A national gun rights organization is demanding a federal investigation into possible gun law violations by NBC News and the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office during the production of a “hidden camera” story about so-called “ghost guns” that aired March 17.
The Second Amendment Foundation has called for the investigation after AmmoLand News reporter John Crump wrote about the NBC story Friday.
Simultaneously, Lee Williams, who runs SAF’s Investigative Journalism Project, authored his own story at TheGunMag.com and circulated it to several other firearms news sites.
According to SAF and the published reports, NBC reporter Vaughn Hillyard carried a hidden camera into the Eagle Gun Show in Oaks, Penn. to purchase two Polymer 80 (P80) firearm kits from JSD Supply. Those kits are generically called “80 percenters” because they require some finishing work by the buyer for his/her personal use. The kits were subsequently taken to the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office where they were finished, assembled and actually fired on camera.
Home-building of personal firearms is a tradition dating back centuries in this country, to the colonial period prior to the Revolutionary War.
In his article, Williams wrote, “NBC’s “Inside look at the rising ‘ghost gun’ market in the U.S.” is without a doubt the most unethical, factually bankrupt hit-piece I have ever seen. There is not even a close second. Its badness is unrivaled, without peer.”
Writing at AmmoLand, Crump stated, “The report talks about inaction in Congress surrounding unfinished frames, and now the Biden administration has tasked the ATF to come up with new rules…JSD Supply will be on the tip of the spear in that battle, which is why I believe NBC News did the hit piece in the first place.”
Crump is a frequent contributor to AmmoLand, writing about the firearms industry and related subjects. Williams launched the SAF Investigative Journalism Project last year, and his reports are published at TheGunMag.com and elsewhere.
SAF founder and Executive Vice President Alan Gottlieb has seen other “hidden camera” reports about gun shows. They all have an aura of “sting” in which the lines blur between straight reporting and editorializing, he indicated.
“This sort of sensationalism is designed to generate ratings and raise viewer alarms,” Gottlieb said Friday. “However, our alarms were raised because of the possible felonies that may have been committed by the reporter and the office of Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro.
“You cannot violate federal gun laws to complain about gun laws and promote a gun control agenda, even as a working journalist,” Gottlieb continued. “We call on the Biden Justice Department to investigate possible violations of federal gun law, same as that agency would investigate any private citizen who had done the same thing. You don’t get a pass simply by working for NBC.”
According to Crump’s report, “The news crew transferred two complete ‘readily convertible’ kits out of the parts they purchased separately at the show. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) previously viewed ‘buy, build, shoot’ kits as readily convertible and, therefore, a firearm.
“If the ATF still keeps to that definition,” Crump added, “Hillyard, an out-of-state resident, transferred two ‘readily convertible’ firearms (pistols) kits illegally to the Pennsylvania AG’s employees to complete. There is not an exception in the law for any AG’s ‘special agents,’ which means that the agents must obey all laws.”
The Biden administration has taken a decidedly anti-gun-rights course since before the inauguration. Whether the Justice Department will mount an investigation remains to be seen. So far, there has been no reaction from DOJ or NBC.