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News & Editorials

U.S. vs. Stewart -- ATF Misfires Again
Today's Hearing in Federal Court Reveals ATF Ineptitude

by Angel Shamaya
Executive Director

(Phoenix, Arizona) July 10, 2000

Bob Stewart will be sleeping in his own bed again tonight. All arguments in the government's current case against him have been heard, cross examinations of the only two expert witnesses in today’s hearing have been conducted, and the judge is expected to offer his opinion as court reconvenes on Thursday, July 13, at 10:30am in the federal district court in Phoenix.

If you've been on summer vacation for the last month and missed this case, Mr. Stewart and his family were raided by 10 BATF agents and 3 Mesa police at their home in Mesa, Arizona on June 16. Mr. Stewart has for the last several years sold incomplete .50 caliber rifle kits bearing no serial numbers. His position is that the kit is not a firearm as it is incapable of firing a live round without significant modification. The BATF raided his home in contention that the non-firing kits are in fact guns because they are "readily made functional as explosive devices which fire a projectile." (You can read the past news reports on this case here:

Judge Anderson is a Vietnam veteran (according to AZ libertarian party unaffiliated chair, Liz Andreasen, who was present and taking copious notes to report for A judge who fought in the war our own President evaded is hearing a case that could lead to a Second Amendment battle. And from what happened today and in Mr. Stewart's June 22 hearing, it looks like the judge is committed to issuing a fair opinion.

Following are detailed accounts of today's hearing for people who wish to know more. I was there, and these are my notes/thoughts on today's hearing.

Today's arguments revolved around whether or not the .50 caliber kit is legally classifiable as a firearm. At issue is the definition of the word “readily” as in “readily made to fire a projectile”. Mr. Stewart doesn't have a federal firearms license and, if the court rules that he was selling guns without a license, Stewart could be facing prison--again--and this is where this case gets sticky. Mr. Stewart was convicted of a felony in 1994 for manufacturing and transferring fully automatic machine guns. Bob Stewart spent 1 year and 4 months of his life behind bars for what both he and his lovely wife hold to this day as "a setup to run us out of business". He is a convicted felon, and the government says a convicted felon cannot have possession of a gun, period. (Yes, that includes residents of Maine who get caught with a lobster under the legal weight requirement, and yes, that includes women who've been raped three times in Massachusetts and get caught carrying a gun because they aren’t interested in there being a 4th. Felony means no gun in your possession unless the felony is expunged from the court records, sayeth King George. Please pardon my digression.) But court rulings since Mr. Stewart’s conviction are expected to get his conviction overturned, so a legal web is weaving itself in odd circumstances aplenty. Back to today’s hearing…

BATF's attorney, Mr. Welty, in his opening statements today held up an assembled .50 Maadi-Griffin rifle kit and said, "We're here today to answer the question 'Is this a gun?'" The issue was not whether or not a converted Maadi-Griffin kit is a gun; the issue hinges on whether or not a Maadi-Griffin KIT is “readily” rendered into a workable firearm. The judge let it ride, and so did Bob Stewart's defense attorney, Mr. Haney. The opening statements otherwise seemed rather bland. At one point, the judge urged both counsels to "get to the reason we are here."

A partial kit that was stolen from Bob Stewart's home during the raid on June 16 was entered as evidence. The kit that BATF purchased through an undercover agent and PARTIALLY (more on that in a moment) converted was also admitted as evidence. The instruction manual for converting the kit was admitted, as well.

And then the hair splitting began.

Each side called one expert witness apiece, and each side cross examined the other’s witness. BATF got first dibs and called Curtis Barlett, the BATF Chief of Firearms Technology from their D.C. office. Mr. Bartlett has been at his job "classifying firearms" for 26 of his 27 years with the agency. Though he claims he has testified in approximately 300 court cases for his employer, the federal government, he cannot remember the last time he has converted or heard of the conversion of a kit for investigation—“maybe 10 years”. In the same breath, he testified that he knows of many similar kits of various makes and models advertised in a magazine he claims to read: Shotgun News.

Expert Witness Bartlett explained that he was able to assemble the entire kit into a firearm in a total of 80 minutes: 15 minutes to read the manual, 35 minutes to cut and otherwise modify the receiver, and 30 minutes to assemble the contraption into a workable firearm. Here is where the BATF exhibits a severe case or moronism: Mr. Barlett explained that he then fired a blank cartridge (not a bullet, a primer inside a .50 caliber shell casing) to "prove" that it was now, after 80 minutes of focus, a firearm! Yes, you read that right. He didn’t fire the only ammo the gun is designed to fire and traveled all the way across the nation at taxpayers’ expenses to testify on the conversion time of the kit he didn’t fully convert. Brilliant move, BATF.

Cross examination by defense attorney Haney posed an obvious question: How much more time would you have put into the job of converting this kit into a firearm if you were going to fire a real round of live ammunition? Bartlett's response after much quibbling: probably twice as much time. Further questioning of this “expert” government agent revealed that several of the required modifications of the kit were not made, either. These required modifications as spelled out in the assembly manual of which BATF has numerous copies include welding, determining proper fit (headspacing) to assure safe firing of a live round, fastening of the muzzle brake, and a couple of other things stated in plain English in the instruction manual, suggesting that along with having a propensity for invading people's homes in Nazi-style no-knock raids and pointing unregistered machine guns at little kids, BATF cannot read or follow simple instructions.

