While the Biden administration is moving to end the sale of unfinished firearm frames and receivers by having the ATF redefine them as completed firearms, federal authorities have already been quietly pursuing cases against individuals that they suspect are breaking the law by building their own guns. One recent case in New York has been dismissed, however, after a judge ruled that police illegally obtained a warrant by misleading authorities in their warrant application.
52-year old John Andrews, Jr. was facing six felony firearm counts after police raided his home last year. His alleged crime? He’d purchased a solvent trap online, but federal authorities maintained that Andrews was going to turn the device into a suppressor. When they sought a warrant, however, they wrote in their application that Andrews had illegally purchased a silencer.
Andrews’ online order, shipped from China, was flagged by Customs and Border Protection agents in California, according to a West Seneca police report.
The shipping label described the package’s contents as a “gear shift knob.” Federal authorities deemed it to be a silencer and contacted West Seneca police. They set up plans to make a “controlled delivery” of the package to Andrews’ residence.
That happened early in the afternoon of Jan. 7, 2020. Police came armed with a search warrant from West Seneca Town Justice Shannon Filbert. In addition to West Seneca police, there were agents from Homeland Security Investigations, ATF, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the U.S. Postal Inspector’s Office, according to the town police report.
Shortly after the mail carrier handed Andrews his delivery and he went back in the house, there was a loud knock on the front door.
When police went inside the Queens Drive home, they found guns that served as the basis for eight felony weapons possession charges against Andrews.
The problem with the warrant a West Seneca police detective got for Andrews’ home, which was based on information supplied by federal agencies, was this: they told a town justice Andrews was getting a “silencer” shipped to him, not a solvent trap.
“The choice of words used by the police in the application were persuasive and wrong,” Justice Christopher J. Burns wrote in his Jan. 14 decision. “As a result, this court must find there was a reckless disregard for the true nature of the item and must suppress any items recovered through the search warrant.”
A month later, Burns dismissed the criminal charges against Andrews, who says he’s now planning a civil rights lawsuit and is trying to get the guns that were seized in the raid on his home returned to him.
It may very well be the case that some individuals who buy a solvent trap designed for gun cleaning modify them to become suppressors, and doing so is illegal. Simply buying a solvent trap, on the other hand, is perfectly fine under the law, and possession of a legally-obtained and owned item is not and should not be considered evidence that the owner plans on breaking the law.
Frankly, suppressors shouldn’t be NFA items in the first place, but there’s virtually no chance of reforming the National Firearms Act to remove suppressors with Biden and his fellow Democrats in charge of the executive and legislative branches. Instead, they’ll use the existing law to target individuals like Andrews instead of focusing their attention and efforts on taking violent criminals off the street.
Andrews’ case was ultimately a colossal waste of both time and money on the part of federal officials, but it’s a sign of things to come under an ATF that’s been weaponized by Joe Biden and his appointee, gun control activist and former ATF agent David Chipman. This particular abuse took place during the Trump administration, but both Biden and Chipman want to empower the agency to conduct more bogus busts like the one that could have landed Andrews in a federal prison for more than a decade.