Press release:

Hello, I’m Ken Melson, the Acting Director of ATF.

A recent initiative by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has caught the attention of national media outlets. I wanted to make sure everyone heard from me about this law enforcement initiative so there isn’t any confusion . . .

Recently, ATF announced through the Federal Register our intent to initiate a new Demand Letter requiring the reporting of multiple sales of certain long guns by Federal Firearms Licensees, known as FFLs, in the four Southwest Border States. We took this step as a way to help gain actionable law enforcement intelligence which we believe will help reduce criminal firearms trafficking along the Southwest border.

Before we can actually issue the Demand Letter we must receive approval from the Office of Management and Budget for purposes of the paperwork reduction act. We expect to receive that approval in early January, 2011.

As many of you already know, the goals of ATF’s Southwest border firearms trafficking strategy are:

• To prevent violent crime;

• Ensure the safety of the communities and law enforcement situated along the Southwest Border;

• And to disrupt and dismantle the firearms trafficking networks responsible for the diversion of firearms from lawful commerce into the hands of the Mexican Drug Trafficking Organizations (DTOs)

Since 2006, there has been a significant increase in drug and firearms-related violence in Mexico and along our Southwest border. In response to this increased violence, ATF has deployed focused resources nationally to prevent the firearms trafficking along the Southwest Border and into Mexico.

According to ATF trace data, investigative experience, and Mexican law enforcement officials, a large number of rifles are being used in violent crimes in Mexico and along the border. Our new Demand Letter will implement a limited reporting of multiple sales of certain long guns that functions similarly to the current practice of reporting on the multiple sales of handguns. Currently, all FFLs in the country are required to submit a report of multiple sales to the National Tracing Center when an FFL sells two or more handguns to the same purchaser within five consecutive business days.

The proposed Demand Letter, which is narrowly circumscribed to meet our objectives, will apply a similar reporting requirement to certain long guns, but with these distinct differences:

First, the reporting requirement will apply only to FFLs doing business in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California, which are major source states for crime guns seized in Mexico and traced to federal firearms licensees.

Secondly, the reporting requirement applies only to those rifles having all of the following characteristics:

• A semi-automatic action;

• A caliber greater than .22; and

• The ability to accept a detachable magazine.

These specific characteristics subject a very narrow group of long guns that have been identified by ATF and the Government of Mexico as being involved in violent crimes in Mexico to the reporting requirement.

This reporting requirement would apply to the disposition of all rifles in the inventory of the FFLs exhibiting these characteristics, both new and used.

Third, we propose to implement this initiative as a pilot project for a period of one year. [ED: This was previously announced as a 180 day emergency order.]

Taken together, limiting the geographic scope, impacting a limited number of licensees, affecting a specific group of rifles, and limiting the duration of this reporting requirement, form a tailored, discreet, responsible and proactive response to a significant law enforcement issue.

Let me be absolutely clear. The purpose of requiring FFLs to report the specified multiple long gun sales in these four source states is to identify criminal firearms traffickers, not to prevent the full and free exercise of our Second Amendment rights, or to encumber the FFLs with burdensome paperwork.

These reports will give ATF real-time leads for the investigation of gun trafficking. ATF’s experience in these source states proves that multiple purchases of the described rifles are strong indicators of firearms trafficking to Mexico. By obtaining information about these multiple sales, ATF increases the likelihood of uncovering and disrupting trafficking schemes before the firearms make their way into Mexico.

I know that FFLs are good citizens who share ATF’s interest and commitment in keeping guns out of criminal hands. Working together we can do that without infringing on the rights of law abiding Americans.

14 Responses to Hello, I’m Ken Melson, the Acting Director of ATF . . .

  1. As I pointed out in a post I did on this subject: the ATF has all of the information it is asking for on the Form 4473s. Every single transaction done by an FFL that includes a firearm is recorded via that form. The ATF gets it, it has make/model/serial number information on it.

    Not sure why they need to go any further with it.

  2. The ATF is not allowed to view the FFL’s except in a criminal investigation. You know, due process and all that. This reverses the curse: they can now investigate (check the 4473) anyone who buys two rifles as described within the five-day period.

    The bigger news: this was announced as a six-month program. The notice in the Congressional Register CLEARLY states 180 days. (http://thetruthaboutguns.com/2010/12/robert-farago/atf-proposes-emergency-national-gun-registry/)

    It’s suddenly become one year reporting requirement. A serious WTF on that one.

    • I’m not clear that the reporting requirement is on someone who purchases two or more rifles:

      Need for Collection
      The purpose of the information is to require Federal Firearms Licensees to report multiple sales or other dispositions whenever the licensee sells or otherwise disposes of two or more rifles within any five consecutive
      business days with the following characteristics: …

  3. They are not supposed to look at them, but do you think they really do not? I’m not so sure.

    Either way, they really don’t need to be looking at it at all, as its not going to help anything. They’ll start recording this multiple purchases, and nothing is going to change except for an extra step added to an FFLs procedure, and further infringement on the American people’s rights.

