MARTINSBURG, WV –-(Ammoland.com)- In the third part of the joint Gun Owners of America (GOA) and AmmoLand News investigation into the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Firearms and Ammunition Technology Division (FATD), we will investigate evidence examination.
FATD evidence examination is a hot topic with the recent determination that the Rare Breed FRT-15 trigger is a machine gun and a cease-and-desist letter delivered from the ATF to the company. How FATD looks at evidence could be critical to defending the company. AmmoLand has offered to make these documents available to the company early.
In the last article, we covered how Firearms Evidence Specialists (FES) handle different types of evidence and the procedure to check in evidence that arrives at FATD. AmmoLand News’ goal is to show the whole process of the time that evidence arrives at FATD in Martinsburg, WV, to when it is shipped back out. The FES is responsible for checking in the evidence and sending it back out once FATD is finished with its examination.
There are two designations for evidence in FATD. The first designation is expedited evidence. This type of evidence is time-sensitive and must be processed right away. The FES will hand-deliver the expedited to a Firearms Evidence Officer (FEO). The FEO will initial and date the ATF Form 3400.11 and the evidence tags. The FEO will verify the first six steps of the Firearms Technology Branch (FTB) Work Plan has been completed by the FES. The Work Plan is a form that must be filled out for every evidence examination. At this point, the FEO has officially taken custody of the evidence.
The second type of evidence is routine evidence. The ATF considered the Rare Breed FRT-15 routine evidence. Instead of delivering actual evidence to the FEO, the FES will deliver an orange folder to the ATF officer that will perform the examination. The orange folder holds the information about the evidence. The FEO still must fill out the ATF Form 3400.11 and evidence tags. The FEO also must verify that the FES filled out the first six steps of the FTB Work Plan. This point is where the FEO assumes control of the routine evidence.
The FEO will verify that the FES has rendered the firearm safe. The FEO will check for a yellow checkered chamber flag. If there is no chamber flag, the FEO will treat the gun as loaded and follow the ATF procedure to render the gun safe. The FEO will insert a follow chamber flag. If the FEO discovers the firearm to be loaded, the branch chief will be notified of the safety violation.
The FEO will document the examination of the firearm on ATF Form 3311.2, titled the Firearms Technology Branch Report of Technical Examination. The FEO will record all relevant information such as features, caliber, make, model, and modifications.
Everything that the FEO will do during an examination must be photographed. These photographs will remain with the evidence. These pictures can and will be used in court cases. These pictures will also verify that the FEO has performed all tests recorded in the report.
The first thing that the FEO will do is verify that the firearm is capable of firing a shot. All examinations will start with this test. The results of the test will be recorded. The FEO then will check for safety devices on the gun and make sure it will work. The FEO will document any modifications to a firearm. These modifications could be transforming a semi-automatic rifle into a machine gun.
The FEO will examine the action of a firearm for any modifications. The point of checking the action is to see if the gun acts like a machine gun. The FEO will document the results of checking the action. Most examinations of actions are for criminal cases where someone created an unregistered machine gun.
The FEO will follow a procedure to verify the caliber of a gun. This procedure includes checking the chamber, barrel, headspace, and markings. The FEO will cycle a dummy round through the firearm that they are examining. The FEO will confirm that the gun will fire a primed case.
The FEO will check the ejector, extractor, and firing pin. The FEO will break down the firearm to check for worn parts and as well as modified parts. The FEO is looking for signs that the suspect changed the gun to act as a machine gun. The FEO will document all findings to be used against the suspect.
The FEO then will try to fire the gun. If the firearm does not fire a round, the FEO will lubricate and clean the gun and try again. If the firearm still does not fire, the FEO will determine if there is a missing or broken part. The FEO will see if the part in question is commercially available. The FEO will notify the case agent.
The FEO will try to fire a single shot using commercially available ammunition. If the firearm fires the round, the FEO will then fire two rounds in the semi-automatic position. If the gun is suspected of being a machine gun, the FEO will fire at least two rounds in the automatic function. All the findings will be noted.
The FEO will forward all their findings to the FTB writer/editor for review. The editor will make notes and return the report back to the FEO. The FEO will make the changes and sign the Report of Technical Examination. The FTB Chief will review the information and determine if a legal review is needed by the ATF council.
If no further review is needed, the FTB Chief will sign and date stamp the report. The FTB will make three copies. The original will be mail via USPS to the agent performing the investigation. The FTB will maintain one copy in the evidence folder. The ATF will keep the final copy with the evidence that will be returned to the investigating agent.
The evidence will then be returned to the agent who requested the examination. The same box that the evidence arrived in will be used to ship out the evidence if possible.
About John Crump
John is a NRA instructor and a constitutional activist. John has written about firearms, interviewed people of all walks of life, and on the Constitution. John lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and sons and can be followed on Twitter at @crumpyss, or at www.crumpy.com.