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PA Man Takes a Stand Over Homemade Gun

PHILADELPHIA (CN) - On the same day the United States allegedly forced him to turn in a machine gun he manufactured himself, a Pennsylvania man filed a federal complaint under the Second Amendment.

Ryan Watson claims to have made the gun after the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives approved his June application and accepted his $200 tax.

The application allegedly named Watson Gun Trust as the manufacturer.

On Sept. 10, 2014, however, about a month after the ATF approved his application, the agency sent Watson an email "stating that the status of the approved Form 1 had been changed from 'approved' to 'disapproved,'" the complaint states.

Watson says William Boyle III, head of the National Firearms Act Branch of the ATF, told Watson in October that the trust Watson had formed did not shield him from the ban against machine guns under the Gun Control Act.

Indeed, "unincorporated trusts" are notably absent from the list of entities included in the law, which bans the sale and manufacture of any machine gun made after May 19, 1986, according to Watson's complaint.

Watson included Boyle's letter as an exhibit to his complaint. It states: "ATF must disregard such a non-entity under the GCA and consider the individual acting on behalf of the trust to be the proposed maker/possessor of the machine gun."

Essam Rabach, head of the ATF Philadelphia Field Division, then allegedly contacted Watson to arrange a time to surrender the weapon, promising that the hand-over would not be used to prosecute Watson.

Watson says he met another agent on Nov. 14 and turned over the weapon.

That afternoon, Watson filed his complaint, challenging the ban under the Second Amendment.

Watson says he operated legally by manufacturing his gun through a trust, and that the $200 tax required to manufacture it is also unconstitutional, "just as a poll tax, a tax to exercise one's religion, or a tax assessed on printed materials before one could exercise his or her first Amendment rights would be unconstitutional as well."

The 19-page complaint seeks damages for detrimental reliance as well as violations of the commerce clause, the Second Amendment, the Fifth Amendment and the 14th Amendment.

Watson is represented by David Scott of the Law Offices of J. Scott Watson. That firm's website lists Watson, the plaintiff, as one of its attorneys.

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