S. 570 – No Tracking Of Multiple Long Gun Purchases

Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) is serious about getting the gun owner’s vote when he comes up for re-election in 2012. In February, he introduced S. 381, the Collectible Firearms Protection Act, which would amend the Arms Export Control Act so as to allow the nearly one million Garands and M-1 carbines in Korea to be imported into the U.S.

On Monday, Tester introduced S. 570 which would ban the Department of Justice from tracking or cataloguing the purchases of multiple rifles or shotguns. The bill would do this by prohibiting the use of any Federal funds to require the reporting of such information. Rather than just do it by budget amendments annually, this bill puts a permanent fix in place to stop ATF’s over-reaching with their emergency reporting requirements.

To prohibit the Department of Justice from tracking and
cataloguing the purchases of multiple rifles and shotguns.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

For fiscal year 2011 and each fiscal year thereafter, no Federal funds may be used to require a person licensed under section 923 of title 18, United States Code, to report information to the Department of Justice regarding the sale of multiple rifles or shotguns to the same person.

This bill has bipartisan support with 11 other Senators as co-sponsors.

Sen Barrasso, John [WY] – 3/14/2011
Sen Baucus, Max [MT] – 3/14/2011
Sen Begich, Mark [AK] – 3/14/2011
Sen Burr, Richard [NC] – 3/14/2011
Sen Chambliss, Saxby [GA] – 3/14/2011
Sen Coburn, Tom [OK] – 3/14/2011
Sen Ensign, John [NV] – 3/14/2011
Sen Enzi, Michael B. [WY] – 3/15/2011
Sen Inhofe, James M. [OK] – 3/14/2011
Sen Paul, Rand [KY] – 3/14/2011
Sen Vitter, David [LA] – 3/15/2011

Tester’s press release had this to say about the bill and ATF’s efforts to obtain emergency approval for their multiple-sales reporting requirement for certain long guns.

Tester’s bipartisan legislation follows his call for the Administration to formally reject a request by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms (ATF) to use emergency rulemaking authority to track the purchases of multiple rifles and shotguns by law-abiding Americans.

ATF requested the new rules to help combat violence on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Tester rejected that reasoning, pointing to a need to “enforce the laws already on the books instead of making up new rules.”

“Any discussion dealing with Americans’ basic rights should be debated out in the open—not behind closed doors,” said Tester, Chairman of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus. “My bill strengthens gun rights by ensuring that kind of transparency. And I plan to keep standing in the way of anyone trying to curtail our rights under the guise of reducing crime.”

Tester’s measure would prevent ATF from circumventing Congress by collecting records on thousands of Americans’ gun purchases. It would also forbid the Department of Justice from using any federal funds to expand reporting requirements on firearms.

Brady Campaign Outraged, Outraged I Say!

It is obvious that the Brady Campaign is upset over the House vote to cut funding for implementation of the “emergency” reporting requirement of semi-auto rifles in a caliber larger than .22 with a detachable magazine.

You know that are upset because they say they are outraged! Oh, my.

Brady Campaign Outraged Over House Vote To Kill Funds To Curb Illegal Gun Trafficking

Helmke testifies before House Forum

Feb 24, 2011

Washington, D.C.- Brady Campaign President Paul Helmke today expressed outrage over the U. S. House of Representatives’ vote last Friday to stop any funds from being used for an Obama Administration proposal to curb gun-trafficking, focused particularly on semi-automatic rifles, from the U.S. to Mexico.

Helmke spoke this morning at the forum on the Impact of Budget Proposals on Justice, Job Creation, Public Safety and Civil Liberties, held in Room 2237 of the Rayburn Building and chaired by Congressman John Conyers, ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee.

Helmke was seated at a roundtable with Rep. Conyers and the leaders of 15 other groups affected by HR1, the funding resolution voted on by the House last Friday and Saturday. Helmke began by noting that others present might wonder what reducing gun violence had to do with the budget process. He explained that the amendment by Rep. Dan Boren of Oklahoma, which passed on by a vote of 277-149, would prevent the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) from getting reports on multiple sales of semi-automatic rifles from the four states bordering Mexico.

This amendment was attached to the budget at the behest of the NRA and House agreed to limit the Obama administration’s authority after only 10 minutes of debate. Even though the Department of Justice had been going through a formal rule-making process, the House decided to derail that process just three days after the period for comments on the rules had closed.

