Authored by Michael Clements via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),
As agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) left Russell Fincher’s house with 50 legally-owned firearms and his freshly relinquished Federal Firearms License (FFL), they offered him a tip.
“They said, ‘Tell all your FFL friends we’re coming for them next,’” Mr. Fincher told The Epoch Times.
An ATF spokesman said he could not comment on the June 16, 2023, raid at Mr. Fincher’s home in Tuskahoma, Oklahoma.
“We are not allowed to comment pertaining to ongoing investigations. I can assure you once we can discuss the case, you will be notified,” Ashley N. Stephens, resident Agent in Charge of the ATF’s Tulsa Field Office, wrote in an email to The Epoch Times.
According to Second Amendment advocacy groups, the raid indicates a coordinated effort by President Joe Biden’s administration to throttle legal gun sales to advance a gun control agenda.
Oklahoma state Rep. J.J. Humphrey is incensed over the raid.
He wrote to Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond, and Pushmataha County Sheriff B.J. Hedgecock on Aug. 17, demanding an investigation.
Mr. Humphrey told The Epoch Times that there is a legal term for what the ATF did to get Mr. Fincher to give up his FFL.
“It’s called extortion. The mob does it, criminals do it, and when you have a badge, that makes it worse,” Mr. Humphrey said.
Mr. Stitt’s office did not respond to emails or telephone calls seeking comment.
Spokespersons for the attorney general and Mr. Hedgecock said they are looking into the matter.
Phil Bacharach, a spokesman for the attorney general, confirmed that Mr. Drummond had seen the letter.
“We have received Rep. Humphrey’s request and are reviewing it,” Mr. Bacharach wrote in an email to The Epoch Times.
Attorney General Reviewing Letter
Pushmataha County Undersheriff Dustin Bray said his office has the letter also. He said they plan to look into the matter further but have been focused on an Aug. 29 murder in Antlers, Oklahoma, Pushmataha’s county seat.
While it’s unusual for an agency to run such an operation without notifying local law enforcement, Mr. Bray said it does happen. He stressed that the ATF is under no legal obligation to tell anyone. He added that the sheriff’s office would have no official comment until it had more information.
“We actually didn’t have a clue that they were coming. We didn’t find out until everybody else did,” Mr. Bray told The Epoch Times. “We will try to get in contact with someone.”
The Fincher home is perched on the side of a hill in an unincorporated area of Pushmataha County. The sparsely populated county is popular with boaters and fishermen who ply the waters of Sardis Lake.
Fincher at Home in Tuskahoma
In the fall, the county and its Kiamichi Mountains are populated by hunters tramping the hills for white-tailed deer.
Mr. Fincher said Pushmataha County has been the perfect place to raise his family.
“We love it here,” he said, standing in front of his house on a late August afternoon.
Like many of his rural Oklahoma neighbors, part of his enjoyment of the outdoors involves firearms. In addition to traditional activities like hunting and target shooting, Mr. Fincher enjoys spending time with other firearms enthusiasts. So, he and his brother often attend gun shows in and around Oklahoma.
Contrary to what many believe, there is no “gun show loophole” allowing the sale of firearms by gun dealers with no background checks.
However, private transactions are and have always been legal regardless of when or where they occur. If each party in the transaction can legally own a gun, the sale or trade of legal firearms is allowed under the law.
Several years ago, Mr. Fincher legally traded a gun during a gun show. That transaction would return to haunt him, he said.
Russell Fincher stands in front of his house in Tuskahoma, Okla., on Sept. 1, 2023. (Michael Clements/The Epoch Times)
Mr. Fincher identifies himself as a Southern Baptist pastor, high school history teacher, youth sports coach, and small business owner who has always tried to be responsible. He said he is scrupulous when it comes to complying with the law.
“I don’t think I’ve had a speeding ticket in the past 20 or 25 years,” he said.
Still, as a regular gun show attendee, Mr. Fincher drew the attention of the ATF. He said the agency advised him to obtain an FFL based on how much he traded at the shows. So, in 2020, he became a licensed firearms dealer, believing it would help him avoid trouble.
While the new designation came with storage requirements and administrative responsibilities, Mr. Fincher also said there were some benefits. He was able to help friends and neighbors with their legal purchases. As an FFL holder, he could obtain some discounts and special pricing in addition to arranging for the shipment of his own gun purchases.
