreciate your apparent devotion to the 2nd Amendment. That is important these days.

        • >> The man was guilty of breaking the law. I cannot help if the laws are stupid and unreasonable.

          Sure you can, that’s exactly what jury nullification is all about.

      • As much as I overall agree with the “goose & gander” rule of thumb, I cannot agree with your opinion on this one. He was acting as an individual and not an agent of government. His right to keep and bear that particular firearm is being infringed. Therefore, I must defend his right to keep and bear it.

      • Jail time? BS The JURY determined that no crime committed. The opinion of a Jury is only opinion that matters, and they appear to have decided that the Sherriff was/is full of crap.

        Jury nullification of Un-Constitutional anti gun laws.

        A non LEO civilian likely would not have even received a trial (or fair trial).

      • Jury nullification. Why do we have 12 citizens that generally don’t have law degrees sitting on a jury, instead of a judge, deciding if a person deserves to be punished for a crime?

        Because those citizens are supposed to determine if the crime the person is being charged with is just. Because there is the law, and then there is justice. The people have the power to decide if they are one and the same.

        And vote accordingly.

        And, of course, the current court system hates this century’s old common law, and will even tell the jurors, if they mention it at all, to just follow the LAW. But they don’t have to obey an illegal directive.

      • Are you talking about an M1 Garand or an M2 carbine (fully auto version of M1 Carbine)? Those are 2 different animals. The Garand was never fully auto and fires .30-06 while both the latter fire the .30 Carbine round.

    • This might be the perfect case to go to the supreme court and challenge the National Firearms Act of 1934 as well as the Hughs amendment. The only case law that is relevant is the Miller case in the 1930s that affirmed a right to own firearms in use in the military and militia. This would certainly fall under that protection.

    • So if I’m out on the lake and my boat anchor happens to snag an mg, I’m supposed to tell the gubmint?

      • Well, if it is a rubber-bumper MG B, I’d say leave it where it is. A chrome-bumper MG B might be worth bringing up but it’ll probably be solid rust. Now, if it is an MG A or MG BGT… wait, not THAT kind of MG? Oh, never mind.

  1. It does give him standing to challenge the NFA on constitutional grounds. Something tells me that a LEO would be more likely to get the supremes to re-hear Miller.

    • What about an Aries? Nevermind…

      Ideally, the opposite ought to be true. Law enforcement officers carry under privilege when doing so in the performance of their duties whereas a non-agent of government is operating purely on rights. The non-agent of government should have a stronger case if our courts are going to adhere to principles.

      But, yeah, I agree that the courts might see this as a case to side with the RKBA. However, I could also see it becoming a carve-out of special privilege for agents of government under the guise of protecting a right.

  2. From the Dayton Daily News article:

    Before his March 6, 2014, firing, Spicer had been on administrative leave since a July 31, 2013, shootout in Yellow Springs that ended in the death of resident Paul E. Schenck Jr. Spicer was not named as the law enforcement officer whose bullet killed Schenck. That incident was not mentioned at trial.

    I thought the name sounded familiar. Last year, there was a dust up about open carry in Yellow Springs, a progressive haven. They finally acclimated to open carry and now it’s not big deal to do so there. However, another local resident had some trouble with law enforcement and sought out help from the group of OCers. Because of the Paul E. Schneck, Jr. incident and the other minor incident with the OCers as a catalyst, Yellow Springs now has its own CopBlock chapter and there seems to have been progress in the recognition of Libertarian values amongst a group of the modern liberals there.

    • I am amazed to hear of Libertarian leanings in Yellow Springs, with super-liberal Antioch college right there. Always amused me to see the hippies whenever getting some Young’s ice cream.

      • If you find your way back to YS this spring or summer, we should get some ice cream and chat. I played a very small, ancillary role in the YS “awakening”. lol

        There is a surprising number of closet Libertarians in Yellow Springs.

        • I would love to take you up on that, but I’m only back in Ohio nowadays to visit the old folks, I don’t get much time to myself.

    • http://www.whio.com/news/news/crime-law/greene-co-sheriffs-maj-spicer-confirms-hes-fired/nd9Mh/

      Spicer has been on paid leave since the July 30 police standoff on North High Street in Yellow Springs that ended in the death of Paul E. Schenck Jr., who had fired more than 100 rounds of ammunition at responding officers.