  4. Another way to look at this is like this: Even if the number is occasionally overstated, clearly some American weapons are making their way south, and that is a bad thing. It’s within ATF’s purview to try to get a handle on that. Somebody buying more one centerfire, semi-automatic rifle with detachable magazine within five days might be a perfectly innocent prairie-dog hunter or three-gun competitor. But two such weapons in a short time definitely raises questions. It’s not unreasonable for the ATF to want to know about that. And we gun owners should want to help law enforcement reduce gun violence and gun crime. So maybe we all need to resist reaching for the smelling salts every time ATF wants to do something. Do there need to be protections against storing this data and thus creating a back-door registration scheme? Of course. Might it be abused? Of course. Would the people who abused the law be liable for punishment? Of course. It may not be an Iron River of guns heading to Mexico, but in all likelihood there is gun-running going on. ATF is doing the right thing trying to stop illegal firearms activity, and responsible gun owners should support them in doing so.

    • Another way of looking at it is like this: Even if the number is occasionally overstated, clearly the ATF still has numerous high profile SNAFU’s and FUBAR’s in their recent history. In addition, they are redundantly redundant, overlapping their responsibilities with every other alphabet agency out there. When was the last time they made a bust solo? In terms of efficient govt, the ATF(E) is a huge waste of my tax dollar. For that alone they should be shut down.

      Here’s a question – this new requirement is for “actionable” intelligence. Are they willing to bet the agency on it? If not, why not? If it doesn’t produce actionable intelligence, can we eliminate it within 6 months and confirm deletion of all data? If not, why not?

  5. …and so it continues as it began. Everything ATF asks for sounds “reasonable”…… All in the name of “a law enforcement issue”. Then we wake up to a (more) massive firearms registration system.

    ATF says it’s “a tailored, discreet, responsible and proactive response to a significant law enforcement issue”. Hmmmm. Couldn’t they simply have asked for just .223 and 7.62x39mm semi-autos? Now that would be a bit more “tailored”.

    If it’s so “reasonable”, why does ATF want to know about “a very narrow group of long guns” that includes rifles you can no longer get ammunition for? And 100 year old 1907 Winchester Rifles? Or Model 8 Remington rifles? WWII M1 Carbines? FN 49 rifles? WWII G43 rifles? Model 1903 Mannlicher Carbines? Model 1907 Dreyse .32 ACP Carbines? 1900 Luger Carbines? Or all of the Remington Model 742 series hunting rifles?

    Is it just an ATF “fishing expedition”?

    For more information, see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ETrace

  6. This “pilot program” is BATFE’s way of exploiting a Mexican problem to target legal American purchasers. Frankly, I don’t want to be in any database controlled by the jackbooted Nazis of the BATFE. The list of illegal activities by ATF is extensive, and thoroughly covered in numerous well-publicized incidents and three congressional investigations. They are to be feared, not trusted.

  7. “Narrowly tailored”?? It only exempts bolt action, and .22s. Aren’t those the vast majority of rifles sold today?

  8. This news release is so full of lies it could’ve easily come from the 3rd Reich.

    The regulation has no limits on what states are affected so they can collect data from all 50 states. 180 days… Guess how long it takes to get a full regulation promulgated form start to federal register? Under 180 days.

    This action is extra-legal under title 18, sections 923 & 926 (specific paragraphs have previously been discussed). With no provision in the regulation for the destruction of information collected this is a “registry” under 926 and, illegal.

    Get on the phone to your Senators & representative and ask for a full 90 day comment period.

  9. HITLER had a gun registry and we all know how that turned out. Now I know what ATF stands for “ALL THE FOOLS” LOL

  10. Well its the summer of 2011 now and the ATF antics have gotten one of our border agents killed. Finding little evidence that US arms were involved in criminal activity south of the border, the ATF deliberatly smuggled guns across our border to give the appearance that their theory was true. Viola one of the guns gets in the hands of in illegal immigrant and a border agent ends up dead. Way to go ATF.

  11. “We can’t protect you unless and until you give up the means by which you protect yourselves.”

    If your government (or anyone else) tells you that they “cannot protect you, until you give up the means by which you protect yourselves”, only the first part of that statement is true.

  12. If we can do it in 4 states we can do it in 50.
    – ATF

    We were able to forcefully export many of the remaining legally transferrable fully automatic weapons to ‘unknowns’ in Mexico. Now we need to shut down the semi-automatic firearms trade in border states, or else the citizens there might have a slight chance in repelling the enemy horde that we created.
    – ATF

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