He said he never sold guns out of his home. His most common transactions were through online sales and arranging the transfer of firearms for people in his community.
“The only way I was really going to find an audience was through [online sales],” he said.
'I Was Small Potatoes'
Mr. Fincher already had a small store to sell ammunition in the nearby town of Clayton. He briefly considered moving his gun business into the store. But that would require building renovation and more paperwork to transfer the FFL to the store’s address. Since he had no desire to be a full-time dealer, he decided to keep the gun business in his home.
“I was never a big dealer. Some dealers have hundreds of guns on their books, but I never had more than 90. I was small potatoes,” Mr. Fincher said. “There were a lot of shows when I made no money. You just did it because you liked the experience.”
He knew the importance of keeping accurate records and following the ATF rules. He said he had no concerns over his ATF paperwork, having done his best to follow all the rules. So, when he was contacted for a regular inspection in April 2023, he quickly agreed.
He said the two ATF agents were professional and polite. They looked over his gun safes and inspected his records, making a few notes. Not long after, he received a letter that found fault with some entries. Some were difficult to decipher, and a serial number for one pistol had not been recorded correctly.
ATF Adopts 'Zero Tolerance'
The average person may consider these simple clerical errors. It is important to note that this inspection was performed under the ATF’s “zero tolerance” policy. Second Amendment proponents say the Biden administration is on a campaign to end the legal firearms trade in the United States.
Gun Owners of America (GOA) and the Gun Owners Foundation (GOF) claim in a lawsuit filed in July that the policy is to advance the Biden administration’s anti-Second Amendment agenda. The gun rights groups sued the ATF, the Department of Justice, and ATF Director Stephen Dettelbach over the policy (pdf).
GOA contends that on Jan. 28, 2022, the ATF issued a revised Administrative Action Policy (AAP) titled “Federal Firearms Administrative Policy and Procedures,” replacing a 2019 AAP.
GOA claims that the 2019 policy gave FFL holders some leeway for minor violations, but the January 2022 policy takes a more stringent approach.
“The 2019 AAP stated that ‘ATF may revoke a federal firearms license under appropriate circumstances,'" the lawsuit states. "The 2022 AAP states that ‘ATF will revoke a federal firearms license, absent extraordinary circumstances on initial violations.’”
GOA pointed out that in the past, the ATF looked for evidence of “willfulness” in violations by gun dealers. That has changed, the lawsuit states.
ATF Takes Harsher Stance
“The 2019 AAP stated that ... ‘[a] single, or even a few, inadvertent errors ... may not amount to ‘willful’ failures, even when the FFL knew of the legal requirement.’ The 2022 AAP eliminates this language, harshly warning that ‘ATF does not have to establish a history of prior violations,’” the lawsuit reads.
According to GOA, the ATF’s statistics from fiscal year 2022 show the agency’s hostility toward FFL holders.
ATF records show 3,806 violations reported in fiscal 2022 among firearm licensees, 606 warning letters issued, 131 warning conferences, and 93 revocations.
According to the ATF website, five FFL revocations occurred in 2021 between July and December. There were 51 revocations reported for the same period in 2022.
While the ATF agents that raided Mr. Fincher’s property didn’t specifically mention the previous inspection, Mr. Fincher said that in the weeks before the raid, the ATF was looking for a reason to pay him another visit.
Felon Asks For Gun
Just days before the armed agents showed up at his home, a man was in his ammo store acting “weird.” The man was not the usual rancher, outdoorsman, or hunter that normally patronized his business. Mr. Fincher didn’t know the man, sporting a prominent neck tattoo and appearing nervous.
“He said, ‘Man, I’m walking around naked out there.’ At first, I wasn’t sure what he meant,” Mr. Fincher said.
Then, the man asked if Mr. Fincher would sell him a gun.
“I told him I don’t sell guns from that store,” Mr. Fincher said.
The would-be customer pressed him, and Mr. Fincher agreed that he could sell him a gun. But he told him again that he didn’t run the gun business from the store. Then, the prospective customer announced that he was a felon. Mr. Fincher said that bit of information made his decision for him.
“I told him I would not sell him a gun because that’s illegal. I can’t sell guns to a convicted felon,” Mr. Fincher said.
The man with the neck tattoo bought a box of ammunition, which Mr. Fincher contends is not a crime, and left the store.
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