Never heard about this

Discussion in 'Freedom and Liberty' started by monkeyman, Jun 11, 2006.

  1. monkeyman

    monkeyman Monkey+++ Moderator Emeritus Founding Member

    I know this is a bit older story but just found it and was surprised I hadnt heard anything about it before and figured some of the folks here, especialy the ladies would be interested.

    Congress Told of ATF Seizures, Threats to Gun Buyers
    By Jeff Johnson Senior Staff Writer
    February 17, 2006

    ( - 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.
  2. Tracy

    Tracy Insatiably Curious Moderator Founding Member

    Interesting. I didn't see this article, either. Thanks for sharing, MM!

    Ladies are stereotyped as only purchasing for others.foosed

    Apparently, they've never met a gal who wanted to protect her self, home and family; hunt for meals; or who just enjoys the simple stress-relief of things that go boom;).
  3. ColtCarbine

    ColtCarbine Monkey+++ Founding Member

    The right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed
  4. ghrit

    ghrit Bad company Administrator Founding Member

    You need to remember that DC has frequently complained about how easy it is to buy a gun of any flavor in VA. Like it or not, profiling happens. On the one hand, we squall about how middle eastern folks should be profiled, on the other, we bitch about profiling citizens. At the sure and certain risk of getting non PC, there is a reason women (of all colors) are looked askance at gun shows, considering the gun related crime in the District.

    All the same, shame on the batmen and the justice department for the tactics. Too bad nothing will be done to the out of control agents. :mad:
  5. Tango3

    Tango3 Aimless wanderer

    bump...for an important,volatile topic..Unintended consequences, for sure...
  6. worrbaron

    worrbaron Monkey+++

    I agree very important indeed. I wonder how it would be under Sullivan?
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