“Not only are we ignoring gun violence in our country, we are contributing to the disintegration of the nation directly on our southern border,” Helmke said. “The ATF is already woefully under-funded, understaffed, and leaderless. Making the work of these agents harder will do nothing to decrease the violence we have seen from the drug cartels, which is taking more lives on both sides of the border.”

Under the Obama Administration proposal, 8,500 gun dealers near the U.S.-Mexico border would be required to alert authorities when they sell two or more semiautomatic rifles greater than .22-caliber with detachable magazines to the same person within five consecutive business days.

“Our weak gun laws have enabled ruthless Mexican drug cartels to arm themselves with vast military arsenals from American gun dealers, who sell traffickers countless AK-47s and AR-15s in bulk,” added Helmke. “Our leaders in Congress need to explain why they want to shield these sales from law enforcement.”

On February 15, the Brady Center filed comments in support of the Obama Administration proposal to require gun dealers in Southwest border states to provide notice of bulk sales of semi-automatic long guns to the ATF. The proposal would assist law enforcement with investigating and curbing the rampant trafficking of AK-47s and other guns from U.S. gun stores to Mexican drug cartels. Current law requires that ATF be notified of multiple sales of handguns only.

What makes Paul Helmke think that this “emergency” regulation would make a dent in the violence in Mexico when the ATF knowingly allowed suspicious sales to go through and then lost track of an estimated 2,500 firearms? The man is in denial.

House Says No To Money For Multi-Rifle Reporting

Yesterday evening, the House of Representatives voted in favor of an amendment offered by Rep. Dan Boren (D-OK) to HR. 1, Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011 . The amendment read:

An amendment numbered 566 printed in the Congressional Record to prohibit the use of funds to be used to require a person licensed under section 923 of title 18, United States Code, to report information to the Department of Justice regarding the sale of multiple rifles or shotguns to the same person.

A person licensed under 18 USC 923 is a FFL. The vote to adopt the above amendment originally passed on a voice vote. However, Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT) requested a recorded vote so as to put people on record about this issue. I am happy to see that Rep. Heath Shuler (D-NC11) voted for the amendment as did the other NRA endorsed Democrats from North Carolina – Mike McIntyre and Larry Kissell.

As discussed elsewhere, the ATF’s move to require reporting of the multiple sales of semi-auto rifles in a caliber larger than .22 with a detachable magazine has stirred quite a bit of controversy. Using a broad-based demand letter approach is an overt attempt to skirt the provisions and intent of the Gun Control Act of 1968.

Here is the NRA’s release on the subject:

U.S. House Votes to Block Unauthorized Record Keeping on Gun Owners

Friday, February 18, 2011

Fairfax, Va. – The U.S. House has voted for an amendment to H.R. 1 offered by Reps. Denny Rehberg and Dan Boren that prohibits the use of federal funds for a new and unauthorized multiple sales reporting scheme proposed by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE). The measure passed the chamber (277-149) with broad bipartisan support.

“The reluctance of the Calderon and Obama administrations to face reality and pursue real solutions is costing the lives of law enforcement and civilians on both sides of the border,” said Chris W. Cox, executive director for the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action. “NRA has always and will continue to support any law enforcement initiative that targets criminals. Any proposal that only burdens law-aiding gun owners and retailers – as this proposal does – is a non-starter with the NRA. To put it very simply, if someone is breaking the law, go after them full bore. If they aren’t, leave them alone.”

The BATFE is demanding the authority to require all of the 8,500 firearm dealers in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas to report all sales of two or more semiautomatic rifles within five consecutive business days, if the rifles are larger than .22 caliber and use detachable magazines. Yet, under existing law, the bureau has full access to every record of every firearm transaction by every licensed dealer, whether during a bona fide criminal investigation or simply to enforce compliance with record keeping requirements. This reporting scheme would create a registry of owners of many of today’s most popular rifles – firearms owned by millions of Americans for self-defense, hunting and other lawful purposes.

“On behalf of the tens of millions of law-abiding gun owners in America, I would like to thank Reps. Rehberg and Boren for their leadership on this important issue,” concluded Cox. “Every congressman who voted for this measure seeks real solutions to this tragic and violent problem that continues to escalate. In these trying times, limited resources should not be squandered on programs that will do nothing to address the heinous crimes occurring along our border.”

Brady Campaign On Multi-Rifle Sales Reporting

Not to be outdone by the thousands of negative comments opposing the ATF’s proposal to require the reporting of multiple sales of certain rifles, the Brady Campaign filed one of the few positive comments in support of the proposal.

