“Law Letters” and a “M249 SAW” at heart of Sheriff Jenkins case

Cover Photo: A police officer with the Carson City Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team fires a Marine Corps M249 SAW at targets at a training area in Hawthorne, Nev., Aug 2, 2018. The purpose of this training was for Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command Marines and Carson City SWAT to exchange knowledge and tactics to improve not only the Marines’ war fighting lethality, but also for the SWAT team to improve their tactics for specialized domestic incidents. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. William Chockey)

This is a continuation of our coverage regarding Federal indictment of Frederick County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins and Robert Krop.

FREDERICK, MD News (4/6/2023) – Recently, Frederick County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins and Robert Krop, a local gun dealer, were indicted on charges of with conspiracy and false statements in order to acquire machineguns. According to court documents, the two individuals conspired to obtain machine guns using fraudulent “law enforcement letters” to do so. Radio Free Hub City is diving further into what prompted these charges, and what exactly is a “law enforcement letter”.

The acquisition of machine guns is highly regulated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). One of the most important regulations is that a “law enforcement letter” be obtained before any transfer of a machine gun can take place. This letter authorizes the possession or transfer of a machine gun for a specific purpose, such as a demonstration for law enforcement. Per Federal law, machine guns manufactured after 1986 can only be transferred with a “law enforcement letter” as part of the transfer.

Example "law enforcement letter" provided by the ATF.
Example “law enforcement letter” provided by the ATF.

While it’s not uncommon for law enforcement to request demonstrations of weapons, according to the Department of Justice, Sheriff Jenkins and Krop allegedly obtained these letters fraudulently, without the intention of conducting any demonstrations. Instead, the Department of Justice claims, they used the letters to acquire machine guns for rental at a firing range in Frederick. At the center of these allegations is a M249 SAW, a belt-fed automatic machine gun. The M249 SAW demonstration was requested with the justification that it is “suitable for use as a law enforcement weapon, due to cost, availability, and its use in day to day patrol as well as special operations”. According to the ATF, the M249 SAW is not suitable for these purposes, and is only suitable as a a combat weapon. However, a 2006 article of SWAT Digest indicates that the FBI has several M249 SAWs as part of its Hostage Rescue Team (HRT). Additionally, semi-automatic versions of the M249 exist for civilian usage, and are legal without a NFA tax stamp or “law enforcement letter”.

The illegal acquisition of machine guns is a serious offense, and the defendants in this case could face significant penalties. If convicted, they could be sentenced to imprisonment, fines, and the loss of their licenses. The ATF may also revoke the FFL of any dealer, manufacturer, or importer who willfully violates federal firearms laws or regulations.

However, if the sheriff had no intention of conducting the demonstration, the consequences could be even more severe. This is because the fraudulent use of a law enforcement letter is a federal crime that carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison.

The potential consequences for the sheriff go beyond just legal penalties. Law enforcement officers are held to a higher standard of conduct and ethics, and any violation of that standard can result in disciplinary action. In addition, any criminal conviction could lead to the loss of the sheriff’s job and pension.

Furthermore, the allegations against the sheriff could damage public trust in law enforcement. The public expects law enforcement officers to uphold the law and act with integrity at all times. If the sheriff is found to have violated the law, it can damage the credibility and reputation of the entire department.

The case highlights the importance of compliance with all federal, state, and local laws and regulations related to the acquisition, possession, sale, and transfer of firearms. FFLs must maintain accurate and complete records of all firearm transactions, including “law enforcement letters,” to ensure compliance with all applicable regulations.

It is essential for FFLs and law enforcement officers to consult with knowledgeable attorneys or compliance specialists to ensure they are in compliance with all applicable laws and regulations. The Department of Justice takes the fraudulent acquisition of firearms very seriously and investigates all allegations of fraud or misrepresentation related to “law enforcement letters.”

The case is currently ongoing, and the sheriff and gun dealer have yet to enter a plea. The Department of Justice continues to investigate the allegations and pursue the case.

Article by multiple RFHC staff.

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