Federal agents raided four San Diego County gun stores over the weekend, three days after the chain's owners filed a temporary restraining order against the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives to stop the agency from confiscating its customer lists and other property.
The ATF says it is investigating Ares Armor stores for federal firearm violations for selling a new polymer version of 80 percent lower receivers, which gun enthusiasts use while building their own AR-15 rifles, reports San Diego's Fox 5.
But Ares owner Dimitrios Karras said the ATF is really after the stores' customer lists, not the receivers, and the raid was ordered in retribution for his seeking an injunction to stop agents from seizing the lists.
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"There were women and children inside our retail establishment when the [ATF] agents came in with guns drawn," Karras said. "They came into our firearms manufacturing facility saying, 'Arms up!' like they were invading Iraq."
While building a rifle with some versions of the 80 percent receivers is legal, the polymer lower receiver is made with two parts, and the ATF considers the items an illegal-for-sale firearm.
Karras said Ares asked the court to clarify if the receivers are firearms or not, and the lower receivers were being kept locked in a closet and ready to surrender. A hearing on the Ares injunction request is set for Thursday.
"If anybody is a criminal organization that should be investigated, I think they should look in the mirror. We gave them a black eye publicly," Karras told Fox 5. "They tried to do an underhanded deal with us. They said, 'Hey, hush, hush. Keep it secret, and nobody’s going to know that we took the customer list from you. Nobody’s going to know we took this from you.'"
One customer on the list said he's concerned federal agents will come after him.
"I'm on that list, and I’m waiting for the knock on the door to tell me they are here to remove my Second Amendment rights," he said.
Last week, Karras said ATF agents threatened to close his business
if it didn't surrender the names of some 5,000 customers who have bought the receiver, a demand he refused.
"They were going to search all of our facilities and confiscate our computer and pretty much shut our business down," Karras said. "The government invades our privacy on a daily basis, and everyone thinks its OK. This is one of those situations where hopefully the governmental institutions will come in say this is protected and no you’re not taking it from them."
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