By Lee Williams
Master gunsmith James Morrison founded JM Gun Repair 46 years ago, after doing gun repairs in his garage.
The gun shop has been a local institution ever since, offering firearms, black powder and reloading gear, ammunition including hard-to-find calibers and James’ incredible skills as a master gunsmith with 50 years of experience.
The business is perfectly located, straddling the county line between Sarasota and Bradenton, Florida. “This has been a family legacy for 46 years,” said James’ grandson, Noah Morrison. His father and uncle work at the shop too.
Noah, who just turned 21, dreamed of becoming the third generation of Morrisons to operate this family business. However, his dreams were dashed when George Hancock, an ATF Industry Operations Investigator, known as an IOI, walked into the shop, at around the same time Joe Biden announced his war on “rogue” gun dealers.
“During the audit, he found faults in our paperwork,” Noah said. “In in the past, for these types of minor faults, an auditor would have just handed us a pen and told us to fix them.”
Noah’s father Benwayne Morrison, agrees.
“These were clerical errors, but they changed the definition,” he said. “Under their new definition, they said our violations were willful. After 46 years we never gave a gun to someone who shouldn’t have it, but that didn’t matter. None of the violations were on Biden’s ‘rogue’ gun dealer list.”
Rogue dealers defined
Joe Biden first announced his zero-tolerance policy in June 2021. Part of his scheme included five criteria, which he claimed defined a rogue dealer:
1.) transferring a firearm to a prohibited person
2.) failing to run a required background check
3.) falsifying records, such as a firearms transaction form
4.) failing to respond to an ATF tracing request
5.) refusing to permit ATF to conduct an inspection in violation of the law
However, the ATF is revoking licenses for the most minor of errors – errors not on Biden’s five-point list. As a result, a special report we published in May revealed that FFL revocations increased a staggering 500 percent.
No due process
Effective Aug. 23, JM Gun Repair can no longer transfer or sell firearms. The family intends to keep the shop open, selling ammunition, reloading and black powder supplies, gear and other accessories, but not guns or even gunsmithing services. They posted a note on their website announcing the changes.
“Our family legacy is gone,” Benwayne said. “My father started this business. A master gunsmith is a rare breed. He can tell you the details about a gun made 100 years ago. He’s still sharp as a tack. Our family was screwed over by the ATF.”
The worst part for him and his family is that there was no way to appeal the ATF’s order.
There was no due process.
Benwayne contacted Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office, but was told since it was a federal matter, he should contact Florida Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott. Benwayne never received a response from Scott’s office. One of Rubio’s assistants told him to send more information, but he has not heard back.
Building an illegal registry
Both Benwayne and Noah believe there is another, unspoken reason why the ATF is revoking hundreds of FFLs. Any time a gun shop closes or is ordered out of business, they must mail years of records to the ATF.
“They’re building a gun registry, and that’s illegal,” Benwayne said. “If you want to build a registry, the easiest way to do it is to have gun dealers supply their records. That’s the quickest way for them to find out who has what kind of guns. If they shut down a 46-year-old store that’s had thousands of sales, all of a sudden, they’ve got a lot of records.”
Neither Jason Medina, public information officer for ATF’s Tampa Field Division, nor Aaron Gerber, the Division’s Director of Industry Operations, returned calls seeking comment for this story.
It’s clear that the Biden-Harris administration believes if they eliminate all the gun dealers, they will eliminate all the guns. But since there is only a handful of actual rogue dealers out of the 50,000 licensed gun dealers doing business in the country, the administration had to devise another tactic. As a result, they came up with the “willful” scheme.
Now, even the most insignificant clerical error is a “willful” violation, which means the dealer is a rogue, and their license is quickly revoked. The ATF was happy to play along, since they’ve always been more than willing to bend over for the White House, regardless of the constitutionality of the request.
The two hallmarks of the Morrison family business have always been safety and family. Benwayne used to train Boy Scouts. His father taught hunter safety classes. They educate every first-time gun buyer before they leave the shop.
“My parents could have retired years ago, but they wanted to keep the business going for their children and their grandchildren,” Benwayne said. “It’s frustrating to me that now my son Noah is old enough to be part of the family business, but he can’t. We’ve always been a law-abiding shop. We’ve done our best for nearly a half century to educate the public and keep the public safe. So, if they can do this to us, they can do this to anybody.”
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This story is part of the Second Amendment Foundation’s Investigative Journalism Project and is published here with their permission.