ATF raids Amish farmer, seizes guns

Michael Dann

So far no arrests have been made and authorities are keeping mum about a raid on a property in the heart of Pennsylvania’s Amish country around Lancaster, but the local paper has some intriguing suggestions about what’s going on, and it sure looks like the BATFE is getting ready to accuse an Amish farmer of being an unlicensed gun retailer.

The raid on the property known as the Cattail Foundry took place two weeks ago, with agents carting off an untold number of guns. This week, LancasterOnline.com spoke with Rueben King, who says the guns were all his private property, though he admits that he had also sold several guns.

“This is my business: I’m a dairyman,” he said inside a barn filled with cows as he swept the concrete floor with a pushbroom. He has about 50 dairy cows.

Rueben King said he primarily sold long guns to the Amish for hunting, though he admitted he sold some to non-Amish, too.

“I was not dealing in handguns, positively not,” Rueben King said.

Federal laws require photo identification when purchasing a firearm from a licensed dealer. The Amish contend their religious beliefs prevent them from being photographed, so they cannot buy a firearm from a licensed dealer. However, private sellers don’t have to require the buyer to present photo identification.

Reuben King declined to say how many guns he had or sold, but that more than 600 — which is what a tipster told LNP — didn’t sound right. Agents did not take all his firearms, he said, adding he’s been collecting guns over the years and hunts.

Reuben King’s brother, Emmanuel King, said about 15 agents with a warrant removed firearms from a room above the first-floor foundry and spent about five hours there.

“They were jotting them down and loading them up,” Emmanuel King said.

Reuben King said he has been talking to lawyers, but does not have one yet, and doesn’t know what will come of the investigation.

We don’t have enough information to weigh in on the specifics of this case, but I’d definitely encourage King to speak with an attorney, and one who knows the ins-and-outs of both state and federal firearms laws. The Biden administration has warned that it’s going after “rogue gun dealers,” and while I don’t think busting an Amish farmer would be the public relations coup that Biden’s looking for, the ATF and DOJ could very well decide to make an example out of King if they have evidence he was selling a large number of firearms without obtaining an FFL.

As King correctly told LancasterOnline, there’s no hard or fast rule that specifically designates when an individual must become an FFL, only the cautionary language stating that “persons who are engaged in the business of dealing in firearms be licensed by the bureau.” Was King engaged in a gun business, as opposed to just making a few incidental sales from his collection? To answer that question we need a better idea of how many guns he’s believed to have sold. If it was anywhere close to 600, it’s going to be awfully hard to argue that this was just a hobby or a way for King to occasionally offload some of his collection.

At the same time, I’m sympathetic to the fact that the Amish can’t purchase a firearm from their local gun store because they generally don’t have a photo ID, which in essence requires them to purchase from a private seller.

It wouldn’t shock me if there are some Amish gun owners out there who are in that grey zone of making more than a few incidental sales while not engaging in the same volume that you’d typically see from someone making a living as a gun dealer, and it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see the Biden administration claim they’re “doing something” to address violent crime by cracking down on them.. even if most of those sales are to other friends and family living in an Amish paradise.