While the debate in Washington about gun control rages on with Vice President Joe Biden and Attorney General Eric Holder at the helm, it's easy to forget that the Obama administration has already moved forward with new gun control measures in Southwest border states. In July 2011, the Department of Justice issued new regulations requiring gun dealers in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas to report the sale of more than one semi-automatic rifle to the same person within a five day period.
The international expansion and increased violence of transnational criminal networks pose a significant threat to the United States. Federal, state and foreign law enforcement agencies have determined that certain types of semi-automatic rifles – greater than .22 caliber and with the ability to accept a detachable magazine – are highly sought after by dangerous drug trafficking organizations and frequently recovered at violent crime scenes near the Southwest Border. This new reporting measure -- tailored to focus only on multiple sales of these types of rifles to the same person within a five-day period -- 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. These targeted information requests will occur in Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Texas to help confront the problem of illegal gun trafficking into Mexico and along the Southwest Border.
Notice how DOJ avoids mentioning Operation Fast and Furious and doesn't cite itself as being part of the gun trafficking problem.
Two Arizona gun dealers are suing over the new requirements, one of which (J&G Sales) was used by ATF during Fast and Furious to sell guns to straw purchasers working for Mexican cartels.
A lawyer for two Arizona gun dealers argued Wednesday that the Obama administration in trying to halt the flow of U.S. guns to Mexican drug gangs overstepped its legal authority when it required dealers in Southwestern border states to report when customers buy multiple high-powered rifles.
Attorney Richard Gardiner told a federal appeals court panel Wednesday that the directive requires gun dealers to create a records system and the government has no authority to do that.
At issue is a requirement that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives imposed in 2011 on gun sellers in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. The requirement, issued in what is known as a demand letter, compels those sellers to report to the ATF when anyone buys — within a five-day period — two or more semi-automatic weapons capable of accepting a detachable magazine and with a caliber greater than .22. The ATF says the requirement is needed to help stop the flow of guns to Mexican drug cartels.
Judge Harry T. Edwards, an appointee of Democratic President Jimmy Carter, asked Gardiner if the model number on a rifle would indicate whether it was covered by the ATF requirement.
“It might,” Gardiner replied, but added that the person doing the record-keeping might not be able to tell that.
“Oh, come on, that can’t be right,” Edwards said, suggesting that the person who owns the federal license to sell firearms would know.
Gardiner, who is representing J&G Sales, Ltd., of Prescott, Ariz., and Foothills Firearms, LLC, of Yuma, Ariz., said that nothing in the law allows for the presumption that the federal licensee would have that knowledge.
Judge Judith W. Rogers, an appointee of Democratic President Bill Clinton, asked if the types of rifles covered by the demand letter were unusual.
Gardiner said they were not: “There are probably 100 million of them in the United States — if not more.” Gardiner said that the definition is so broad it covers rifles for everything from target practice to hunting wolves, deer or bear, or even smaller game.
Justice Department lawyer Michael Raab said sellers should be able to determine by the manufacturer and model number if a particular rifle is covered by the requirement. He also said that sellers were told they can call the ATF’s firearm’s technology branch if they have any questions.
Based on the latest gun control developments out of the White House, these dealerships will soon be fighting semi-automatic rifle bans rather than discriminatory reporting requirements.
|Katie Pavlich is the News Editor at Townhall.com. Follow her on Twitter @katiepavlich. She is also the author of Fast and Furious: Barack Obama's Bloodiest Scandal and the Shameless Cover-Up.
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Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography