Was Amish man arrested for selling guns breaking the law?

Was Amish man arrested for selling guns breaking the law?
(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

You might remember the Amish man who had his farm raided a few weeks ago, allegedly for selling guns without a license. The ATF claims he was in the business of selling guns without a license, which would make him a criminal.

Of course, the ATF isn’t exactly an agency gun owners have come to love and trust. If they say the sky is blue, I go outside to verify it for myself.

So should we trust them when they say an Amish man was really an unlicensed gun dealer? Some don’t.

An ATF spokesperson said agents seized evidence during an “enforcement operation” on Jan. 12 at the Cattail Foundry in Leacock Township, Lancaster County, but declined to comment further. Two sources familiar with the investigation said approximately 600 firearms were seized during the operation.

On Wednesday morning, farm owner Reuben King declined to comment on the matter at his home, but he did talk to Lancaster Online several weeks ago. King told the news outlet he was a dairy farmer, first and foremost, but admitted selling “some” firearms from his personal collection to fellow Amish and a few non-Amish, too.

Sources said handguns were among the weapons taken by ATF. King told Lancaster Online he mostly sold long guns, for hunting.

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

The ATF said the investigation is ongoing but no charges have been filed. King told The Inquirer he hadn’t hired an attorney.

Joshua Prince, a Pennsylvania attorney who specializes in firearms law, said the ATF operation at King’s farm could lead investigators into a murky area. It’s not clear, he said, how many firearms an individual would have to sell in order for that person to be considered a firearms dealer. The ATF’s own website said licenses are required for individuals who “repetitively buy and sell firearms with the principal motive of making a profit” but not for the “occasional sales of firearms from your personal collection.”

“It’s so vague, and that’s going to be the government’s biggest hurdle,” Prince said. “It could turn out that they just say ‘Listen, don’t do this again.’ ”

It should be noted that while Pennsylvania isn’t the most awful state out there so far as gun laws go, they do require handguns bought and sold in the state to undergo a PICS check and a record is then kept. If King did sell any handguns without that, he broke the law.

However, if he sold handguns without such a check, why haven’t there been any charges filed? I mean, that’s at least a slam dunk as far as a conviction goes, so what’s the hold-up?

It seems to me that, as Prince notes, they’re in a gray area that they’re unsure how to proceed. After all, as noted, there’s no set number of guns you can sell before you’re considered a dealer. Frankly, I’d oppose such a limit anyways, since someone just trying to liquidate a gun collection isn’t really a dealer, especially if they’re not buying more guns down the road. Why should they have to get an FFL?

As for King, without there being a hard and fast rule in place, it would require a whole lot of sales to justify any charges, and I just don’t think that’s what happened.

So, barring any new information, it looks like King may well get to walk on this. I just hope that if and when he does, he gets his guns back.