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Charles Frye sends me a copy of a brief from the Gun Owners Foundation titled “BATF Firearms Forfeiture Procedures and Policies: An Attorney Guide“. It contains a valuable analysis of the federal laws governing the forfeiture of guns and firearms, along with a detailed walkthrough of administrative and civil forfeiture procedure. It is a must read for any gun owner or attorney involved in a federal gun forfeiture matter. From the introduction:

This guide was commissioned by Gun Owners Foundation to provide practical assistance to an attorney representing a gun owner or Federal Firearms Licensee (FFL) seeking relief from civil proceedings initiated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (“BATF”) to effect the forfeiture of firearms or ammunition seized by BATF.

It has been prepared because, in doing their own research and analysis assisting attorneys in the field, the authors have not found any single authoritative source that provides a practicing attorney with a practical and useful overview of BATF civil forfeiture practices and policies.

The reader should keep in mind that this is not a general manual on asset forfeiture, and is not even a complete treatment with respect to firearms forfeiture. It is essentially an overview of the firearm forfeiture process vis-a-vis apparent BATF practice. As indicated below, for example, BATF seizure and forfeiture procedures themselves may differ depending upon which title of the U.S. Code — Title 18 or Title 26 — is claimed as the foundation for the BATF action. This guide does not attempt to analyze whether BATF’s procedures are correct.

I excerpt this section to highlight the fact that there is a significant lack of scholarship, both legal and academic, that describes the extent, nature, and use of civil and criminal forfeiture laws in the United States. If you would like to support future scholarship in this area, click here.

I should also recommend this article by James Jeffries, also with the Gun Owners Foundation, on what to do when the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms comes knocking. Jeffries is a former Department of Justice official, and is bitingly critical of the government’s expansive law enforcement practices. Money quote from the section on Raids:

When a raid team shows up at your premises and announces (usually by breaking down your door, sometimes by killing your dogs and throwing flash bang grenades at your women and children) that they have a federal search warrant, you must instantly do several things. You must first of all mentally assimilate the fact that they are law officers rather than a rampaging motorcycle gang (which they often resemble in both appearance and behavior). Having identified them as law rather than outlaw, you must freeze in place in a non-threatening posture and attempt to stabilize the situation until some of their law-enforcement adrenalin (the most dangerous drug on the street) has bled off…

Ah, doesn’t that sound familiar?

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