A Wisconsin gun dealer whose YouTube channel has 180,000 subscribers was convicted of "conspiring to transfer unregistered machine gun conversion devices" that were nothing more than metal bottle openers etched with patterns called "lightning links" that, when milled, can convert a semiautomatic AR-15 rifle into an automatic machine gun.
Gun dealer Matthew Hoover, who operated the CRS Firearms channel, was found "guilty of conspiring to transfer unregistered machine gun conversion devices that they referred to as "Auto Key Cards,"" the Department of Justice wrote in a press release. He was convicted of four counts of transferring unregistered machine gun conversion devices and faces 45 years in jail.
Also facing severe jail time is Kristopher Justinboyer Ervin. The DoJ said he was convicted "of seven counts of transferring unregistered machine gun conversion devices, three counts of possessing unregistered machine gun conversion devices, and one count of structuring cash transactions to avoid currency transaction reporting requirements."
Ervin faces a maximum penalty of 110 years in federal prison. Sentencing for the two is scheduled for July 31.
Hoover and Ervin sold lightning links, etched into metal cards, which he referred to as "Auto Key Cards," from around $40 for one version to more than $180. Hoover touted the cards on his YouTube channel.
In one video, he said:
Auto Key Cards "are awesome because they're stupid cheap.
"You could drop it in your rifle or, you know, if you're actually gonna do this legally, this is just a bottle opener.
"What this is, is a novelty.
"So if someone sees it, they're like, 'hey, what is this?' You explain to them that because laws are so ridiculous and so out of control, if I were to cut on these lines, I would become a felon. How ridiculous is that? It's just a conversation starter."
The DoJ said it took ATF agents about "40 minutes" to remove the pieces from the metal card via a Dremel rotary tool.
Last Thursday, defense attorneys for the men argued the firearms law doesn't cover their clients because it doesn't restrict items that could 'potentially' be made into conversion devices.
"As long as you do not cut it out … you have not broken the law," Ervin's lawyer, Alex King, told juries.
Executive Assistant U.S. Attorney Laura Cofer Taylor told jurors before they began deliberating:
"Where is the line? That's really a question you all will have to face."
Meanwhile, firearm expert Brandon Herrera made the point, "If selling a template is treated like selling a machine gun itself -- then how is distributing a 3D printing file any different issue?"
Here's more from Herrera: