Skip to comments.Congress Told of ATF Seizures, Threats to Gun Buyers
Posted on 02/17/2006 11:16:14 AM PST by SonofLiberty1
Congress Told of ATF Seizures, Threats to Gun Buyers By Jeff Johnson CNSNews.com Senior Staff Writer February 17, 2006
(CNSNews.com) - Agents of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), allegedly acting without warrants or legislative authority to do so, seized firearms from at least 50 gun show patrons in Virginia according to congressional testimony and an agency document made public Wednesday. Witnesses also testified that African-American and female gun buyers in Richmond, Va., and Pittsburgh, Pa., were profiled based on their race or sex and some in Pittsburgh were threatened with arrest by ATF agents for alleged actions that are not violations of law.
Rep. Howard Coble (R-N.C.) chairs the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security, which has jurisdiction over ATF. While he supports the agency's mission, Coble questions some of its tactics.
"ATF reports that 206 [gun show] participants were stopped and interviewed while it confiscated firearms from another 50 participants," Coble said, referring to gun shows in Richmond, Va. "Although most of the firearms were ultimately returned, the purchasers were notified via official letter from ATF that [they] were ordered to appear at the local ATF office to discuss their transactions. In addition, the letter explained that failure to appear could result in an arrest warrant being issued for the alleged charges."
The form letter had blanks for the name of the gun show patron and the date and time they were ordered to appear at the ATF field office, but cited no authority for the gun confiscations or the mandatory office visits.
"An investigation has revealed that you may have violated Title 18 U.S.C. Section 924(a)(1)(A), a crime punishable by imprisonment for up to five years," the letter began. The U.S. Code citation refers, in this instance, to knowingly making a false statement on the ATF Form 4473 "Firearms Transaction Record Part I - Over-The-Counter," which is completed for each firearm purchased from a federally licensed firearms dealer (FFL).
"The firearm that you purchased is being taken into ATF custody," the letter continued, citing no authority for the seizure.
Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) said the ATF letter and the reported interrogation of lawful gun buyers raise "serious questions."
"There's a way to have a sting operation that's legal. This dragnet, apparent dragnet, however, is not the way it ought to be done," Scott said. "You have to show probable cause and it can be done. But you ought not just stop people without probable cause and without any indication of guilt."
John White, a former law enforcement officer who is now an FFL operating under the business name "The Gunsmith," said female customers who approached his sales area at the Richmond shows were immediately targeted by the "undercover" officers.
"If a woman showed up at my table, she was surrounded by law enforcement," White recalled. "If the lady walked off and suddenly stopped, they would have bumped into each other. Their surveillance methods were pitiful.
"Every woman that makes a purchase, every woman who comes to my table to buy a gun was automatically [treated as] a straw purchaser," White said. (A "straw purchaser" is a person who can otherwise legally purchase a firearm, but who does so with the intent to illegally provide it to an ineligible buyer such as a convicted felon or an illegal alien. "Straw purchases" are illegal.)
As Cybercast News Service initially reported, ATF agents working with as many as 400 state, county and city police officers near Richmond, Va., conducted so-called "residency checks" on individuals who purchased firearms from the Showmasters Gun Show Aug. 13 and 14, 2005. Uniformed officers went to the homes of prospective gun buyers, while they waited for their National Instant Check System (NICS) background checks to be completed and questioned family members and neighbors about the gun buyers' firearm purchasing habits.
In a subsequent report, Cybercast News Service detailed that ATF had conducted at least seven similar gun show "sting operations" targeting Richmond-area residents since July of 2004. ATF refused to discuss any of the operations with Cybercast News Service and refused to provide any documentation in response to Freedom of Information Act requests filed by the sponsors of the Richmond gun shows.
Suzanne McComas, a licensed private investigator who has worked with the America's Most Wanted television program, was hired by the National Rifle Association (NRA) to gather information about ATF's Richmond operations. During her investigation, she learned that the agency had been conducting "residency checks" in at least one other U.S. city, but using different and "much more intimidating" tactics.
