Albuequree, New Mexico – A man searching for a holster for his Polymer80 pistol had his firearms confiscated by a gun store in New Mexico because the gun lacked a serial number. The man is currently serving in the military and stationed in New Mexico. He went to Shooter’s Den in Albuquerque to purchase some Glock magazines and search for a holster that would fit his pistol. Although the man is under 21, he legally built the firearm himself.
Citizens under 21 are prohibited from buying a handgun from a Federal Firearms Licensee (FFL), but no federal regulations prevent anyone over 18 from building and possessing a pistol. The military member was well within the law.
While at the gun store, the owner requested the man to bring his firearm so he could assist with selecting a holster. Upon noticing the absence of a serial number on the gun, the owner asked the shopper for personal identification. The customer, feeling confused, provided an ID. Due to the man’s age and the lack of a serial number on the gun, the store owner decided to confiscate the firearm.
Despite the man’s attempts to argue that he was acting within the law, the gun store remained firm in its position. The owner informed him that they would be contacting the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) about the matter. The man attempted to reason with the store owner but to no avail.
After several failed attempts, the man posted to Reddit about getting help to get his gun back. AmmoLand News also received multiple tips about the subject and contacted all involved in the dealings.
It came as a shock that the narrative was indeed factual. We attempted to contact the store for 24 hours through various social media platforms, phone calls, and emails. AmmoLand eventually received a response from the store’s now-deleted Facebook page. The store provided a statement to AmmoLand News confirming that they received approval from the ATF to return the firearm to its owner. The statement reads:
“The individual involved in the situation was under the age of 21 with an Illinois state ID in possession of a complete unserialized handgun. Concerns were raised about the situation, and the ATF was contacted immediately for further guidance on the situation. The ATF told Shooters Den LLC to hold it for the time being until advised otherwise. The ATF has cleared the situation and has allowed us to release the firearm back to the owner, and the situation has been passed on to the proper authorities. The owner has been contacted regarding the status of his p80 pistol and has yet to retrieve it.”
After we asked about their authority to seize the gun and their knowledge of state and federal laws regarding unserialized frames, they stopped replying to our messages. AmmoLand News contacted several well-known lawyers for their input on the matter, and they all concurred that it could be argued that the gun shop committed theft.
Gilbert Ambler of the Ambler Law Offices was one attorney who went on record. The firm specializes in firearms and criminal defense.
“The FFL, in this situation, took the personal property of another with the intent to deprive them of it, which fits the common law definition of theft,” Ambler said. “Even if the FFL thought (erroneously) that possession of the handgun was a crime, it would still not create justification for the seizure. Instead, the FFL appears to have engaged in bullying and theft. Having an FFL does not convey law enforcement powers. Quite the opposite, in fact. Here, not only is the FFL likely responsible for theft, but in taking the firearm, they also likely violated 18 USC 922(j), which prohibits the receipt and possession of stolen firearms.”
But wait, there is more.
When the young man attempted to retrieve his firearm from the gun shop, the FFL informed him that the firearm could not be transferred. Shooter’s Den stated the ATF had instructed the shop to serialize the firearm and add it to their FFL records. The young man would have to pass a NICS background check to retake possession from the FFL. Now, the man, who was a young military member under 21, is by law unable to pass the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) due to his age.
“Citizens under 21 are prohibited from buying a handgun from a Federal Firearms Licensee.” Source ATF [18 U.S.C. 922(b)(1)].
AmmoLand News attempted to verify the gun shop’s story with the ATF but did not receive a response confirming or denying the claims.
The gentleman has now filed a stolen property report with local police. It is reported the police retrieved the firearm from the gun store. The Albuquerque has yet to release the firearm to the young military member.
This story is a cautionary tale about knowing your local gun shop’s policies and stances on Polymer80. Not all gun stores know or care about laws dealing with unserialized frames. Most gun stores know the laws, but more than a few do not.
About John Crump
John is an NRA instructor and a constitutional activist. John has written about firearms, interviewed people from 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.