Agent Bartlett defended his lack of complete conversion by stating that "as long as it can fire one round, it is a firearm, and our conversion could be made to fire one round." How much money we could collect in a pool to get him to fire his incomplete conversion will forever remain a mystery, but I'd put up my best rifle just to watch him shoot the partially-modified "firearm"—but I’d be watching with interest from a distance.  The .50 caliber cartridge holds enough gun powder to cause significant problems for the shooter if it is partially or improperly assembled.  This 26 year expert knows that, and he knows he didn't follow the instructions, and he darn sure wouldn't fire that semi-assembled kit with a live round--but he came to testify in court to help lock a man behind bars in the hopes that the judge would buy what he was shoveling.  Pathetic, and most typical of the federal government.

The next witness was called by Bob Stewart’s defense attorney, Mr. Haney. Mr. Haney called Bill Richardson to the stand. Mr. Richardson is a firearms manufacturer consultant of 18 years, and apparently a specialist in the field of computerized machining equipment. While Mr. Richardson stated plainly that to do the job right on a conversion of a Maadi-Griffin kit would require specialized skill or a good amount of time for a novice, he did concede that the machining of the receiver could be accomplished in the amount of time it took the BATF’s primer-firing Chief of Firearms Technology if someone was skilled in the craft of firearms conversion. Nothing seemed to be gained or lost on either side from Mr. Richardson’s testimony, but his bias toward the defense of Mr. Stewart was readily apparent. Of the 23 people in the courtroom audience, I also estimate that 18-20 of us were there in support of Bob Stewart, as well.

The judge was paying attention to this shenanigans displayed by the BATF’s “specialist” who didn’t even finish the conversion OR fire a real live round of real live ammo, and his eyebrows went up more than once during Bartlett's testimony. My personal opinion is that he will come back and rule that a complete conversion was never made, because it wasn't. (We will know for sure on Thursday.) But I don't think this case will hinge on the amount of time it took for the feds to partially convert Bob Stewart's kit. This case is going to get much bigger than that. Bob Stewart believes his case is going to require a ruling on the Second Amendment, and he may just be right. Allow me to elaborate.

If the judge rules that the kit is NOT a firearm, according to the rules of admissibility in the district court, the BATF will not be allowed to admit any other evidence outside of the items mentioned in the search warrant. Bob Stewart says he will then sue the BATF for a host of infringements and infractions against himself and his family. Pointing a gun at his 7-year-old boy. Cuffing his wife, Naomi, in their front yard for all the neighbors to see. Cuffing Mr. Stewart for two hours with two thugs holding glock pistols to his head while they trashed his home without showing him the search warrant he was very vocally demanding to see, stole his computer, all his files and records, the kits he was repairing for his customers, et cetera. If Mr. Stewart was breaking no law, these guys screwed up royally—and he intends to make them pay for their mistake in money he says will go to set up a legal defense foundation to help other gun owners who are similarly victimized by the hired thugs of federal agencies.

On the other hand, if the judge rules that the Maadi-Griffin kit IS a firearm, Bob Stewart intends to appeal based on his Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. According to Mr. Stewart, should the judge rule that the kit is a firearm, when court rulings that have occurred since his conviction overturn that conviction and restore his rights, he genuinely believes he can ride this case to a jury trial--and win. Lofty? Yes. Doable? Bob Stewart is convinced.

We shall see.

I will attend the judge’s ruling on Thursday, July 13, and I will offer a full report to all who are on our email list at that time. If this report was forwarded to you, feel free to sign up for our email reports on our site at

We are also offering a brand new, fully operational, all stainless steel .50 caliber Maadi-Griffin to a lucky member of our organization. As soon as we reach 2,500 members, we're putting all the names in a hat and picking the lucky winner. All you need to do to get your name in the hat is support our organization by becoming a member for $29.95. We genuinely require financial assistance, and we just made the commitment to give 20% of every penny generated from this membership drive from this day forward to the Bob Stewart Defense Fund. You’ll get a one-year membership with our organization plus a chance to win a fine rifle plus a chance to help Bob Stewart. Contrary to his earlier statements, he does in fact need financial help if this case is to go much further. Please help us press on. Please help us help Bob Stewart's legal drive. Please join our organization and get your name in the drawing to win the king of all rifles—the Maadi-Griffin .50 caliber Stainless Model 89.


Angel Shamaya is the Executive Director of, a membership-funded internet grassroots organization dedicated to stopping the assault on American Liberty being perpetrated by political tyrants, self-proclaimed television gurus, misguided mothers, history-ignorant sheeple, mentally-handicapped toy distribution chains, and the general lack of understanding of the fundamental, God-given right to Keep And Bear Arms--resulting in a return to the American Constitutional Republic. Reprint permission granted provided attribution is given including the following link: Copyright 2000. All ownership rights reserved, but spread this one far and wide through all channels that could serve the cause of LIBERTY; you don't even need to ask. To become a member of, click here. We require assistance to press on.

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In our inner cities, where firearms are outlawed, only outlaws are armed. When our "philosopher kings" sit back and do nothing, this is the tyranny and terror of "gun control." —CHARLTON HESTON

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