On Monday, the Justice Department announced that it will proceed with a controversial reporting procedure that will require federally licensed firearms retailers in states bordering Mexico to report multiple sales of semi-automatic rifles.
Last fall, the reporting procedure was proposed as an “emergency” measure by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The procedure specifically calls for all of the firearm retailers in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas to report multiple sales, or other dispositions, of two or more .22 caliber or larger semi-automatic rifles that are capable of accepting a detachable magazine and that are purchased by the same individual within five consecutive business days. For example, a dealer would have to tell the government every time a deer hunter in Sacramento or Amarillo finds a good deal on a pair of semi-auto .30-06s like the popular Remington 7400.
The BATFE has no legal authority to demand these reports, and the flood of new paperwork (BATFE estimates 18,000 reports per year) will waste scarce law enforcement resources that should be spent on legitimate investigations.
Deputy Attorney General James Cole said in the DOJ statement that this new reporting measure “will improve the ability of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to detect and disrupt the illegal weapons trafficking networks responsible for diverting firearms from lawful commerce to criminals and criminal organizations.”
As anyone who watches the news is aware, the BATFE has recently come under intense scrutiny due to its involvement in, and handling of, the ill-conceived and ill-fated “Fast and Furious” operation. “Fast and Furious” was a part of the five-year-old “Project Gunrunner” program and encouraged Arizona gun stores to sell thousands of guns to suspicious buyers, despite objections from dealers and BATFE field agents alike.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) called the new policy “the height of hypocrisy,” and said the Obama administration is restricting the gun rights of border state citizens “when the administration knowingly and intentionally allowed guns to be trafficked into Mexico.” Smith went on to say, “Limiting the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens is not going to solve the problem.”
Earlier this year, the U.S. House of Representatives voted on and passed, by a vote of 277 to 149, an amendment to H.R. 1 offered by Reps. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.) and Dan Boren (D-Okla.) that prohibits the use of federal funds for the reporting scheme.
Unfortunately, the amendment was not included in the final version of the bill as a result of Senate inaction. In March, U.S. Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Richard Burr (R-N.C.) introduced legislation (S. 570) “to prohibit the Department of Justice from tracking and cataloging the purchases of multiple rifles and shotguns.” The bill would prohibit the use of federal funds for a multiple sales reporting scheme proposed by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Please contact your Senator and encourage him or her to cosponsor S. 570 to stop this blatant abuse of power. You can reach your Senators at (202) 224-3121 or send them an e-mail by clicking here.
Commenting on the DOJ announcement, NRA-ILA Executive Director Chris W. Cox said, “$40 billion transnational criminal enterprises don’t fill out paperwork and are not deterred by paperwork violations. This is a blatant effort by the Obama administration and ATF to divert the focus of Congress and the general public from their gross incompetence in the ‘Fast and Furious’ scandal. This scheme will unjustly burden law abiding retailers in border states. It will not affect drug cartels and it won’t prevent violence along our borders. The BATFE and the Administration lack the statutory authority to do this and the NRA will file suit as soon as BATFE sends the first demand letters.”