      Another deputy who fired the fatal shot that killed Schenck, James Hughes, was cleared by a grand jury who determined that his use of force was appropriate. Hughes returned to work in October.

      Immediately following the police-involved shooting, the Ohio Attorney General’s Bureau of Investigation conducted an investigation and determined Spicer led the law enforcement officers to the wrong home located three houses south of Schenck’s residence.

      “Unaware that they were at the incorrect location, the Emergency Action Team remained there for approximately two hours,” Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine during a previous news conference.

      DeWine said Spicer attempted to enter the wrong house, causing a fearful resident to dial 911.

      • Yep. That’s correct. My quick link was from the original and the connection I didn’t make when first reading the TTAG article. Thanks for the good link. 🙂

  3. Open the damn registry and this would have been a non issue. Imagine how much taxpayer money and resources are being wasted on this guy.

  4. Reread United States v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174 (1939), you have read it, right? The prior to Heller the only firearms clearly protected by the Second Amendment are are those suitable for militia use. The HK 416 sure looks good to me.

  5. When will we realize that cops need to be able to buy the proper weapons for their job regardless of action type or barrel length. We don’t tell carpenters what hammers they can use. Guns are the tools for cops. Why restrict the tools cops have?

    • Why tell someone he can only legally use a 20 oz hammer since he is not a carpenter by trade, and that his possession of a 24 oz hammer is against the law?
      The whole reasoning behind gun control laws is illogical, there is no good reason

    • The cops, who are citizens just like the rest of us, should have access to any weaponry that any citizen has access to. If it’s legal for me to walk in wal mart and buy an uzi the cops should have the same right.

      We are all citizens. I will agree to carve outs for things like nukes. But conventional small arms? No.

      • There shouldn’t even be carve outs for nukes, they are just arms. If I had the billions of dollars necessary to put a Peacekeeper missile in my back yard, I should be able to do so. That might make the government think twice about infringing other rights.

        This whole thing is supposed to be a non-issue as our government isn’t supposed to have the power that would make and reasonable law abiding citizen want to revolt against them.

    • Police departments can buy automatic weapons and issue them to their officers for duty. Those officers cannot buy a giggle-gun for personal use, however.

      • Which is a great example of the SWAT mentality.

        If it’s full auto, and it’s not crew served, it’s not worth much – tactically.

        But, hey, it feels cool to be able to say you carry an M4A1 or an MP5 – regardless of the fact that the full auto feature is useless in the context of your job.

    • Guns should not be the primary tool for cops. The fact that many might perceive it to be the proper primary tool is a symptom of problem in the system today. Executing writs, warrants, and investigating crimes after the fact don’t require firearms as the primary tool. No doubt firearms play a role but that role should not be primary in a free society. The whole notion of peace officer and the role of law enforcement in our society has gotten off point. The profession has suffered dangerous mission creep. Lawmen were to act as an arm of the courts and augment the People in keeping crime in check. The People reserve the right to keep and bear arms that shall not be infringed. (Before someone asks, what about an officer’s right… An officer who chooses to accept a paycheck and place himself under the authority and oversight of a department or agency is bearing arms under a privilege while acting in official capacity.) The People are the rightful spring from which law and order are to come forth. Government was to be a facilitator for the People. The way it is now, government claims to be arbiter and sole vestige of that responsibility and power. That is wrong. That is a police state, regardless of degree.

      I will vehemently defend this man’s right to own that firearm. (Not as an officer but as an individual) However, that does not automatically mean that I will defend that officer’s privilege to own it. If shall not be infringed was adhered to by government then I might be asking why don’t our officer have fully automatic weapons. However, when the People cannot freely keep and bear them…

        • Oh now Ted. When you show the typical contempt for a citizens rights being infringed, you show the corruption of those with power our founders warned us about. You are good reminder to the rest of us of what happens when we the people give a corruptible and fallible human being like your self, the power of life and death without proper safe guards.

          You are a symptom of a disease. Unfortunately, the cure usually entails a great amount of collective societal pain.

