Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Devil Is In The Details

On Friday, the NRA-ILA sent out a Grassroots Alert on the recent Department of Justice Inspector General's report on ATF and Project Gunrunner. As many are aware, the OIG's report criticized the effectiveness of ATF's Project Gunrunner. Great attention has been put on this report by the media and by bloggers with reference gun traces and the smuggling of firearms from the U.S. to Mexico. I did a post on this on Wednesday urging people to read Marko Kloos's response to the BBC's take on the report.

However, the NRA-ILA's Grassroots Alert deals with an item embedded in the document that hasn't received much attention. That is, a proposal to make multiple long-gun purchases within a 5-day period reportable to the ATF. Currently, only multiple handgun purchases are required to be reported to the ATF per the Gun Control Act of 1968 (18 U.S.C. § 923(g)(3)). The multiple purchases of handguns that must be reported can take place at one time or any time over a period of five business days.

Let's examine the report to see what the DOJ IG and the ATF had to say on this. First, from the Executive Summary:
We also found that while reports of multiple sales of handguns produce timely, actionable investigative leads for ATF, 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. p.iv.
From Part II: ATF Firearms Trafficking Intelligence and Information:
The Gun Control Act requires that gun dealers report multiple sales of handguns (defined as two or more handguns sold at once or during any 5 consecutive business days) to ATF.50 As discussed below, these multiple sales reports provide ATF with timely, actionable leads that can enable it to more quickly identify suspected firearms traffickers and disrupt their operations.51 However, gun dealers are not required to report multiple sales of long guns to ATF.52 Because long guns have become Mexican cartels’ weapons of choice, multiple sales reporting has become less viable as a source of intelligence to disrupt the illegal flow of weapons to Mexico. p.36

Multiple sales of long guns are not subject to the same reporting requirements as handguns. Yet, long guns have become the Mexican cartels’ weapons of choice. p.37

Because reporting multiple sales of handguns generates timely, actionable investigative leads for Project Gunrunner, and because long guns have become Mexican cartels’ weapons of choice, we believe that the reporting of multiple sales of long guns would assist ATF in identifying firearms trafficking suspects. Our analysis shows that many long guns seized in Mexico have a short time-to-crime and were often a part of a multiple purchase. We therefore believe that mandatory reporting of long gun multiple sales could help ATF identify, investigate, and refer for prosecution individuals who illegally traffic long guns into Mexico. p.39-40


We recommend that ATF:

2. Work with the Department to explore options for seeking a requirement for reporting multiple sales of long guns. p.40
From the Conclusion and Recommendations:
In this report, we make 15 recommendations to ATF to help improve their efforts to combat firearms trafficking from the United States to Mexico. Specifically, we recommend that ATF...Work with the Department to explore options for seeking a requirement for reporting multiple sales of long guns. p.94
 And finally, from Appendix V: The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives' Amended Response which was sent by Kenneth Melson, Deputy Director (currently the highest ranking official in the ATF and former Acting Director). Listed under ATF's response to OIG's recommendations is this:
2. Work with the Department to explore options for seeking a requirement for reporting of multiple sales of long guns.

ATF concurs, but notes that this may require a change to the Gun Control Act which is beyond ATF's and the Department's authority. ATF will explore the full range of options to seek information regarding multiple sales of long guns. p.108
One wonders what are the "full range of options" that Mr. Melson plans to explore. Will they come up with a "voluntary" plan to have Federal Firearms Licensees send that data to ATF? And what happens if a FFL does not "voluntarily" report multiple sales of long guns? Will their annual inspection be that much tougher or will there be showcase raids of gun dealers who are "suspected of trafficking" in guns to the Mexican drug cartels?

As to long guns being the firearm of choice of the narco-terrorists south of the Rio Grande, I have no doubt. As trainer Clint Smith says, you carry a handgun to fight your way back to the rifle you shouldn't have put down in the first place. That said, I would wager house money that most of their arsenals come from just that - a Mexican Army arsenal. Or a Venezuelan Army arsenal courtesy of Hugo Chavez.

I don't know about you but I can think of a few times when I would have been reported to ATF for multiple long gun purchases within a 5-day period. For example, I've been to local auctions where I got lucky and won multiple bids. I don't think the Mexican drug cartels are interested in Savage Model 1921's in .250-3000 Savage or Mannlicher-Schoenauer Model 1910's in 7x57 but both would have been reported to the ATF under the OIG's proposal which has the ATF's concurrence.

Enough is enough. It is time to nip this in the bud.

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