Obama views any gun over a .22 caliber as "high powered"
In an effort to stem the illicit flow of weapons into Mexico, the Justice Department announced Monday that all gun shops in four Southwest border states will be required to alert the federal government to frequent buyers of high-powered rifles.
The new policy comes amid criticism of a failed federal probe aimed at dismantling large-scale arms trafficking networks along the Arizona border with Mexico.
In the probe, called Operation Fast and Furious, several agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives say they were inexplicably ordered by superiors to stop tracking some small-time "straw" buyers who purchased large numbers of weapons apparently destined for drug cartels.
Under the new policy, federal firearms licensees in Texas, California, Arizona and New Mexico must report purchases of two or more of some types of rifles by the same person in a five-day span. The requirement applies to purchases of semi-automatic rifles that have detachable magazines and a caliber of greater than .22.
ATF estimates it will generate 18,000 reports a year.
Deputy Attorney General James Cole said the new reporting measure will improve the ATF's ability to disrupt illegal weapons trafficking networks that funnel firearms to criminal organizations. . . . .
How exactly will this improve the government's ability to disrupt illegal weapons? Few of the guns in Mexico come from the US and there are lots of other sources. The NRA has said that it will sue to stop the new rule.
The National Rifle Association is vowing to sue the Obama administration after it announced Monday that it will begin to require gun dealers in four border states to send reports to the government following multiple sales of some semi-automatic longarms.
"They don’t have the statutory authority to do it and we’ll file a lawsuit as soon as the first letters are sent" demanding the sales information from dealers, the NRA's legislative director Chris Cox told POLITICO Monday afternoon.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms announced in December that it planned to implement the rule on an emergency basis beginning in January in order to reduce the flow of assault weapons across the border into Mexico. However, the Office of Management and Budget rejected the emergency "information collection" and told ATF to proceed with a full, formal process and public comment period. The final proposed rule was made public on April 29.
Obama administration officials denied that the decision to proceed with the new reporting requirement or the timing of its implementation had anything to do with the controversy over and Congressional investigation into an ATF's "Operation Fast & Furious," which allegedly lost track of more than 100 weapons suspected of being headed for Mexican drug cartels. Two of those weapons showed up at the scene of the killing of a Border Patrol agent in December.
"The White House did not delay its consideration of ATF’s request," OMB spokeswoman Meg Reilly said. She said "OMB determined after careful review that ATF’s request did not satisfy" the standards for an emergency data collection and was required to go through the full notice and comment process before implementation.
Cox accused the Obama administration of making an end-run around Congress, which has approved mandatory reporting of multiple handgun purchases, but did not include long-arms or so-called assault weapons in that requirement. . . .
"Reporting multiple long gun sales would do nothing to stop the flow of firearms to known straw purchasers because many Federal Firearms Dealers are already voluntarily reporting suspicious transactions," Grassley said in a statement. He said Congressional investigators are aware of at least150 long gun sales that ATF knew about but didn't prevent from reaching Mexico.
"This makes it pretty clear that the problem isn’t lack of burdensome reporting requirements. The administration’s continued overreach with regulations continues, and is a distraction from its reckless policy to allow guns to walk into Mexico," Grassley said. . . .
Meanwhile the family of murdered border patrol agent is considering suing feds over "Fast and Furious" program.
The family of murdered Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry wants justice, and that may include suing the federal government.
"If the evidence shows Brian's death was proximately caused by the negligence of the federal government, there may be a cause of action," said Terry family attorney Paul Charlton.
Terry was killed in December 2010 at the hands of an illegal immigrant working for the Sinaloa Cartel while patrolling an area near Tucson known as Rio Rico.
Officials traced the gun found at the scene to Operation Fast and Furious, a weapons trafficking program run by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives that let guns travel south of the border.
Generally speaking, government officials can't be sued for damages, however misguided or incompetent. Yet, there are exceptions when agencies can reasonably foresee their actions will do harm.
While it's too premature to know who likely would be fingered in a suit, it is possible that top ATF and Department of Justice officials could be the targets. . . .