        • You know Thomas, what’s really contemptuous is the pretense when “shall not be infringed” is all someone has to offer in response to any firearms law or restriction they don’t agree with. Denial and existing in an alternate universe by pretending that a judicial, legislative, or executive branch of government will one day wave a “shall not be infringed” magic wand that miraculously invalidates and repeals all existing firearms laws and restrictions might give you comfort and help you make it through the day, but it accomplishes absolutely nothing in real world protection of 2nd amendment rights.

        • Ted, “shall not be infringed” is all anyone has to offer. That’s why it’s called the “Bill of Rights” not the “Bill of Opinions”.

        • Well, Ted, It’s obvious that you’re contemptuous. So why are you so contemptuous of those that hold to “Shall not Be Infringed”? It’s because of those that believe in “shall not be infringed”, that since the eighties, we have gone from one constitutional carry state, (Vermont) to now we have eight. With most every other state with Shall Issue and even more states bringing up more Constitutional Carry amendments and passing laws to carry weapons on more universities.
          Now we’re talking seriously about passing National Reciprocity. Whether that’s a good thing is another discussion.
          All by the ballot box. and not the bullet box. Hopefully that will continue.
          And if it ever does go to the bullet box, it will be those that believe in “Shall not be infringed” that will be doing the heavy lifting.

          “Shall Not Be Infringed” A belief to live by, a belief to die by. And it is what you are willing to die for, that gives you a reason to really live instead of existing in the dull grey purgatory of being simply a “survivor”.

        • No matter how desperate either of you continue to be by wishing it were true or pretending it is true, the lame cherry picking of the four words “shall not be infringed” from the Bill of Rights applied in embarrassingly shallow context doesn’t void state and federal firearms laws or restrictions and never will.

          Although the chanting of “shall not be infringed” might provide you some sort of strange therapeutic relief, it won’t make all the firearm laws and restrictions you oppose go away.

          The only place the four words “shall not be infringed” empowers individuals to own, possess, and carry any type firearm they choose without restrictions is in the alternate reality a troubled fringe of society chooses to exist in.

        • @Officer Ted Unlis: Your opinion on the Second Amendment is clear. Now allow me to make mine clear. By soap box, ballot box, or ammo box; shall not be infringed will once again be recognized as the Supreme Law of the land. I am not alone in that opinion.

        • So John, since you’re “soapbox” is woefully inadequate, and repeal of the NFA through the “ballot box” will never happen, where will you lash out first to fulfill your dream of armed insurrection using the “ammo box” to assert your “shall not be infringed” constitutional right of machine gun possession as the “Supreme Law of the land”? In this seditious fantasy of yours, are you leaning towards going out in a blaze of glory there in Ohio, or perhaps an out of state last stand after hauling all that ammo you’re going to need for a road trip revolution?

  6. I think the easiest thing to change would be the Hughes Amendment. It doesn’t make anything less, or more dangerous (at least in the eyes of anti’s), it only serves to drive up pricing on outdated, potentially dangerous weapons that could cause catastrophic damage to users. (Yes I’m aware of gunsmithing practices and parts swapping on registered AR’s and the like, but I’m trying to make a case for repeal. *wink*)
    The fact that one weapon made 12hrs later than another is completely legal to own (though through countless months and money wasted, and massive inconvenience along side complete disregard for civil rights) and the later made one is unobtainable through legal channels begs the question, if the NFA was so worried about revenue from tax stamps, why do we not see a repeal of Hughes and a new open registry with millions of dollars more to be made? Seems like the first logical step to me.

  7. If the illegal Hughes amendment ever goes away, my bank account will be in big trouble. Thankfully, the Republicans have no interest in repealing it as they do not believe in the martial aspect of the 2nd amendment, just like the Demonrats.

  8. “Former Greene County Sheriff’s Maj. Eric Spicer was sentenced Monday to five years’ probation after his December conviction on two of seven counts related to the acquisition and possession of a machine gun.
    Spicer, 45, is barred from ever owning guns, was fined $1,800 and must complete 100 hours of community service.”

    Being barred from ever owning guns is the worst part. Ouch.

    • He can do what G.Gordon Liddy did when he went to prison for his role in the 70’s ‘Watergate’ break-in.

