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News & Editorials

ATF Rips Off Another Gun Dealer in Arizona
Confiscates 274 guns and 3,000 Form 4473's
Without making an official arrest or even filing charges

by Angel Shamaya

November 1, 2000

As this article has caused quite a stir, we have added a link to the in-depth analysis of an attack launched by the "Second Amendment Police Department."  Click here to read Blowing Away Police State Smokescreens.

"They were throwing vintage collector's items in mint condition through the air and into a trashcan 10 feet away," said Jerry Michel, licensed gun dealer, after being assaulted and pillaged by the ATF. "I felt like I was going to throw up."

And so might you before you're done reading this report.

On October 25, 2000, The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms sent approximately 30 federal and local agents in stormtrooper attire to confiscate firearms from a dealer who, according to what they told him, "did not have his papers in order." Jerry's Guns & Ammo d.b.a. Specialty Firearms of Mesa, Arizona was the latest in a long list of gun dealers who've been paid a visit by people who, when rightly told, "You're not supposed to do that" respond by saying things like: "We're the ATF. We can do whatever we want."

According to Jerry Michel, that's what they said to him when he confronted them as they threw a 1960's Winchester Model 94 Antique into a trashcan that already contained a few dozen of his guns. "Though the classic, mint condition gun was still in its original box, they removed it from the box and tossed it into the growing pile of firearms ranging in value from a few hundred to several thousand dollars -- metal slamming against metal, metal gouging wood, etc. -- like one might toss so much kindling onto a campfire."

These government operatives also confiscated guns Jerry held on consignment for several customers, and they also took his personally-owned firearms along with guns he'd been storing for an ailing friend.

When I called ATF today to find out if it is standard operating procedure to wantonly damage collector's items when they are stealing them, Larry X said,

"They didn't do that. They don't do things like that."

"Were you there, Larry?"

"No, I wasn't."

"Then how do you know they didn't do that, Larry?"

His response made me laugh: "Who am I speaking with again?"

You should be able to see the above actions on color video. Jerry installed video surveillance equipment at Specialty Firearms some time ago and uses it consistently during hours of operation, too. He'd only been open for three minutes when he was lured out the front door under false pretenses and surrounded by heavily armed and body-armored gun confiscators, so there was a new tape in the player and the tape was rolling. But ATF confiscated the tape that shows them unnecessarily and irreparably damaging Jerry's property -- and broke his VCR in the process.

I am sitting here reading -- for the third time -- the search warrant, given to me by Jerry himself, and I can't seem to locate the words "video tape" anywhere on the warrant.

The video tape will be subpoenaed to prove damages, we pray, in a class action lawsuit against ATF. Will it mysteriously disappear?

(Was ATF afraid to let people see what abusive and disrespectful people they are? Why else would they cover their tracks like common hoodlums? Maybe Special Agent in Charge and Group Supervisor Marvin G. Richardson or Assistant SAIC, Joe M. Gordon -- overseers in this outrageous act of violence -- can answer those questions. Or perhaps Robert C. Gantt, the agent who secured the search warrant from U.S. Magistrate Judge Lawrence O. Anderson -- the judge who presided over Bob Stewart's preposterous hearings -- can help shed some light on how a tape can be stolen when it's not on the search warrant.)

The Mesa police assisted in this raid, as well, earning themselves a demotion in the eyes of every gun owner in Arizona. Congratulations, officers. You helped assault a Good Guy and alienated a whole segment of the society you are supposed to protect and serve. Nice goin'.

Jerry's crime? Apparently, in Mesa, the city has an ordinance requiring gun dealers to have a "pawn permit" if they sell used firearms -- or so he was told while a team of armed and consistently disrespectful "men" busied themselves stealing 274 guns with an estimated value of approximately $300,000.

"How much is the pawn permit," you ask? $100.

Jerry Michel's Federal Firearms License (FFL) is current by way of a 6 month extension, so he is in fact a legal gun dealer. In fact, he's had his FFL since 1986, continuously. He does business with approximately 285 other gun dealers around the nation, and his reputation is one of integrity and lawfulness. No arrests or prior convictions, at all. Not even a speeding ticket to his name. Jerry is a "by the book" kinda guy.

Except for that little permit said to be required in Mesa. And that is only if the ATF was telling the truth. (Some of them are incorrigible liars, you know. ATF sends super-secret special agents who impersonate other people's identities into gun dealers' businesses to attempt to trick them into committing technical violations, so they are not only liars, they are entrapping imposters, as well.)

Jerry Michel had two guns on his person at the time of the assault. Both were returned to him after his business and personal quarters were trashed entirely, all drawers emptied as if the place had been looted. (It had.) When he asked if he was "out of business," he was told he could conduct business as usual. When he asked what he was supposed to sell, one agent's response tells all about the ATF. "You can sell some of this ammo," he said with a mean, sneering chuckle. "Heh heh." The fact that Jerry's gun business profits are helping to take care of his ailing mother -- who just got out of the hospital and is on expensive medications -- is of little importance to ATF. They strip people of their possessions and livelihood for insignificant, petty technical violations as a way of life. It's who they are.

