This Virginia Congressional candidate posted a video on Facebook showing her illegally manufacturing a short-barreled rifle, which is a felony.
Karen Mallard is a Democrat running for Congress in Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District, a seat currently held by Republican Scott Taylor. This week, Mallard posted a video to her campaign’s Facebook page showing her taking an angle grinder to her husband’s AR-15.
“I told him I wanted this gun out of my house,” Mallard said into the camera. However, she also didn’t want to sell or give the gun away to anyone else. So, she decided to destroy the gun on camera to promote her Congressional campaign.
I took a personal stand for gun safety and I'm not backing down. A staffer took down this video to try to protect me from these vicious comments, but I'm not the one that needs protection our children do. And yes for all the NRA trolls out there, I finished the job according to regulation and turned it over to the police. Why are you more outraged about me taking a gun out of circulation than about our children being murdered in our schools? Thanks for listening and sharing.We need gun reform now. #SafeguardOurChildren
Posted by Karen Mallard for Congress on Wednesday, March 7, 2018
The video received well over 100,000 views, though the views mostly did not come from supporters. The problem is that in trying to destroy her husband’s AR-15, Karen Mallard actually committed a felony. Without the proper paperwork from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, it is illegal for an American citizen to possess a rifle or shotgun with a barrel that is shorter than 16 inches in length. By cutting down the rifle’s barrel, Karen Mallard broke the law.
In 1934, Congress passed the National Firearms Act and created separate categories of dangerous weapons that would require a lengthy background check, fingerprinting, and a $200 tax in order for civilians to own them. At the time, $200 was seen as prohibitively expensive, putting these weapons out of reach for most Americans. Adjusting for inflation, $200 in 1934 had the buying power of more than $3,500 in today’s dollars. These NFA weapons include machine guns, destructive devices like grenades or rocket launchers, sawed-off shotguns, and short-barreled rifles. The punishment for owning a rifle with even just a 15-inch barrel is the same as the punishment for owning an illegal machine gun or artillery shell.
In order to destroy a firearm, the ATF requires multiple cuts through the firearm’s receiver, which is the part that has the manufacturer’s serial number on it. ATF regulations require torch cuts and specifically list that using a bandsaw or cut-off wheel is not enough. Crushing a firearm is also an acceptable means of destroying it.
But Karen Mallard didn’t cut through the rifle’s receiver. She took an angle grinder to the rifle’s barrel and lopped it right off. Instead of destroying the firearm, she created an unregistered and untaxed short-barreled rifle, which is a felony under the National Firearms Act of 1934 and punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
Multiple Facebook commenters posted on the video that they had called the ATF to report her, chiding the Congressional candidate for committing a serious crime on camera. The original video was taken down from the campaign’s Facebook page and then re-uploaded later with an explanation from Mallard.
“And yes for all the NRA trolls out there, I finished the job according to regulation and turned it over to the police. Why are you more outraged about me taking a gun out of circulation than about our children being murdered in our schools?” she wrote.
Many gun owners, in Virginia and across the country, took serious issue with the video because in denouncing the semi-automatic rifle, Mallard actually created an unregistered weapon in the same class as fully-automatic weapons.
Regardless of how the firearm was ultimately disposed of, it is undeniable that the Congressional candidate did in fact manufacture and possess an unregistered short-barreled rifle in violation of the law. There is no exception within the National Firearms Act of 1934 for violations done with good intentions and regardless of what reassurances her local police department may have given her, these are federal crimes.
It is unclear whether the ATF will prosecute this case, though employees who answered the bureau’s tip line did say that the case was currently being investigated by agents.
Mallard is not the first to inadvertently commit a felony while trying to publicly destroy an AR-15. Scott Pappalardo posted a viral video on Facebook of him destroying his AR-15 but also unknowingly committed a felony by sawing off the barrel of his rifle and creating an unregistered short-barreled rifle in the process (shown below).
We have reached out to the Karen Mallard for Congress campaign as well as Representative Scott Taylor’s office for comment but did not receive a response from either prior to publication. If we do receive a response, we will add it below.
What do you think? Should these sorts of crimes be prosecuted? Let us know in the comment section below!