      He sold his guns to his wife. 🙂

  9. Surprisingly, this happens more often than you’d think, and the details are usually similar. An officer wants a machine gun, short barrel rifle, or short barrel shotgun and there is no way the agency is going to buy and furnish one, so the officer figures an angle to use personal funds to buy the NFA restricted firearm at the unbelievably low law enforcement agency price by falsifying the ATF forms to make it look like the agency is the buyer.

    Any officer who paid attention in the academy knows that the U.S. Attorneys Office will put your ass in the federal pen just for the document falsification, but the arrest for the federal felony usually happens after the officer leaves employment of the agency and just can’t bear to part with the NFA restricted firearm they paid for and leave it behind in the custody of agency, which according to ATF paperwork owns the firearm and is required to account for it on agency inventory. At some point after leaving the agency with the now illegal firearm in tow, someone who knows the officer left with the firearm drops a dime to ATF and its a done deal open shut case, a 10 year federal felony that transforms the officer into a convict.

    If felony dumbass were a federal crime, it would probably be a more fitting charge. Thirty years ago a few lucky dumbasses would be cut some slack when the local ATF Agent showed up at their door and gave them an ultimatum, surrender the gun or go to jail, but those days are long gone.

    Other than 3 shot burst capability in extremely rare and limited circumstances, an automatic weapon is of little or no use in law enforcement applications. The LE price for machine guns is relatively cheap for a reason, there is not much demand for machine guns by LE agencies and there is no legal way for any officer to possess a machine gun listed on the agencies inventory once the officer leaves employment of the agency. It the officer works for an agency that allows carrying of a personally owned short barrel rifle or shotgun, a $200 NFA tax stamp is all it takes to stay legal and is money well spent.

    • The LE price is cheap because machine guns are cheap to make.
      The civilian price is expensive because we draw from a limited pool of weapons which was capped 30 years ago.

      • The crazy prices that pre 86 ban MG’s bring is why it’s cost prohibitive for any tax stamp antique to be an option for any officer with common sense. I know several officers who actually own or have owned legal pre-ban MG’s and they fall into two groups, those still waiting to cash in and those who have already cashed in. In the early 80’s the individual officer price for a full auto MP5 was $450 to $500, which was still A LOT of money on an officers salary in those days, only bachelors who worked plenty of extra jobs and OT could afford such toys. I know of one of those MP5’s that sold 8 or 10 yrs ago for more than $12K, no telling what it would bring today.

        If there was a legal way now for an individual officer to buy a new machine gun, demand would go up quite a bit and so would the Class 3 dealer prices, not to crazy pre 86 ban MG prices, but they would easily go up a grand or two, maybe more.

        Since most agencies view full auto and burst capability as having an extremely limited role in tactical applications and of little or no use for the rest of law enforcement, there is not much demand by most agencies for those type of weapons, so LE distributor prices for full auto firearms are only marginally higher than comparable semi auto firearms.

  10. Whats sad is that since the 86 machine gun law only two legally registered mg have been used in a murder, and one of those times it was a police officer killing there confidential informant. Talking about a law that in 30 years has prevented at max 2 or less deaths….

  11. If Hollis vs Holder turns out the way it ought to (with NFA being thrown out as it relates to machine guns, not just the 1986 ban) would people like him have their convictions overturned?

  12. So a sheriff’s department can buy a F/A HK416 for $1684.80…but I can’t buy a S/A MR556 for less than $2500?

    EXPLETIVE DELETED, HK.

  13. Yep, 10 years in prison for not hurting anyone. I feel ashamed to live in a place where people voted for this.

  14. “The criminality of possession is just an epiphenomenon of the ever-growing regulatory state.”

    It’s more than mere epiphenomenon. Criminality of possession, by a nonthreat to public safety, and other similar feel good felonies, are both a cause and a consequence of the ever-growing regulatory state.

    The more b.s. laws there are to trip people up, the more men, money and material resources are required to investigate and prosecute them all. Likewise, the more money, men and material resources the government has at its disposal, the more missions they’ll seek or fabricate to justify their existence.

    Anything less than a wholesale reversal of the federal monolith is an unacceptable surrender to further infringements and eventual servitude.

    Vote Cruz in 2016!

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