In a recent NBC News video that was reported on by Ammoland, Reporter and the “team at NBC News” decided to investigate what they termed “ghost guns,” including the process to purchase one. However, they didn’t stop there. As declared in the video, Reporter Hillyard started out in Philadelphia, at a gun show where he purchases a hunk of plastic, and thereafter, declares that two weeks later he “returned to Pennsylvania and met up with special agents from the AG’s Office, who agreed to use the kit we purchased from the show and build it into a ghost gun. We won’t show you all the steps but for the agents it only took some drilling.” (From the video, it is clear that there are at least two agents from the PA AG’s Office involved in the unlawful manufacture and transfer of a firearm in the absence of a federal firearm license, as discussed below)
But what is the law and what violations occurred?
As the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives acknowledges on its website and through numerous determination letters that I have on file, it is not unlawful, under federal law, for an individual to make or otherwise manufacture a firearm for his/her own personal use. However, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. 923, where an individual intends to manufacture a firearm for another, the individual must be licensed as a manufacture of firearms and must pay the applicable excise tax to the Tax and Trade Bureau for the manufacture of the firearm. Furthermore, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. 922(a)(1) and (a)(3), it is unlawful for any person to transfer a firearm to an individual in another state and in the absence of a background check, and for the person receiving the firearm to transport it into the State where he/she resides.
Furthermore, while Pennsylvania law does not address different types (e.g. dealer, manufacturer, importer…etc) of licenses required, 18 Pa.C.S. 6113 requires any individual intending to sell or transfer firearms. The failure to obtain the license is a misdemeanor of the first degree, pursuant to 18 Pa.C.S. 6119, which would result, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(1), in the individual being prohibited from purchasing, possessing, and utilizing firearms and ammunition, in perpetuity. Moreover, pursuant to 18 Pa.C.S. 6111(c), “Any person who is not a licensed importer, manufacturer or dealer and who desires to sell or transfer a firearm to another unlicensed person shall do so only upon the place of business of a licensed importer, manufacturer, dealer or county sheriff’s office, the latter of whom shall follow the procedure set forth in this section as if he were the seller of the firearm.”
So what does that mean? Well, as Reporter Hillyard, at least per his LinkedIn page, is a resident of New York (and mentioned having to “return to Pennsylvania”), beyond the inchoate offense of solicitation and conspiracy, both the special agents with Josh Shapiro’s Office and Reporter Hillyard have committed numerous violations of federal and state law in manufacturing and transferring a firearm. And this isn’t the first time AG Shapiro has utilized agents of the Commonwealth in violation of the law. After announcing his unlawful “Partially Manufactured Frames and Receivers” policy and my resultant law suit on behalf of Landmark Firearms, LLC, US Rifle, LLC, Polymer80, Inc., and Firearms Policy Coalition, the AG Office had Lt. Col. Scott Price of the Pennsylvania State Police manufacture a firearm from a Polymer80 hunk of plastic, without undergoing any background checks or having it transferred through a dealer. In fact, this even caused then-Judge (now Justice) Kevin Brobson to have the following colloquy with an attorney from the AG’s Office:
After the exchange, I was successful in having a preliminary injunction issued against the PSP/AG’s policy, which remains in effect.
So, the question is whether charges will be filed against these special agents with the AG’s Office and Reporter Hillyard, as well as, whether AG Josh Shapiro – a current gubernatorial candidate – was complicit in these state and federal firearm violations. Perhaps the Department of Justice will launch an investigation…but don’t hold your breath.
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