Sacramento Gun Manufacturer Sentenced to Prison for Manufacturing and Assisting Others to Manufacture AR-15 Rifles
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Daniel Albert Crowninshield, 54, of Sacramento, was sentenced today to three years and five months in prison for unlawfully manufacturing and dealing in firearms and possession of an unregistered machinegun, U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced.
In sentencing Crowninshield, U.S. District Judge Troy L. Nunley referred to his actions as a “brazen attempt to circumvent the law.” He was ordered to self-surrender on April 13, 2017.
U.S. Attorney Talbert stated: “The unregulated manufacture and sale of high-capacity firearms is a serious threat to public safety. We will continue to investigate and prosecute unlicensed gun dealers who circumvent the law.”
“If individuals neglect to follow federal firearms laws, ATF has the responsibility to investigate these activities because it is ATF’s highest priority to safeguard the public it serves,” said Special Agent in Charge Jill A. Snyder. “ATF enforces the federal laws and rules governing the manufacturing of firearms. When ATF receives information on the illegal manufacture of firearms, it investigates and has the authority to promulgate rules and regulations to implement those laws. Daniel Crowninshield, aka Dr. Death, owned and operated a machine shop where he allowed customers with unknown backgrounds to use his machinery to unlawfully manufacture firearms for profit. That activity posed a very dangerous threat to the safety of our communities.”
According to court documents, Crowninshield, who was also known by his online moniker “Dr-Death,” operated an unlicensed firearms manufacturing business out of C&G Tool, a metal shop in North Sacramento. Using sophisticated computer-controlled machines, Crowninshield manufactured parts for AR-15s and other firearms.
Many individual firearm components are not subject to regulation by ATF and can be bought and sold without reporting the sales and without requiring a background check. One such part is a metal casting of an incomplete “lower receiver” called a “blank.” The blank can be converted into a lower receiver, which is the part of an AR‑15 that contains a trigger, firing pin, and other parts, to form a functioning firearm. Once the blank is milled into a completed lower receiver using a drill press or automated machine, it is considered a firearm and it is subject to federal regulation.
Generally, the manufacturing at C&G Tool would proceed as follows: prospective gun buyers would purchase an AR-15 blank and take it to C&G Tool where a skilled machinist would mill the blank into an AR-15 lower receiver. According to federal law, a person may manufacture a firearm for personal use without including a serial number on the firearm, provided that the firearm is not sold or transferred to another person. Otherwise, to manufacture a firearm requires a license from ATF, and a firearm that is transferred to another person must bear a serial number.
According to court documents, in order to create the pretext that C&G customers were building their own firearms, the skilled machinist would have the customer press a button or put his or her hands on a piece of machinery so that the customer could claim that the customer, rather than the machinist, made the firearm.
Crowninshield advertised his services on at least one online firearm enthusiast forum. This website mainly consists of forums where people ask and answer questions related to firearms. Using the moniker “Dr-Death,” he was a prolific poster on the website. Additionally, other members frequently posted about Dr-Death, including review of service provided and recommending that other users visit his shop.
This case was the product of an investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the California Department of Justice’s Bureau of Firearms with the assistance of the Sacramento Police Department, the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department, and California Highway Patrol. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Justin Lee and Matthew Yelovich prosecuted the case.
Crowninshield was one of several Sacramento-area individuals involved in manufacturing AR-15 style firearms. On December 9, 2016, in a related case, Emiliano Cortez-Garcia (2:13-cr-353-GEB) was sentenced to five years in prison for manufacturing AR-15 firearms and a concurrent six-year prison term for possession of an unregistered firearm and possession of a machinegun.