Friday, July 14, 2023

"ATF SWAT Team Targets Oklahoma Part-Time FFL, Seizes Firearms, Signals Crackdown on At Home FFL's"

At 52, Russell Fincher holds various roles including a history teacher in a high school, a Baptist pastor, and a part-time firearms dealer. He additionally dedicates time to coaching Little League in Tuskahoma, Oklahoma, his hometown of approximately 151 residents. 

For the past three years, Fincher has maintained a federal firearms license, although he doesn't operate a traditional gun store. He primarily sells firearms at gun shows like the Wanenmacher's Arms Show in Tulsa, defining him as a so-called "kitchen table FFL". 

"In Southeast Oklahoma, a gun isn't likely to sell unless it's under $400," he stated one Thursday. "It's not common for buyers to come to my house to purchase firearms." 

Back in April, Fincher was contacted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms and Explosives (ATF), expressing a desire to inspect his home. He cordially invited them to conduct the inspection whenever they wished. 

Shortly thereafter, two ATF inspectors arrived at his residence, spending around three hours there. They photographed his 4473 forms using their mobile phones, which Fincher later discovered was both commonplace and illegal.

"I was pleasantly surprised by their courteous manner," Fincher recounted. They highlighted that some of his firearms had traces which drew their attention, a concern shared by Fincher himself.

The inspectors made a return visit after a fortnight. Their main points of concern involved Fincher's handwriting, which they had trouble deciphering on some forms, and a mistake in which he had swapped the model number of a firearm with the weapon's serial number - a mistake Fincher was trying to correct. 

On the 16th of June, while Fincher and his son were preparing for a gun show in Tulsa, he received a call from the ATF, expressing a wish to converse with him before he left for the show. 

"We can drop by your place," was the suggestion made by the agent. Fincher agreed, telling them he would be home. 

Soon after, seven vehicles pulled up to his house, out of which emerged a dozen ATF agents in tactical gear and carrying AR-15s. 

Fincher compared the situation to the Trump raid. They had him step out onto his porch and handcuffed him while his 13-year-old son witnessed the entire incident. "For an hour, I was kept on the porch, encircled by agents. They took turns berating me. I decided then that I wouldn't endure their aggression over trivial matters. When I declared, 'If you want my FFL, you can have it,' an agent promptly produced a form for me to sign," Fincher explained. "They had three copies ready. It was precisely what they wanted. I was taken aback."

As soon as Fincher gave up his federal firearm license, the ATF started confiscating his firearms, including a valuable Colt Commander, five GLOCKs, and a mint AK – a Polytech pre-ban milled under-folder. 

"Over 50 of my personal firearms were seized," Fincher revealed. "When I questioned them, they claimed the guns were 'evidence.' I reckon they took $50,000 to $60,000 worth of firearms."

After the ATF's SWAT team had secured Fincher's home, they contacted the leading agent of the raid, Special Agent Theodore Mongell, to inform him it was "safe to come up." 

"Your business is over. We must shut you down," was the harsh declaration from Mongell. Fincher remembers him issuing a threat to other FFL holders. 

"Home FFLs are disliked," another agent mentioned, drawing a distinction between selling a Browning shotgun to someone at a gun show without paperwork and selling a GLOCK or an AR lower as a 'gangbanger.' Fincher challenged the agent's basis for such a categorization. 

Accusations were thrown at Fincher for making an excessive income from his gun show sales. He rebutted by revealing that he only sold $75 worth of ammunition at the last show he attended, yet had spent $1,200 on hotels, tables, gas, and food. 

"They accused me of using my FFL for personal gun sales, of bypassing the system, and placing guns on the streets that shouldn't be there," Fincher shared. 

He was instructed to transport the firearms that the ATF didn't confiscate to another FFL. Near the conclusion of the ordeal, Fincher inquired with Mongell about his seized guns. 

"He suggested that forfeiting the firearms could make much of the situation disappear," Fincher recalled. "It felt like extortion to me. They confiscated my guns as a punitive measure. They figured out my weak point by taking away my guns. The firearms they selected to confiscate seemed arbitrary, but they took the most valuable and rare ones." 

The Second Amendment Foundation's Investigative Journalism Project reached out to ATF Special Agent Theodore Mongell on his mobile, questioning the reason behind the raid and confiscation of Fincher's firearms. 

"I am unable to answer any queries," was his response. "Without approval from my superiors, I'm not supposed to communicate with anyone. I need to verify your identity, record your details, and refer to my agency."

Despite his assurances, Mongell never returned the call. 

The reason behind the deployment of a SWAT team and such a strong display of force in this instance seems unjustified, especially considering Fincher had willingly opened his home to the ATF. 

Despite handcuffing and verbally abusing Fincher for over an hour, the agents did not inform him of any forthcoming criminal charges. The potential impact of a felony charge could jeopardize his teaching career. 

"They hold my fate in their hands, yet they are held to little accountability," Fincher expressed. "Surviving takes three jobs. In my brief encounters with the ATF, they often refer to 'grey areas' when asked a specific question. But such 'grey areas' could land you in jail. Unlike Hunter Biden, I won't have my weapons charges dropped."

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