By Harold Lewis
While the price of Class III N.F.A. weapons continues to rise dramatically each year, the supply of Transferable Title II Firearms is shrinking, as demand keeps growing ever larger. Many dealers have told me that they are having a difficult time replenishing their stock at reasonable prices, while others have told me they are unable to get good guns at any price. This is due in part to many new class III enthusiasts, discovering the enjoyment and financial rewards of NFA weapons. The increases are primarily the result of the limiting restrictions imposed by the Gun control act of 1968 (26 USC sec. 5844). This law prohibited the possession and importation of any foreign made machine gun after that date for civilian use. On May 9, 1986, our government implemented 18 USC sec. 922.o This prohibited the further manufacture and possession of any new domestically made machine-guns for civilian use. It is interesting to note that The Supreme Court ruled in 1939, in United States V. Miller. 307 U.S. 174, that only weapons shown to be “ordinary military equipment” that could “contribute to the common defense” are protected by the Second Amendment. While 18 USC sec. 922.0 seems to be in direct conflict with this ruling, no one has successfully challenged it in Court.
This created four distinct classes of machine guns: 1. transferable imported guns brought in before 1968 and domestic guns manufactured before 1986. 2. Pre 1986 dealer sample guns only available to law enforcement (LE) and occupational taxpayers. 3. Post 1986 Dealer sample guns, requiring a LE department letter for possession and transfer. 4. Non transferable Law enforcement guns that are registered on a Form 10. These weapons are only transferable to law enforcement and museums, though they can be broken down for parts.
It seems that many Class III dealers are unaware that thousands of registered, transferable, functioning title II weapons are standing idle in old lockers and closets in the basements of countless local police stations and sheriffs’ departments.
After 1995 The Government disposed of all it’s declared obsolete stock piles of weapons. Thousands of Thompson 45s, Reisings, M2 Carbines, and other classic firearms were given away free to any police agency that wanted them. Fortunately, many of these weapons were registered with the National Firearms Act branch (NFA) of the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (BATF).
Most law enforcement agencies have not used these historic weapons for years, for fear of liability. These classic relics are now well over 50 years old, and were retired from active service long ago. In addition Colt M16s, Ruger 556, Heckler and Koch MP 5s, Uzis, S&W 760s, and dozens of other brands of guns ended up in the hands of local law enforcement agencies.
In the last eight years as an NFA dealer I have had the opportunity to visit countless department armories and meet many fine dedicated people. Best of all, I was able to buy hundreds of firearms and dozens of machine guns from law enforcement agencies. At the same time, I was able to sell them dozens of new Colt M16s, H&K MP5s, Benelli and Remington shotguns and sniper rifles. I have found that dealing with the law is both very profitable and much fun.
The question is: How do you get the local police chiefs and sheriffs to willingly give you their guns? I hope to teach you some of the techniques I have used successfully for selling to and dealing with law enforcement.
How do you get started? Who do you contact? What do you say? Even more important, what don’t you say? All of these questions will be answered in due time.
To begin, it depends upon where you live. You may have dozens of local law enforcement agencies available to you in your proximity. Start by making a list of all the local PDs in your area or in an area that you would be willing to travel to. This should include the street address, the non-emergency phone number of the department, and the name of whoever is in charge. You may find phone listings in the white pages of your local directory, or you can call your local information operator. When you speak to the information operators tell them you would like the non-emergency phone number of the department and ask for the mailing address. Don’t go overboard here. Ten to fifteen departments is a good place to start.
Depending on the size of the agency, the head of the department may be a chief of police or sheriff, or a commissioner of police in larger urban areas and small cities. In any case, getting the individuals name is very easy. Just ask. When calling any department or business, the first thing to remember is never, ever call 911. This will usually guarantee that you have lost the sale before you even get stated. It is also irresponsible to tie up emergency phone lines with non-essential business.
Calls to a department are usually answered by a civilian employee, a patrol officer, a deputy sheriff or a desk sergeant. When you have them on the phone, take a deep breath and SMILE. Yes smile. Even though you can not be seen, the inflections of your voice are controlled by your facial muscles. This is very important. You have to win these people over in less than 15 seconds! That’s how long it takes for someone to lose interest or rouse interest in a sales call. A smile on your face when you talk on the phone will help greatly in getting your point across in a pleasant manner. The police are very busy people and have no time for sales pitches or small talk. Be polite and explain that the call is not an emergency and you would like to know the name of the chief of police or sheriff or commissioner. Ask when would be the best time to call to speak to them. At this point you may be questioned as to the nature of your business and why you are calling. Your answer here is critically important. Explain that you are a “ law enforcement firearms dealer”, you are calling the department concerning firearms, and would like to arrange to speak with the chief.”