With an unusual October rain pouring down on a cool desert night, the battered gun dealer began to open up about the event. We were sitting in my vehicle in a parking lot of an auto parts store in Mesa as Jerry was feeling a bit uncomfortable in his home and business. John Arbon of was with us. Having been a personal friend of Jerry's for nearly 4 years, he helped set up the meeting. (During the two and a half hours we talked, several unmarked vehicles u-turned at the median directly in front of where we were parked, some of them two and three times, and every time we noticed that the vehicles had two to four antennas sticking out of them -- and the passengers kept hiding their faces. Coincidence?)

"I have operated my business by the book to the very best of my ability since day one," Jerry stated matter-of-factly. "In fact, I have sold many guns to police officers over the years, and I've worked on a lot of cops' guns, for quite some time. I've even had cops ask me to build machineguns for them and to show them how to convert guns to full auto, and I have refused every time. I respect the law. I have a lot of friends who are good cops, and I respect them, too."

But the law no longer respects gun dealers like they once did, a fact Mr. Jerry Michel now fully and very personally understands.

"I don't have anything to hide," he said quite clearly, exasperated. "I am not a criminal. I just got my FFL extension in mid May. Why would they extend my license if I was under suspicion?" he asked, reaching for understanding as to why he was targeted. "And why wouldn't they simply call me up and tell me I need to come down and pay for some $100 permit? That is what an aboveboard and citizen-supportive organization would do."

During the course of this atrocity, Mr. Michel's fingerprints were taken, on the premises. His mugshots were also taken, right out in front of his store with 35-40 people looking on, including one or two of his own customers. "I was humiliated and outraged, and I still am," he says. "I did nothing at all to deserve this, and they treated me like I was a criminal right out in front of my own store."

Angel Shamaya: Jerry, this type of assault is being perpetrated against lawful, peaceable gun dealers all across America -- and has been going on for many years. We consistently hear from dealers how they were mistreated during the ordeal of watching their possessions stolen and their quarters ransacked. What are some other things you'd like to let people know about this event?

Jerry Michel: Angel, it was disgusting to see them damaging gun after gun. I literally felt dizzy and sick. And when I told them to please at least take decent care of my guns, one of them said "Shut up!" I continued to complain, and he said, again, "I told you to SHUT UP!" That was the theme. They destroy my life's work, my prize collection, my customers' custom made guns, and I was just supposed to bend over and take it with a smile. It was a nightmare! And these guys took things they couldn't possibly have a reason to take. For example, they took a black powder firearm. Now why in heaven's name would they do that?!

AS: Because they can. Nobody is stopping them, and they show up with 30 armed people to commit their crimes, so resistance means sure death, unless... Honestly, the ATF are traitors to the Constitution (that countless guys died for) who engage in such lowly and unnecessary tactics because they are an integral part of the tyrannical anti-gun, anti-freedom movement that seeks to destroy firearms freedom completely, as quickly as they can. And they do it because they are an unregulated agency with unbridled power run and manned by men who routinely disrespect the foundational American individual right to keep and bear arms. In other words, they are hired anti-American thugs.

JM: You know, before this happened, I thought the ATF was getting a bad rap in the gun community. I've only ever had them be polite to me. I used to welcome them in and we'd actually chew the fat, you know, talk like people. But after this experience, I can see why you say that. What they did to me and to my property is wrong. And you're right about their perspective on the right to keep and bear arms, too. One of them asked me, "Are you one of those constitution fanatics?" I said, "Well, I believe in the Constitution, don't you?" He ignored me and continued trashing my place while I sat helpless, handcuffed and with guys behind me holding guns on me.

AS: Happens every week in America, Jerry. Gun owners in America are now, far too often, like the Jews under Hitler. Scorned, abused, jailed and killed by the government gestapo, and ours goes by the name of the BATF. So what else did they do that makes you see red?

JM: Well, let's see. Oh, they took a flare launcher and called it a grenade launcher. And they told me I sold two guns to straw purchasers. When they said that, I actually raised my voice and said, "That is a LIE!" They then tried to tell me they had proof that I sold to straw purchasers. I told them to show me the person and the gun and I would prove they were lying, and they just laughed at me and kept throwing my guns into a plastic trashcan on top of each other like they were enjoying it. Not only have I never knowingly sold a gun to someone that was intended for someone else, I've kicked people out of my store who were engaging in conversations that even remotely seemed like that was their intention, and I have plenty of witnesses to such oustings, too. They also took two Colt Custom Single Action Army's with real mother-of-pearl grips out of their boxes and threw them into the trashcan they were filling. They also took guns I've had since I was 10 or 11 years old that were made before serial numbers were required.

AS: We hear this one a lot from gun owners. ATF sends agents in, under cover, who behave like one is buying a gun for another, in hopes of catching a dealer who is not paying attention. Do you have any suggestions for other dealers who will be reading this message, Jerry?