"At Pittsburgh, the Firearms Task Force there that's also headed by the ATF, instead of doing residency checks immediately, they're collecting the 4473 with the purchaser's address on it, then they go knock at the door about a week later and ask, 'Could we see the gun that you bought?'" McComas explained. "There's absolutely no process involved, there's no reason for them to do it. If you cannot produce the gun, they ask you for the sale paperwork. If you refuse to produce the paperwork they put you under arrest for a 'straw purchase.'"
Federal law requires licensed gun dealers to complete an ATF Form 4473 for each firearm sold through their business, in addition to any forms required by the state, county and/or city where they do business. Private sales between individuals, who are not engaged in the firearms trade as a business, are subject to no such federal recordkeeping requirements. Therefore a gun show purchaser could legally sell or even give the gun they purchased to someone else yet have no paperwork to meet the ATF's demand.
"You and I know that, but [a woman who bought a gun and then gave or sold it to someone else, both legally] probably doesn't," McComas told Cybercast News Service. "If she can't produce it, they arrest her for a straw purchase and her life turns into a living hell until she can prove otherwise. It's zero probable cause except for the fact that they thought it was a straw purchase because she was black and she was young and she was female."
McComas questioned not only the legality of the ATF tactics in Pittsburgh, but also the methodology.
"When I asked them what their criteria was for the people that they collected the 4473s on at the Pittsburgh show, the answer I got back was, 'If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck it's a duck. That's all we need,'" McComas continued. "Translation: Under 30 and black, period. That's all they were looking for. Anyone who meets those criteria, they're doing a follow-up on."
She said that, as in Richmond, agents in Pittsburgh were also engaged in activities that gun dealers believe were designed to discourage lawful purchases by minorities.
"Anyone who was a minority, they picked up their 'tail,' if you will, and just followed them through the gun show. When they stopped at a table, the agents would literally stand on one side or the other and watch what they were doing. If they started to purchase a gun [the agents] would ask them why they were buying it, what were they buying it for, what did they need that gun for," McComas related. "It was ridiculous. There was absolutely no reason for it other than the color of their skin."
Rep. William Delahunt (D-Mass.) said he had not intended to attend the hearing, which was held immediately after a subcommittee vote on an unrelated bill, but stayed because he was fascinated by the witnesses' testimony.
"These must be the dumbest ATF agents in the entire agency," Delahunt said. "I am absolutely shocked that they could be that stupid.
"It's almost to the point that it's difficult to believe," he added. "I have never heard of an experience like the ones you recount, but you all seem to be in agreement. It's just mind-boggling."
Rep. Tom Feeney (R-Fla.) expressed curiosity that federal law enforcement officers would not know that the actions described by White and McComas violate federal statutes.
"Did anybody mention that it is a federal crime to deny women or minorities their civil rights?" Feeney asked. "Did anybody mention to the ATF that denying civil rights, including the right to bear arms, is a federal crime?"
Feeney suggested that, since ATF had refused to comply with the Freedom of Information Act requests from the gun show promoters, the subcommittee should request the information they were seeking. Coble noted that such a letter had already been sent.
ATF representatives present at Wednesday's hearing reluctantly identified themselves by raising their hands when asked to do so by Coble. They would not respond to the new allegations raised in the hearing, but referred questions to their press office. ATF officials are expected to testify on the issues raised Wednesday in a second hearing scheduled for Feb. 28.
Libertarian ping.To be added or removed from my ping list freepmail me or post a message here
"They took mah beer, mah Copenhagen, and mah .45"
(just for the record, I don't think I have six degrees of separation from 'redneck' myself.)
Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms should be a convenience store, not a government agency.
The agents involved should be jailed for life for civil rights violations and abusing their official authorities. Yes, jailed for LIFE, no parol.
