Sunday, March 16, 2014

ATF raids Ares Armor despite restraining order

OCEANSIDE, Calif. –  The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) raided Ares Armor, a gun parts supplier, despite a court order granting a temporary restraint until March 20, 2014. On Saturday, March 15, Ares Armor Chief Operating Officer Jeremy Tuma posted this photo on Instagram:


On Tuesday, March 11, the United States District Court in Southern California granted a temporary restraining order against the ATF, staying a planned raid on Ares Armor to seize its inventory and customer records. The planned action was due to the company offering heretofore legal so-called “80 percent lower receivers,” or unfinished gun parts that must be further processed by the purchasers into what is legally classified by the ATF as a “firearm.” The temporary restraining order is supposed to stay any raid until at least after a preliminary hearing scheduled for March 20.

Ares Armor filed a motion Tuesday claiming that “The ATF’s planned seizure violates the Fourth Amendment” and that the “ATF mischaracterizes ‘EP 80 percent lower receivers’ as firearms as a pretense to seize customer information.” They further stated that “Ares Armor has standing to sue on behalf of itself and its customers,” and that if the planned raid were allowed to go forward, “Ares Armor will suffer irreparable harm.” Along with the motion for a temporary restraining order, Ares Armor filed a complaint for deprivation of civil rights, stating that the receivers they carry cannot legally be defined as firearms according to ATF’s own determinations. They say the ATF clearly specifies several machining operations that must be performed in order for the 80 percent receivers to become 100 percent receivers and legally classified as firearms.

On Friday, March 14, YouTube personality, product reviewer and gun rights advocate Nutnfancy posted an interview with Ares Armor CEO and USMC Iraq combat veteran Dimitrios Karras:

Karras said he met with ATF agents and discussed how the ATF’s new finding contradicts every previous finding and is based on information which the ATF knows is faulty. The ATF agent’s response, according to Karras, was that he didn’t care and it didn’t matter because his superiors gave him his orders. Karras said it was “comparable to talking to a prison guard at Auschwitz who’s just doing his job.” Karras agreed with interviewer Nutnfancy who asked if he would characterize the ATF as an agency that “make the rules up as they go along and doesn’t care about the rule of law.”

According to Karras, the ATF had been specifically asking for the Ares Armor customer list for many months and told him “no one will know we have the list.” Karras told a local Fox affiliate, “They said either give us these 5,000 names or we are coming in and taking pretty much anything – which is a huge privacy concern and something we are not willing to do.” Karras says he believes turning over his customer list would violate their privacy rights and would be morally wrong. He says his refusal to turn over his customer list led to increased “strong arm tactics” in an effort to force him to give them his customer list.

Karras says the ATF is now threatening to file criminal charges against him and confiscate inventory, in addition to what Karras believes is a very real threat to business that may even cause Ares Armor to close its doors permanently. Karras said people that could otherwise be customers may be reluctant to purchase from Ares Armor out of fear of being harassed themselves by the ATF. He also estimates Ares Armor has spent over $20,000 in legal fees in the first week alone so far.
Also, on Friday, March 14, the United States District Court in Southern California issued a clarifying order to prevent Ares Armor from divesting itself of inventory and records subject to the temporary restraining order the court issued Tuesday. The court order did not prohibit lawful criminal proceedings. The ATF appears to be ”working around” the temporary restraining order by accusing Ares Armor of illegally selling guns, rather than honoring the court ordered date of March 20 to obtain resolution without a raid. Despite the temporary restraining order and the clarifying order issued Friday, the ATF apparently raided all Ares Armor locations Saturday. This video was also posted Saturday, which clearly shows the Ares Armor storefront, the front door lock damaged and door ajar, and law enforcement agents visible inside the store:

The ATF’s response, and apparent justification for the raid, states that
while this Court’s order prevents ATF from taking ‘any steps’ to deprive Ares Armor of this contraband, the order DOES NOT RECIPROCALLY PROHIBIT ARES ARMOR FROM destroying, transferring, selling, or otherwise divesting itself of this evidence and contraband, and, further, allows Ares Armor to remain in possession of this contraband (emphasis added).
However, this claim is false, according to the court’s order clarifying the temporary restraining order, dated March 14, which states:
Ares Armor (“Plaintiff”) and its owners, officers, managers, employees, and agents ARE HEREBY PROHIBITED from taking any steps to destroy, transfer, sell, or otherwise divest themselves of the items that are the subject matter of the Court’s March 11, 2014 Temporary Restraining Order.
The court clearly states Ares Armor is prohibited from getting rid of the evidence, which is what the ATF claims the company is free to do under the temporary restraining order. At this time it is not clear if any charges have been filed against Dimitrios Karras or anyone else. This story will continue to develop as more details emerge.

By Matt MacBradaigh. Matt is a Christian, Husband, Father, Patriot, and Conservative from the Pacific Northwest. Matt writes about the Second Amendment, Gun Control, Gun Rights, and Gun Policy issues and is published on The Bell TowersThe Brenner Brief, PolicyMic. TavernKeepers, and Vocativ.

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This article also appears on The Brenner Brief. (Original publication Marh 16, 2014).

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