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DILLON ? The owner of a gun parts company that was raided last week by federal agents is proclaiming his innocence after numerous parts and records were seized from his home.

Richard Celata said agents with the FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms went through his home and workshop near Argenta for hours on Wednesday, June 7, but didn?t find anything illegal.

?We haven?t been charged with any crimes, and obviously what they found here didn?t violate any laws because I would have been arrested on the spot,? Celata, 45, said Thursday in a telephone interview. ?They confiscated all my inventory, paperwork and made copies of my hard drive.? Federal officials have been mum about the raid. A representative with the ATF in Helena did not return phone calls Thursday seeking comment.

And Beaverhead County Sheriff Bill Briggs, who assisted with the search, has said he cannot comment on the raid other than acknowledging it took place.

Celata manufactures gun parts at his shop near Argenta, about eight miles west of Dillon. He lives there with his wife and two children and sells the parts through his company KT Ordnance, which he moved to Dillon two years ago, on the Internet.

The parts that Celata builds are what he calls the ?80 percent? market, meaning they?re close to finished.

But they?re not gun kits similar to those available through mail order catalogs that can simply be put together and ready to shoot, Celata said. Those require a special license, whereas just to manufacture gun parts does not as long as the buyer uses them personally and doesn?t sell the guns once they?re completed.

Celata?s product requires some manufacturing work by the buyer, he said.

?There?s no way to assemble this in any way that you can fire it,? he said. ?You have to actually do some machining.? The raid has fueled rumors around Dillon that Celata was building machine guns. But he said none of the rifle and pistol parts he makes, once completed, are automatic weapons.

The government?s case, if Celata is charged with a crime, will come down to what constitutes a gun, said Quentin Rhoades, a Missoula attorney representing him. Rhoades stressed that he hasn?t seen a list of the items seized and couldn?t comment on them.


?They?ve been wanting to shut down the 80 percent built market for a while, but they?d have to change the Constitution to do that,? he said. ?Or they can just raid you and scare everybody away.?

Test case for shutting down the 80%ers??
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