Brady Center files comments supporting Obama Administration plan to curb gun trafficking

Feb 15, 2011

Washington, DC – The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence filed comments late today in support of an Obama Administration proposal to require gun dealers in Southwest border states to provide notice of bulk sales of semi-automatic long guns to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). The proposal would assist law enforcement with investigating and curbing the rampant trafficking of AK-47s and other guns from U.S. gun stores to Mexican drug cartels. Current law requires that ATF be notified of multiple sales of handguns only.

The Brady Center’s President, Paul Helmke stated:

“Our weak gun laws have enabled ruthless Mexican drug cartels to arm themselves with vast military arsenals from American gun dealers, who sell traffickers countless AK-47s and AR-15s in bulk. As a result, our gun violence epidemic has become not just a public safety and public health crisis in the U.S., but a national security and foreign policy crisis as well. While our friends in Mexico have fought bravely against these U.S.-armed drug criminals, the Mexican government has asked Washington to bring some sanity to our gun laws, making it harder for dangerous people to get weapons of war. We strongly support the Obama Administration’s proposal to provide law enforcement with notice of bulk sales of semi-automatic long guns. This important anti-gun trafficking tool is a first step of what should be a comprehensive approach to prevent gun violence in Mexico, and in America.”

The letter they sent can be found here. Unlike the comments from the NRA and the NSSF (and thousands of individuals, nowhere in the Brady Campaign’s letter do you see any legal justification for this action. You read anecdotal stories about how this guy or that guy bought X number of evil black rifles or the Commie equivalent. You also get this nonsensical claim:

Assault weapons, as opposed to hunting rifles, are commonly equipped with features that have no sporting value, such as high-capacity ammunition magazines, flash suppressors and pistol grips, which facilitate shooting from the hip.

One statement that I found quite ironic in light of the revelations about Operation Gunrunner was this:

Under current law, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (“ATF”) and other law enforcement, have neither the tools nor the resources to adequately stem the flow of trafficked guns.

ATF has the tools and resources as shown by the documents released by Senator Chuck Grassley. It is just that some in ATF have decided to facilitate guns going to Mexico so that they can be traced back to the U.S. Unfortunately, two of those same rifles are implicated in the murder of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry. I wonder how the Bradys would chose to spin that.

NSSF Releases Letter Opposing Multi-Rifle Sale Reporting

From the NSSF:

The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) sent a letter yesterday to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the Office of Management and Budget commenting on ATF’s proposal to require as part of a year-long “pilot program” that federally licensed firearms retailers in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California report to ATF the multiple sales of certain rifles (Federal Register, December 17, 2010).

In its letter, NSSF explains that it respectfully disagrees with ATF’s proposal because Congress has not provided ATF the legal authority under the Gun Control Act to impose this reporting requirement and, perhaps more importantly, because NSSF believes that this reporting requirement will actually make it more difficult for firearms retailers to help law enforcement since illegal firearms traffickers will easily modify their illegal schemes to circumvent the new reporting requirement.

While NSSF opposes ATF’s proposal, it remains committed to strongly encouraging all firearms retailers to contact ATF whenever they suspect an illegal straw purchase or other efforts to acquire firearms for illegal purposes.

The NSSF’s letter can be found here.

I found this part of their letter particularly interesting.

The information collection request published by ATF in the Federal Register (75 Fed. Reg. 79021, Dec. 17, 2010) is inconsistent with public statements by ATF (See remarks by Acting ATF Director Ken Melson, December 20, 2010 at http://www.atf.gov/press/releases/2010/12/122010-hdqrts-melson-webcast.html, “ATF Remarks”) and subsequent news reports. First, the information collection request itself applies to all federal firearms licensees everywhere in the United States. It is not geographically limited to licensed firearms dealers located in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California (See ATF Remarks, supra). The notice does not say the collection of information will be for one year, as stated by Acting Director Melson.

The notice also underestimates the burden on licensees. ATF appears assume that only one form per dealer will be filled out per year. Not basis is set forth for this conclusion and we are left to speculate. The time estimate of 12 minutes we believe underestimates the burden on small dealers especially those that have not sold handguns and are not familiar will completing the multiple sales form for handguns. The burden and cost to dealers is also not limited to filling out the form itself. ATF underestimates the burden and cost to dealers – particularly small dealers – to implement processes to ensure compliance wit this new reporting requirement, e.g. that one employee doesn’t accidentally sell and fail to report a perfectly legal rifle to a customer to whom another employee sold a rifle within the five day window.