If this crap were to happen to me, I would tell the ATF to kiss my a$$, and take my chances in court. This is nothing short of intimidation. I am not one of those 'Militia" freaks, but I hate the ATF. These clowns consitantly overstep their bounds, and don't give a damn who's lives they destroy. The ATF needs to be thrown into the Dust-bin of History along with Stalin, Hitler, Lennin, Pol Pot..........
Whoever, under color of any law, statute, ordinance, regulation, or custom, willfully subjects any person in any State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or to different punishments, pains, or penalties, on account of such person being an alien, or by reason of his color, or race, than are prescribed for the punishment of citizens, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both; and if bodily injury results from the acts committed in violation of this section or if such acts include the use, attempted use, or threatened use of a dangerous weapon, explosives, or fire, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both; and if death results from the acts committed in violation of this section or if such acts include kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill, shall be fined under this title, or imprisoned for any term of years or for life, or both, or may be sentenced to death.
Someone (the NRA? SLF? GOA?) should be sueing this agency and these agents for civil rights violations.
Be Ever Vigilant!
So, how many of you believe that it's only the State Department that is infested by PC RAT minions?
So where is the "Bush's fault" commentary?
It certainly can be placed at his feet if, like Truman, he comprehended where "the buck" really stops.
This agency needs a fast kick in the teeth from on high and from constitutionalists.
It is really a good thing that they didn't ask me that question. I'd have probably ended up in jail for saying something like "to protect myself against a-holes like you."
Operations like this reinforce my opinion that every gun owner should have at least one gun - and all related ammo and accessories - that isn't on paper. Buy it from another gun owner who's not an FFL, or buy an antique - both for cash. Of course, I have yet to follow my own advice :>)
Dumb question. If a number of legally brought guns are getting into the hands of street criminals via straw buyers, how does one stop it? Are petty criminals using their girlfriends to buy handguns at gunshows? As a gun owner I think it behooves the gun community to come up with a common sense technique to shut off this illegal avenue for guns. The last famous female straw buyer armed the two underage boys who did the Columbine shootings, which gave liberals the political ammunition for the AWB. The Consitution alone does not prevent gun confiscations, smart politics and public relations is also needed.
But doncha feel nice and safe, though? Remember, all we have to do is get us a Republican majority and all of this intrusive government stuff will stop.
Looks like Virginia has fallen. I wonder why patriots would allow such disgusting abuses to take place.
Do you mind the government knowing how many guns you have?
"When I asked them what their criteria was for the people that they collected the 4473s on at the Pittsburgh show, the answer I got back was, 'If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck it's a duck. That's all we need,'" McComas continued.
Gov't out of control
"Do you know what would happen to these traitorous jack-booted thugs in prison?"
Anything the gangs would like and I wouldn't help stop?
The close associates would never approve it without full kowledge that the president had indicated he approved.
"If they started to purchase a gun [the agents] would ask them why they were buying it, what were they buying it for, what did they need that gun for,"
Personally I wouldn't pee on an ATF agent to put out a fire.
Congress needs to get these jack booted thugs under control, NOW.
A lot of people don't even know it it illegal to buy a gun for another. For that matter a parent who buys a gun for their Son's Christmas present might be considered a "straw purchase" by many.
These agents weren't going after people they had any reason to suspect. They were going after all of the women.
I'll bite. It's a really good thing that we have strong supporters of the second amendment like Jorge Bush in the white house, and a republican controlled house and senate, otherwise the BATF might get out of control. </sarcasm>
I firmly believe that Bush and Company have bought into the "duck hunting" theory of the second amendment. He does not support the right that Madison penned.
First, provide the proof that this is happening. That's a pretty big "If."
If if if.
Where is your proof? Prove it, and then we will talk.
F-Troop should be disbanded completely. Read, "Unintended Consequences."
the kinder, gentler Jim Crow ATF.
