By Lee Williams
Charles “Chuck” Palmatier will serve one year and a day in a federal prison for selling guns at the Volusia Flea Market in Deland, Florida without a Federal Firearm License.
According to a press release, the ATF first warned Palmatier that he needed to stop selling guns without an FFL.
“According to court documents, on July 28, 2021, agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) met with Palmatier and explained that if he wanted to continue to sell firearms he would have to apply for a Federal Firearms License (FFL).”
Palmatier, the ATF claims, ignored the agents’ warning. “Despite that meeting, Palmatier continued to sell firearms …” the press release states.
“It’s my understanding they approached him, told him to knock it off, and he just thumbed his nose at it and kept doing it,” said Volusia County Sheriff’s Office Detective Sgt. Bobby Woell.
Woell is assigned to the Volusia Bureau of Investigation, a task force overseen by the Sheriff’s Office and comprised of deputies and members of other law enforcement agencies, including ATF. The VBI focuses on drugs and violent crime.
“The ATF, along with the Volusia Bureau of Investigation (VBI), began investigating Palmatier and conducted multiple controlled purchases from Palmatier at the Volusia Flea Market from February 2, 2022, through June 8, 2022,” the press release states. However, Sgt. Woell was quick to point out that the press release is dead wrong. The ATF investigation of Palmatier was not a task force case. The VBI was never involved. It was all ATF.
“People buying and selling guns at a flea market is not our responsibility,” he said. “If we got a tip about this, we would turn it over to the ATF. For the most part we’re done at that point.”
The ATF sent undercover agents to the flea market, who made “multiple controlled purchases” of firearms from Palmatier.
“At least two of the firearms purchased from Palmatier were subsequently linked to usage in two separate crimes,” the press release states.
Nebulous federal law
It’s not easy to determine when someone who buys and sells firearms needs an FFL – even for the ATF. It’s debatable at best. The ATF publishes a 10-page brochure to help people determine whether they should apply for an FFL, titled: “Do I need a license to buy and sell firearms?”
“Federal law does not establish a ‘bright-line’ rule for when a federal firearms license is required,” the brochure states. “As a result, there is no specific threshold number or frequency of sales, quantity of firearms, or amount of profit or time invested that triggers the licensure requirement. Instead, determining whether you are ‘engaged in the business’ of dealing in firearms requires looking at the specific facts and circumstances of your activities.”
In general, the ATF guidance says a license is needed “if you repetitively buy and sell firearms with the principal motive of making a profit. In contrast, if you only make occasional sales of firearms from your personal collection, you do not need to be licensed.”
While Palmatier made some money through his sales, even the ATF acknowledged it wasn’t much. “Palmatier admitted that he would profit $50 to $75 per firearm that he sold,” the press release states.
ATF agents searched Palmatier’s home and vehicle June 29, and seized 17 firearms and ammunition, which are now subject to federal forfeiture. They include:
- two Smith & Wesson .38 special revolvers
- Smith & Wesson .22 caliber pistol
- Savage 12-gauge shotgun
- Winchester 30-30 rifle
- Mauser .308 caliber rifle
- two Hatfield shotguns, .410 and 12-gauge
- two Marlin .30 caliber rifles
- Winchester 12-gauge shotgun
- Mossberg .22 caliber rifle
- Sig-Sauer 9mm pistol
- Walther 7.65mm pistol
- Ruger .22 caliber pistol
- Taurus .380 caliber pistol
- Western Field pistol (caliber unknown)
- “Assorted” ammunition
None of Palmatier’s firearms are defined as “assault weapons” by either the Biden-Harris administration or Bill Clinton’s 1994 Assault Weapon Ban. Most are old, collectible, and/or sporting firearms which are no longer in production.
Palmatier was charged through a federal information filing rather than an indictment. He was accused of “not being a licensed dealer of firearms within the meaning of Chapter 44, Title 18 U.S. Code, did willfully engage in the business of manufacturing and dealing in firearms.”
On September 7, Palmatier pleaded guilty to the single count, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. He accepted a plea deal and was sentenced last week to serve 366 days in a federal prison.
Assistant United States Attorney Beatriz Gonzalez, who prosecuted Palmatier, did not return calls seeking her comments for this story.
William C. Daniels, a Public Affairs Officer for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida said in an email, “Our office does not wish to comment on this case.”
Calls to Jason Medina, Public Information Officer for ATF’s Tampa Field Division, were routed to ATF’s Washington D.C. headquarters for reasons unknown. ATF’s headquarters staff said it was against their policy to give out direct phone numbers of their staff – even PIOs – but they promised to give Medina a message to call. Medina has yet to return the call.
It isn’t known why Palmatier refused to stop selling guns after the ATF warned him. Maybe he needed the money. Maybe he’s just stubborn. It really doesn’t matter. But sending him to a federal prison was not the right answer.
I’m sure his refusal bruised a few ATF egos, but therein lies the problem: a bruised ego should never serve as a predicate for a full-blown federal investigation. In this case it clearly did.
After Joe Biden weaponized the ATF and sicced them on gun owners and gun dealers, the agency’s conduct has been reprehensible. Unfortunately, Palmatier’s prosecution is just the latest in a long line of unconstitutional actions including . . .
- Because of Biden’s zero-tolerance for human error policy, FFL revocations have increased by 500%.
- ATF’s unconstitutional home inspections, which they call “knock-and-talks,” have become more like home invasions and have scared the daylights out of more than a few law-abiding gun owners who were unlucky enough to answer the door.
- An ATF inspector was caught red-handed creating an illegal gun registry with her cell phone.
- A congressional whistleblower revealed that Biden’s crackdown on homemade firearms, which he calls “ghost guns,” was based on an ATF hoax.
- Four million Americans are poised to become felons overnight because the ATF is tinkering with rules and regulations regarding pistol braces and aftermarket triggers.
It’s not surprising that no one at ATF or the U.S. Attorney’s Office was willing to answer questions about this case, much less defend their actions. They can’t, really. They know there’s one question they cannot answer truthfully. It’s a simple question: Is this justice?
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This story is part of the Second Amendment Foundation’s Investigative Journalism Project and is published here with their permission.