Remember, do not mention anything about machine guns or Class III weapons. Don’t start explaining the differences between an MP5 and an MP5 PDW. Don’t tell them that you can supply them with a 1919 Browning or Bazookas and Rocket launchers. You are wasting your breath and their time. The person you are speaking to cannot help you. You will only confuse the issue and you may cause problems for yourself. You have to sound like a professional sales person, and not some yahoo gun nut who would like to sell the department hand grenades and a .50 caliber belt fed machine gun. The old sales adages of KISS (Keep it simple stupid) is of utmost importance here.
By being polite and direct and to the point, you will have no problem getting the name of the chief or sheriff. If you are lucky you may also be given the name of the person in charge of “the guns.” Write down any name you are given and their extension numbers. Thank the person you are speaking to, hang up and call the next department. Continue calling until you have all your department information complete. This will also give you time to practice and help you develop your phone skills.
As Class III dealers, many of you may already know the names of the department heads and the chiefs or sheriffs personally. This is an advantage. These personal contacts are often the best place to start.
The best time to call may vary from department. Try late morning first, and then early afternoon. I have found that early morning calls are not welcome. Most chiefs, commissioners and sheriffs are usually gone by 3 or 4 in the afternoon.
When you call ask for the chief or sheriff by name. You may be transferred to a secretary, but you will probably get the chief directly in smaller departments. If you get the secretary, simply ask to speak to the chief. If she questions you as to the nature of your call, tell her it is concerning firearms for the department. Do not mention machine guns. Remember KISS, and remember to smile.
You should have no problem being put through. If he is not in, ask when would be the best time to call and call back the next day. If he gets on the phone, say as follows. “ Sir my mane is———and my company is——. We are law enforcement firearms dealers and we would like to offer your department a free demonstration of the newest weapons and equipment. Could you give me the name of whoever is in charge of the Firearms in your department so I can make arrangements with him.”
Most chiefs of police know little about firearms. It is not their prime concern, nor in most cases, their field of expertise. That job is always left to subordinates. You may find an occasional chief who moved up through the ranks and may once have had extensive firearm training and knowledge. Whatever you do, do not mention machine guns to him. With the Political pressures put on department heads today, you don’t want to kill your sale before you start it. Don’t try to impress him with what you know about firearms. He does not care. He is a very busy man, and going into depth about guns will be just wasting his time. It may just piss him off, and that is something you really don’t want to do!
In most cases, depending on the size of the department, you may be given the name of someone from a patrolman up to a sergeant, a lieutenant, or even a captain. He or she may be in charge of the shooting range, the SWAT or TAC team, or the head training officer, or in some cases the department armorer. This will be the person you will do most of your dealings with. Remember that in all cases you will still need the final approval of the chief or sheriff.
Be polite at all times. Thank the person for his time and tell him that you will mail him your business card. Politely ask if you can be transferred to the individual whose name he has just given you. At this point you should have no further dealings with the head agency. All future transactions will take place at the lower levels of police bureaucracy.
Most departments have someone who has been appointed to or has worked their way up to be in charge of firearms. These people are true professionals. They deal on a daily basis with the use and training of the department’s weapons. Many of them are true gun enthusiasts. Some of them may have their FFLs. Most have taken numerous training courses on advanced gun techniques given by the FBI, the military and state police. They are often graduates of armorers’ schools and courses given by many of the gun manufacturers. Many are expert qualified gunsmiths. Most of the people I have met in this capacity truly love what they are doing. You should respect and honor them. These people will become your best friends. Remember when you speak to them for the first time, never try to show off what you know or what you think you know about guns. Most of them will know far more than you, and they will not be impressed.
You do have the ace of spades up your sleeve, though. You are a Class III NFA Firearms Dealer, and that does impress them!
When you do get them on the phone, explain that you are a Class III NFA firearms’ dealer and that you are authorized by the Federal Government and the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms to sell, trade and own machine guns. Explain that you would like to arrange to show them some new weapons. Ask when would be the best time for such a demonstration. I have never had a free demonstration refused by one of these people. They love guns and are always eager to learn and see new weapons.
Again, depending on the size to the department, you may end up showing the guns to one man, or an entire swat team. In one case I showed sniper rifles and machine guns to the 15 man, head instructional staff on the largest police department in the country. I have been an FFL holder and gunsmith for over twenty years, and have been involved in firearms shooting and competition for over 30 years. Suffice it to say I was very, very impressed with this group of professionals. They really knew their guns. They were teachers of the two hundred plus man training staff for a department with over 30,000 officers.
In another case, the county sheriff personally handled the entire sale from my first call to the transfer of all his old M16’s and department handguns. You have to be prepared to deal and speak with anyone, from a patrol officer to the commissioner of police, or in some cases the district attorney or mayor of a small town. We will cover what you need to know for your first demonstration, equipment and presentation in the next installment.
|This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V1N1 (October 1997)|