JM: Boy do I! Tell them this: "Any guy who has a Federal Firearms License, don't think this couldn't happen to you. Every bad thing you've heard about the ATF, I'm sorry to say, is true. They entrap you on some asinine technicality and destroy your property while you're cuffed, and they point loaded guns at you. They steal your entire life's collection and throw it into a heap like it was trash. They belittle you, degrade you, and they attempt to get you to admit to things you did not say or do, and they enjoy it. Be careful, and follow every little tiny detail of the increasing red-tape regulations, and they still find a way to justify assaulting you. So watch your back, and be careful who you are willing to trust, because these guys look just like some of your customers, and they act like them too. In retrospect, I wonder now if I should have asked every single customer except those I knew well if they were government agents before I ever sold them anything at all, and it might be a good idea if you do that, too."

AS: You seem like you're holding back from saying more, Jerry. I get a sense you're not really saying all that you feel like saying. Care to comment?

JM: Angel, listen, my mother just got out of the hospital again, and the slim margins from my gun business have been helping me and my sister take care of her. They've also just stripped me of my retirement. That's right, MY RETIREMENT. I had planned on selling much of my collection some time in the next few years and retiring, and now it's all gone, supposedly because of some $100 "pawn permit." They trashed custom guns that used to make people do a double-take when they saw them. My customers would say things like, "I didn't know a gun could look so perfect." And they threw those perfect guns of amazingly high personal and financial value into a trashcan. Am I angry? You bet I am. I don't even want to sleep at home, and my home is behind my shop, so it's all one big ugly mess now. They've not only successfully run me out of business, my mom called me today and told me she felt like she was having a heart attack just thinking about what they've done to me. I know the ATF has killed innocent people over their guns, and now they have compromised the privacy of over 3,000 of my customers by confiscating my sales records from the last 15 years. THIS IS AN OUTRAGE!! They even threw the business proprietor next door up against the wall when he walked outside to see what was going on -- and patted him down, when he did nothing, and that is an illegal search, isn't it?


Jerry has every right to be livid. I read through the 23-page list of guns the ATF took from him. When I called ATF today, I was told he's not even been charged with anything, nor would they disclose their justification for committing such an offensive operation against a man who bends over backwards to comply with laws. A phone call would have yielded their supposed $100 "pawn permit." And, the search warrant -- in my possession -- does not name some of what was taken, nor is the list (of confiscated guns ATF agents left with Jerry) a complete list.

John Arbon (being threatened with lawsuit by HCI/CPHV for the domain name alerted me to this mess through his having posted a personal account on, an exceptional message board for gun owners. John visited his friend's gun shop during the ATF assault. In John's own words, written just after witnessing the thieves in action:

I just got home from the most disturbing sight I have ever witnessed. Earlier today I tried calling the gun dealer that I have known and purchased from for 4 years now. The phone was busy for hours, and when I did get through all I got was his answering machine. Very unusual. I drove over to his shop and found the parking lot jammed with unmarked, tinted windowed cars, along with an SUV pulling a Mesa City Police trailer.

The shop door was propped open, not usual. Three men were standing outside the door, one black, one oriental, one white. All had 'ATF' stitched over their left breast side of their shirts.

I parked, got out and walked through the door as though I knew what I was doing. Inside I saw 10-12 more ATF maggots handling the guns, writing things down and pulling things off of the shelves.

"What are you doing in here?" the voice from behind me asked.

"Where's Jerry?" I asked, stunned.

"He's not here. What do you want?"

"I came by to pick up a gun. Is he alright?"

"He's fine. You can pick it up tomorrow."

"He'll be open then?"

"He should be," was the response.

John saw firsthand what many of us have known was happening for quite some time.

We will procure the search warrant affidavit as soon as possible and post it on These guys are going to need some hard evidence to get away with this, and they don't have any, so they'll have to make it up -- again. Shouldn't be too terribly difficult for the ATF...we think inventing and tampering with evidence might even be part of their training.

Many questions in this case remain as yet unanswered. Those that stand out like a sore thumb include:

  • Why are there no charges when 30 armed-to-the-teeth "men" assaulted a man, confiscated 274 guns and over 3,000 records that show private information of 3,000 Americans? Where are the charges?
  • Jerry Michel asked more than once if he was being arrested, and he was told "NO, you're being detained." If this man wasn't even arrested, why were prints and mugshots taken? And why was the video tape taken from Mr. Michel's surveillance equipment? Inquiring minds want to know. Surely someone has an answer, but it sure as Hell isn't Jerry Michel. He's dumbfounded.

Jerry Michel gets the closing statement today, as follows: "If these guys will do this to me over some $100 permit when I was already licensed to sell firearms, I shudder to think of what they would do to someone over a $10,000 violation."

If you wish to contact Jerry Michel of Specialty Firearms, here is how you do so: (480) 962-0913 1055 N. Mesa Drive, Mesa Arizona 85201.

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