Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Another Home-Based Federal Firearm Licensee Faces Continued ATF Scrutiny: A Pattern of Harassment

Tom Harris, owner of Sporting Arms Company, which is based in his home in Lewisville, Texas, works with a customer during a firearm purchase. (Photo Courtesy Tom Harris)

Tom Harris has been operating a gun business from his residence in Lewisville, Texas, for three decades. His clients hold him in high regard; one even donated a kidney to save his life when dialysis was proving ineffective.

Harris runs the Sporting Arms Company from his house and was looking at a grim future due to his health complications, until a retired Marine, aged 39, stepped in to help. Harris recollects the man's offer from 2019, “You seem to be in need of a kidney. I will get tested,” to which Harris suggested a period of reflection and prayer. The response was immediate and affirmative. The man turned out to be an ideal donor, a 7 out of 7 match. This act of kindness, even if Harris loses his business, has given him a new lease on life. 

In a series of events, which have been commonplace since the inauguration of President Joe Biden, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) is applying pressure on Harris and other home-based firearm vendors to voluntarily give up their federal firearm licenses. Should Harris resist, he would face what the ATF refers to as "adverse actions."

The ATF has resurfaced procedural mistakes dating back to 2007 to build their case against Harris, despite previously clearing him of these 16-year-old errors, and even more recent ones. Harris possesses letters validating this. However, these seem to bear no weight in the face of the ATF inspectors who are currently hounding the 61-year-old, physically challenged father of five, merely to appease their superiors' fresh fervor for more federal firearm license revocations.

Harris, speaking to the Second Amendment Foundation’s Investigative Journalism Project, stated, “After absolving me, they turned the heat on me because their superiors were unsatisfied.”

Armed with an industrial engineering degree and a master’s in management, Harris was a senior director of North American operations for a large tech firm while running his firearm business on the side, logging over 100 hours per week. He hired several off-duty local law enforcement officers to assist with sales. 

Business took off after a pastor prayed over it, as Harris recounted. As a long-standing business, he can buy directly from companies like Colt and Smith & Wesson. Harris estimated that approximately 40% of his transfers are “wholesale” to newer dealers. 

Today, he is one of the biggest home-based firearm dealers in north Texas, boasting over 10,000 customers nationwide and having sold more than 184,000 firearms. His Google reviews are overwhelmingly positive. 

Harris's main source of income is his gun sales, and not merely a hobby. Despite his legal blindness and the challenges it posed to paperwork, things were streamlined once his wife left her job to assist him full-time. 

After an audit the previous year, the ATF questioned Harris about multiple firearms sold to an individual. While the process was strenuous, Harris cooperated fully. He was then cleared of any wrongdoing by the ATF. But later, the ATF reversed its decision. 

Harris was then served a Notice of Revocation by Special Agent Loving and his partner, accusing him of violating rules by aiding a non-licensee in dealing firearms and making false statements.

Despite the notice, the ATF remains tight-lipped regarding its action against Harris. However, the bureau's repeated insistence on Harris surrendering his license voluntarily has raised eyebrows.

Harris has committed to contest the revocation, stating, “I will not be intimidated into surrendering my license.” A loyal customer has even set up a GiveSendGo account to help him raise funds for his legal defense.

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