Buyers will no longer be protected by FOPA. Never before, not even in situations where demand-letters have been permitted, has the required information included the identity of the transferors. Blaustein & Reich, Inc. v. Buckles, 365 F.3d 281 (4th Cir. 2004).

Comment Period On Multi-Rifle Sales Ends Feb. 14th

The NRA-ILA sent this out this evening urging everyone to comment on the proposal to require FFL’s in the Southwest border states to report multiple purchases of semi-automatic rifles in a caliber greater than .22 and which have a detachable magazine.

Act Immediately to Block ATF Long Gun Sales Reporting!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

If you’re one of the nearly 71 million Americans who live in the four southwest border states, some of your gun purchases could soon be reported to the federal government. And whether you live in one of those states or elsewhere, your help is needed now to stop the federal government’s plan to register Americans’ gun purchases.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is demanding the authority to require all of the 8,500 firearm dealers in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas to report all sales of two or more semiautomatic rifles within five consecutive business days, if the rifles are larger than .22 caliber and use detachable magazines. 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 ATF has no legal authority to demand these reports, and the flood of new paperwork will waste scarce law enforcement resources that should be spent on legitimate investigations.

Unfortunately, there are only a few days left to comment on this proposal. Comments will be accepted until Monday, February 14. Every concerned gun owner’s voice should be heard on this critically important issue.

Please send your comments today. Be sure to refer to the December 17, 2010 “Notice of Information Collection Under Review: Report of Multiple Sale or Other Disposition of Certain Rifles.” You can submit your comments to:

Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs
Attention: Department of Justice Desk Officer
Washington, DC 20503

Please send a copy of your comments to:

Barbara A. Terrell
Firearms Industry Programs Branch
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
99 New York Avenue, N.E.
Washington, DC 20226.

Fax: (202) 648–9640

You don’t need to reinvent the wheel with your own comments. The NRA’s comments can be found here. While their comments are nine pages long, you can take one or two items that you wish to emphasize and go from there. There is nothing wrong with a little cutting and pasting. That is the beauty of word processing software.

Earlier this week, Gunleaders.com reported that during the original comment period ATF received only 9 comments in favor of the proposal were received as compared to hundreds in opposition. They also have a copy of the letter they sent which is less comprehensive than the NRA’s letter. You may prefer to use their comments as the starting point for your comments.

White House Delays “Two-A-Day” Implementation – Again

The White House has again delayed implementation of the multiple rifle purchase reporting requirement in the Southwest border states. According to an article in the Washington Post, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has extended the comment period until February 14th to give the public more time to comment on the proposal.

Meg Reilly, spokeswoman for the Office of Management and Budget, said the decision follows President Obama’s directive to curb excessive regulation and “is consistent with the president’s call for more transparency and opportunities for public participation in his recent executive order.”

ATF had planned to use a demand letter requiring the reporting of multiple sales within a 5-day period.  It would require the reporting of sales of semi-auto rifles with a caliber greater than .22 which also had detachable magazines. This emergency requirement would have only applied to FFL’s in California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. ATF hoped to get OMB approval for their “pilot project” by early January.

Requiring the reporting of multiple semi-auto rifle sales was a suggestion in the Department of Justice Inspector General’s report on Operation Gunrunner. At the time, ATF Deputy Director Kenneth Melson said he was unsure whether the Bureau had the authority under the Gun Control Act of 1968 to require this.

As I posted in early January at the first delay, it seems that pressure from gun rights groups and Congress was behind the first delay. Three Senators and 35 Congressmen have sent the White House a letter opposing the requirement. I have no doubt that this sort of pressure was behind the second delay of the mult-rifle reporting requirement.

ATF was thrown a bone by the OMB when proposed budget cuts of over 12% to the agency’s budget were restored.

ATF received good news earlier in the week, however, when the OMB made an unusual announcement that ATF had won a budget battle. Early budget documents obtained by The Washington Post showed that ATF would get a cut of nearly $160 million out of a $1.25 billion budget request – a 12.8 percent reduction that would be 3.6 percent below the current budget.

“Even as we make tough choices across the government,” Reilly said, “the 2012 budget includes robust support for Southwest border security, including an increase above current funding levels for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.”

I am sure that ATF cares more about their budget than they do about Mexico, Mexican cartels, and semi-auto rifles crossing the border. Can you say “Operation Gunwalker”? Money, not effectiveness, is the life blood of any modern bureaucracy.

In the meantime, we have until Valentine’s Day to send comments about the multiple-rifle reporting requirement. Let’s use it. NSSF has suggestions on what to include in your letter here. Make sure to send a copy to your Senators and Congressman as well.

