On Jan. 7, 2020, a package was delivered to West Seneca, New York, resident John R. Andrews. Inside was a $29 solvent trap — a legal accessory used to clean guns — that he had ordered online in November 2019.
Shortly afterward, his home was raided and his guns confiscated by a group of law enforcement officials including local police officers and agents from the Department of Homeland Security, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the U.S. Postal Inspector’s Office, according to The Buffalo News.
At the time the raid occurred, Andrews, 52, operated a business that sold firearms — partially assembled ones, that is.
After a customer would complete the assembly of a firearm, he or she would own what’s known as a “ghost gun.” Because these guns don’t have serial numbers, they are untraceable by law enforcement.
According to The News, “making and selling partially assembled firearms … is legal because they aren’t considered to be firearms under state and federal law.”
However, legislation that would “make it illegal for anyone besides a licensed gun dealer” to own a ghost gun and would subject buyers to background checks is currently pending in New York, the outlet reported. Additionally, President Joe Biden recently announced executive actions targeting these guns.
But Andrews had not broken the law, and none of the guns or gun parts seized by officials during their search of his home were illegal. Yet he was charged with six felonies.
One year later, all of the charges have been dismissed.
The application for the search warrant had indicated that rather than a solvent trap, Andrews had ordered a silencer, a device used to minimize the sound of a gun when it’s fired.
According to ATF official Eric Murray, solvent traps can be easily converted into silencers, and the two accessories are “remarkably similar.” But unlike solvent traps, silencers are illegal in the state of New York.
Andrews’ solvent trap had been shipped from China and flagged by Customs and Border Protection agents in California. “Federal authorities deemed it to be a silencer and contacted West Seneca police,” The News reported.
On Jan. 14, 2021, following a year of legal troubles for Andrews, New York state Supreme Court Justice Christopher J. Burns wrote: “The choice of words used by the police in the [warrant] application were persuasive and wrong. … As a result, this court must find there was a reckless disregard for the true nature of the item and must suppress any items recovered through the search warrant.”
New York also has laws that prohibit individuals convicted of some misdemeanors from owning a gun. Andrews has misdemeanor convictions, but he and his attorney say they have obtained a form through the courts restoring his Second Amendment rights.
According to The News, Andrews’ guns and gun parts have not been returned to him. He plans to sue to recover them.
It’s great that justice ultimately prevailed for Andrews. But his case shows how lawmakers and law enforcement can use any convenient excuse to crack down on gun ownership.
California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a frequent sponsor of gun control legislation, recently joined other Democratic lawmakers reintroducing the “Help Empower Americans to Respond Act.” The bill would “ban the importation, sale, manufacturing, transfer and possession of gun silencers or suppressors,” according to a news release from her office.
How many more John Andrews will there be if this bill becomes law? How many more guns will be confiscated in the Biden administration’s war on the Second Amendment?
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