Amishman Reuben King, a Lancaster County, Pennsylvania dairy farmer, was convicted by a federal jury in May 2023 for selling firearms without a license, despite there being no clear legal requirement that he needed a license to do so.
King, whose main business is dairy farming, collects and sells various long guns on the side. He mainly sells to fellow Amish. Federal law does not require sellers to acquire a license if they only “occasionally” sell firearms and their “principal motive” is not to make a profit. King's primary business is his dairy operation.
The vagueness of the law was used by federal agents and prosecutors to indict and convict King, who could face up to five years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, or both. Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 6. King can appeal to a higher court, but only after sentencing.
An undercover police officer bought five firearms from King between Oct. 24, 2019, and March 16, 2020, in three separate transactions. According to court documents, the undercover officer saw, and filmed, an estimated 150 long arms marked with price tags and arrayed on tables in King’s barn for sale.
On June 11, 2020, ATF agents issued King a cease-and-desist letter. The vagueness of the letter matched the vagueness of the federal law. According to court documents, the letter stated that King’s activity “appeared” to bring him within the definition of a firearms dealer, and that he could “possibly face prosecution.”
Joshua Prince, King’s attorney, told The Lancaster Patriot that an ATF agent testified that agents merely told King that he “may” need a license.
“Mr. King left the conversation [with ATF agents] believing that he didn’t need [a license], because it was not his business,” Prince said. “He wasn’t in the business of selling firearms – they told him you had to be in the business. In his mind, he is a dairy farmer, that’s his business. And, as the testimony reflected, he didn’t keep track of sales, firearms, or values. He didn’t even know if he made a profit or not.”
King did sign the admonition to cease-and-desist, acknowledging receipt.
The use of acquiring a signature prior to indictment also played a part in the federal government’s case against another Lancaster County farmer, Amos Miller of Miller’s Organic Farm. Miller was targeted for processing and selling meat without federal inspection.
In both King and Miller’s case, no victims brought any charges against the Amish farmers. For both farmers, the charges were based on alleged failure to follow evolving government regulations.
For more, visit: www.thelancasterpatriot.com/king
What will my money be used for? The funds will be given to Reuben King to use as he sees fit to help his family during this trying time. It will be up to King's discretion, but money could go to any potential legal costs or towards replacing the value of the 600+ firearms that the government confiscated from King, and he will not be compensated for if sentencing is upheld. If King is sent to prison, the funds could also be used by his family to replace lost income. King also may be hit with a hefty fine.
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