NRA Responds To ATF Proposal

From the NRA Grassroots Alert:

BATFE Requests “Emergency”
Authority To Track Semi-Automatic Rifle Sales

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has proposed that it be given emergency authority for six months, beginning January 5, to require about 8,500 firearms dealers along the border with Mexico “to alert authorities when they sell within five consecutive business days two or more semiautomatic rifles greater than .22 caliber with detachable magazines.” A Washington Post story reporting on the BATFE proposal described that definition as being applicable to “so-called assault weapons,” but it would also apply to many rifles that have never been labeled with that term.

The reporting requirement will apparently be imposed under the “authority” the BATFE has used in the past to demand reporting of other types of transactions from certain limited groups of dealers over the past 10 years, but the new proposal is far broader than any previous use of this authority. Of course, there’s no law today that prevents dealers from reporting suspicious transactions (or attempted transactions) to the BATFE, and dealers often do so. The BATFE is also free to inspect dealers’ sales records—either for annual compliance inspections or during a criminal investigation.

NRA-ILA’s chief lobbyist, Chris Cox, denounced the attempt to establish a registry of Americans who purchase semi-automatic rifles that gun control supporters ultimately want to see banned. “This administration does not have the guts to build a wall, but they do have the audacity to blame and register gun owners for Mexico’s problems,” Cox told the Post. “NRA supports legitimate efforts to stop criminal activity, but we will not stand idle while our Second Amendment is sacrificed for politics.”

The Post says “The plan by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives revives a proposal that has languished at the Justice Department and in the Obama administration for several months,” and that the gist of the plan was proposed by Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG) last year. It its August 2009 Blueprint for Federal Action on Guns, MAIG indeed proposed that “ATF should identify the long guns most linked to crime and require dealers to report multiple sales of such guns.”

The idea must have appealed to the BATFE, because in June of this year Congress’ Government Accountability Office released a report noting that BATFE officials had claimed that U.S. efforts to stop the smuggling of firearms to Mexico are hindered by “a lack of required background checks for private firearms sales, and limitations on reporting requirements for multiple sales.”

Curiously, in September, a draft of the Department of Justice’s Inspector General’s Office’s unfavorable review of BATFE’s Project Gunrunner, established to combat the trafficking of firearms to Mexico, didn’t mention multiple sales at all. But the final version of the review, released in November, mentions “multiple sales” 43 times and says “the lack of a reporting requirement for multiple sales of long guns – which have become the cartels’ weapons of choice – hinders ATF’s ability to disrupt the flow of illegal weapons into Mexico.”

Whether BATFE intends its plan as another expansion of its oft-criticized firearm sales record tracing empire, or to lay the groundwork for legislation or regulations restricting “assault weapon” sales, or to fatten the files the agency keeps at its National Tracing Center in West Virginia remains to be seen. And the legality of requiring sales reports on any long guns is also in doubt. When the Congress specifically imposed multiple sales reporting on handguns only, it implicitly stated its intention that the same requirement not apply to sales of long guns.

However, it is crystal clear that some in the Obama Administration agree with those who believe the answer to crime is always more gun control. In September, MAIG blamed crime in states that have “strong” gun laws, on states that don’t have the same laws. And ever since President Obama took office, gun control supporters have been blaming Mexico’s crime problem on America’s gun laws.

The fact that Mexico’s multi-billion dollar drug cartels have machine guns, rocket launchers, grenades, and other potent weaponry you cannot buy in the United States is, to gun control supporters, irrelevant. The fact that most of the cartels’ guns have never been on this side of the U.S. border is, as far as they are concerned, a trifling inconvenience. The fact that the cartels will never have enough “assault weapons” or any other guns from the U.S. to hand out to all the Mexican policemen, soldiers and politicians on their payrolls, is, in their view, an unimportant detail. And the fact that the murder rate in the United States is at a 45-year low, while crime in Mexico is through the roof (the murder rate in Juarez is 115 times higher than in El Paso) is, they would certainly say, a contradiction best ignored.

To read the BATFE’s Federal Register notice about the plan, and for information on how to send your comments, click here (http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2010/pdf/2010-31761.pdf). Comments about the proposal will be accepted for two months; if you choose to comment, please state your firm but polite opposition to the plan.

Needless to say, the NRA will not only comment, but take whatever other action is appropriate to block this sweeping expansion of federal recordkeeping on gun owners. Stay tuned.