- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 19, 2015

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Federal authorities are investigating a Connecticut gun-maker after agents found nearly 3,000 assault rifle parts missing serial numbers, according to recently filed court documents.

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents seized nearly 300 of the AR-15 parts from Stag Arms in September following routine inspections, prosecutors said. At the time, the father of Stag Arms owner Mark Malkowski told authorities that the employee who places serial numbers on parts was on vacation.

The New Britain-based gun-maker gained a high profile in the state when Malkowski became a vocal critic of a stricter state gun-control law passed in the wake of the 2012 Newtown school shootings.

The allegations that Stag Arms violated the National Firearms Act came in a forfeiture request by filed by prosecutors May 6 in federal court in Bridgeport. Prosecutors asked a judge to allow the government to keep nearly 110 of the seized assault rifle parts for “the use and benefit of the United States.”

Spokesmen for the U.S. attorney’s office and the ATF said the investigation of Stag Arms is ongoing. They declined further comment.

Malkowski didn’t return phone and email messages seeking comment.

Stag Arms released a statement this week saying it is cooperating with government officials.

“Although the allegations relate primarily to timing and record keeping, and Stag believes public safety was never compromised, the company takes its obligation to comply with all laws very seriously,” the statement said. “Stag has made comprehensive changes to ensure that similar problems cannot happen again.”

Neither Malkowski nor the company has been charged with criminal wrongdoing. Any violation of the National Firearms Act carries up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000 upon conviction.

The ATF sought search warrants for Stag Arms manufacturing facilities in New Britain after routine licensure inspections in July and August found the 3,000 AR-15 parts without serial numbers and a lack of required records - both violations of the National Firearms Act, prosecutors said in court documents. None of the parts was properly registered to Stag Arms, the documents said.

Agents seized nearly 300 rifle parts and several computers. The confiscation was first reported by The Hartford Business Journal on Monday.

Besides Malkowski’s father saying the serial number worker was on vacation, another employee told authorities that some parts didn’t have serial numbers because they were going to be used to duplicate parts of guns with serial numbers that were damaged, a practice that also violates regulations, prosecutors said.

Malkowski opposed stricter state gun control laws approved by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and state lawmakers in April 2013, four months after a gunman killed 20 first-graders and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Just days after the gun law passed, Malkowski was among owners of a few Connecticut gun manufactures who said they were considering leaving the state.

Stag Arms employs more than 200 people. Its website says Malkowski founded the company in 2003 with the goal to manufacture reliable, American-made and competitively priced AR-15s.

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