I HATE these thugs.
federal Bureau of FATE (Firearms, Alcohol, Tobacco, and Explosives)
THAT is the real problem here. If "Republican" ain't "Conservative" it ain't S#!T.
Jackbooted government thugs at work on the taxpayer's dime.
"F-Troop should be disbanded completely. Read, 'Unintended Consequences'."
One helluva book. I keep waiting for a Henry Bowman to surface.
Rednecks hold the invention of the wheelbarrow as the primary reason why we can walk upright today.
My knees have not yet healed from my early days of scampering around on all fours. Thank goodness I never developed the hoofs, my granny was certain I would.
Just remember, "Gun Show Loophole" is Brady Bunch code for "Eliminate Private Sales".
According to the National Institute of Justice, the research arm of the U.S. Department of Justice (NIJ), study released in December 1997, less than 2 percent of criminal guns come from gun shows. The same study found that twenty-five percent of crime guns came from gun stores, even though FBI permission is required for every purchase from a gun store. (Homicide in Eight U.S. Cities, page 99.)
A June 2000 federal study, Federal Firearms Offenders, 1992-98 likewise finds only 1.7% of federal prison inmates obtaining their gun from a gun show. (Plus 1.5% from a "flea market.")
That finding is consistent with a mid-1980s study for the NIJ, which investigated the gun purchase and use habits of convicted felons in 12 state prisons. The study (later published as the book Armed and Considered Dangerous) found that gun shows were such a minor source of criminal gun acquisition that they were not even worth reporting as a separate figure.
At the November 1999 meeting of the American Society of Criminology, a study of youthful offenders in Michigan reported that only 3 percent of the youths in the study had acquired their last handgun from a gun show.
Even for the tiny percentage of criminal guns acquired at for gun shows (and the 25% figure for gun stores) does not mean that the criminal necessarily purchased the gun himself at that location. Many persons with criminal records use a straw man purchaser--someone with a clean record who buys the gun, and then transfers it to the criminal.
Straw man purchases have been classified a federal felony since the Gun Control Act of 1968; the federal law against straw purchases was strengthened in 1986 by the NRA-sponsored Firearms Owners Protection Act.
According to the Center to Prevent Handgun Violence (the legal/educational arm of Handgun Control, Inc.), the group's own survey of major-city police chiefs found only 2 out of 48 who said that guns from gun shows (both legal and illegal sales according to the questionnaire) were a major problem in their city.
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms produced a paper in early 1999 which said that 10% of gun traces (not crime guns) came from gun shows (included purchases made from licensed dealers, and purchases from private individuals). As the Congressional Research Service has explained, BATF gun traces reveal no meaningful information about gun use in crime; traces are initiated at the request of local police, and can be requested for all sorts of reasons (e.g., to aid the recovery of a stolen gun, for curiosity). Most BATF gun traces do not involve crime guns taken from violent criminals.
If each of us requests a copy of the records of the BATF covering these events, that should keep them busy for a while.
Otherwise, I would face arrest before I would answer any of the questions that were asked.
Meanwhile they will do absolutely nothing about the illegal aliens I have pointed to them acquiring arms via civil loopholes.
The ATF is run by a bunch of dopey Clinton lawyers
Just as soon as ATF agents are arrested and convicted for violating the civil rights of gun buyers, they'll start giving a rat's a$$. A law with no enforcement is no law. That goes double for laws meant to restrain law enforcement officers.
ME TOO.........ARREST ME, AND THEN I WILL SUE, BIG TIME..............
Or an Andrew Fletcher (Black Arrow). Or a Brad Fallon (Enemies: Foreign and Domestic). Or a Zoro...
Frog pots at a boil and the hogs are hungry.
Ain't no one wants to be the first gopher to pop his head above the berm.
...If they started to purchase a gun [the agents] would ask them why they were buying it, what were they buying it for, what did they need that gun for...
That'd get them :-)
ping to read
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