A gun dealer pinged TTAG yesterday with an interesting story. “I had a woman come in to the store and buy a Glock. She did not look like your average Glock buyer. Two days later she bought another Glock. I called the ATF (the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) and told them I suspected she was a straw purchaser (i.e., a person who buys guns for felons). The ATF told me to let the sale go through. She bought a dozen guns over the next six months . . .

The ATF eventually busted her and two convicted felons. That’s great, but there are a dozen guns in criminal hands (in a major midwestern city). Why didn’t the ATF bust them after two or three guns?”

Maybe it was a resource problem; the ATF didn’t have enough agents to launch an investigation. Maybe it took that long to build a case. Or maybe gunwalking is standard operating procedure at the ATF.

[Note to gun dealers: record all conversations with the ATF. Remember that the Fast and Furious scandal came to light before U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was gunned down by drug thugs wielding ATF-enabled firearms; when the ATF took Badger Guns to court for allowing straw purchases that the ATF had approved.]

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37 Responses to Is ATF Gunwalking Standard Operating Procedure?

  1. While I hardly hold warm fuzzy feelings for the people at the ATF,id not give them the blame per se for the straw purchaser being allowed to continue.Busting the straw purchaser immediately wouldn’t accomplish much,as the straw buyer would get probation at worst in court and the felons at the source would find someone else to continue the racket elsewhere.The only way to shut down the scam permanently is to ID the felons calling the shots PLUS the straw purchasers all in one sweep.Doing this means building a case,which boils down to letting the guns “walk” so that the ATF can get evidence which identifes the felons running the straw purchase ring and supports approval for warrants to arrest the scumbags . That process takes time.No walked guns means no evidence of a crime,which means the crooks beat the charges and dissapear.Note that ‘gunwalking’ without casework & accountability to support a classified agenda is very different from watching crooks do crooked things to ensure they stay behind bars.As for the guns being lose,its likely some of those Glocks are sitting in an ATF evidence room right now.

    • And others will end up a crime scenes and be used as evidence that we need ever-more restrictive gun laws.

    • … Doing this means building a case,which boils down to letting the guns “walk” so that the ATF can get evidence which identifes the felons running the straw purchase ring and supports approval for warrants to arrest the scumbags. …

      Agreed. But that’s different from arranging for guns to walk that otherwise wouldn’t have. In undercover operations, LE may buy drugs or guns from criminals but they may not sell drugs or guns to criminals, under any pretense (e.g., to ostensibly track the guns). You can put more money into circulation but you never put more drugs or guns into circulation. You never make the problem worse.

    • The thing is, BATFE/DoJ has said that gunwalking is never a good investigative strategy BECAUSE criminals END UP WITH GUNS.

      Perhaps this FFL should be talking to Issa and Grassley.

  2. gun walking cannot be allowed. to many innocent people can wind up on the wrong end of the gun. i would rather see the felon go free, without the gun than risk an innocent family being at the end of the gun. besides, felons don’t reform easily. there will be other charges to nail him with in the future.

  3. She bought 2, dealer thought something WRONG was going on & no matter what the BATF said he then proceeded to sell her 12 MORE? What is wrong with this picture? Just following orders? that excuse cuts no ice. The DEALER had the obligation to deny any more sales to someone he believes is doing something WRONG. Yea the BATF is sketch but how about someone who KNOWINGLY (here is the operative word) SELLS guns to a potential felon. She would go other places to buy? Well i would have contacted every dealer in the area, to make them aware of the potential. WE MUST GOVERN OURSELVES, NOT WAIT FOR THE GOVERNMENT – BATF TO DO WHAT IS RIGHT – WE ALL KNOW THE END RESULT OF THAT!

      • Dont miss the point. The dealer KNOWINGLY SOLD guns to someone he suspected was involved in a felony. His disregard for my rights & your rights put everyone one at risk.

        “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” ~ Edmund Burke

      • Twinkie, you show an all too common misunderstanding of the definition of rights. You have the right to free speech, but you cannot be compelled to listen. Rights are limitations on government, not compulsions on citizens to do things. (As the Supreme Court just ruled in the Obamacare case.) Government has no right to compel a seller to sell guns to a sketchy person, but government agents have the power to make a seller’s life very difficult. This case is a prime example of BATFE agents bullying a law abiding gun seller into breaking the law, or at least to violate his code of ethics.

        • Perhaps having worked in a store which sells guns I have a different perspective. If the instant check comes back PROCEED, well we proceed. The store owner notified the ATF and was told to sell the guns. So he did. Then the investigation resulted in arrests. The system worked. I don’t really see the problem.

          If the checks had been denied, the buyer would have gone somewhere else and tried again, and perhaps never been arrested. It seems that in the furor over such cases aroused by Fast and Furious we forget that guns don’t commit crimes. People do, and it’s not necessarily true that every gun the lady bought will end up facilitating a crime.

        • “Rights are limitations on government, not compulsions on citizens to do things”

          Technically no, otherwise stores could still discriminate based on race or religion.

        • I’d also like to point out that the firearms market is not a free market. The government has deeply involved the dealer by making them a crucial part to exercising our right.

          This is a far cry from a baker or tailor denying you their product.

    • You think the ATF is an organization that has any moral compass whatsoever? This organization that serves no other purpose than to defile the Bill of Rights?
      If you are a gun dealer and you do not play ball, the ATF can make your life hell.
      “Thank you Sir, may I have another?” is the order of the day for a gun dealer that wants to feed their family.
      The only right thing to do on a federal level is repeal the Hughes Amendment, GCA ’68 and NFA ’34 along with Title 18, Section 922 USC in its entirety.

    • “The third and most advanced stage of moral development moves beyond role conformity and convention. This is the post-conventional stage, in which moral principles are part of the self and not due to an external authority or societal pattern of behavior.”

      • If Fast and Furious is to be our guide, anyone in the ATF that has achieved that level of development is punished for it.

  4. Letting a dozen guns onto the street (assuming they weren’t all seized as evidence) in exchange for a shot at putting a couple of criminals behind bars — that seems like a good deal to me. You can make a reasonable case against what the ATF did here, but I don’t think it’s quite so clear cut. Their strategic priorities even bolster our cause — that violent criminals, not firearms, are the real problem we need to address.

    Now, if the ATF is letting guns walk without actually following them, that’s a whole different story…

      • “Well, they let these guns walk without following them.”

        They must have followed them to make the bust. Do you know for sure that they don’t have the guns? It would be hard for them to make their case without having the Glocks as evidence.

    • BeninMa, please tell me you are kidding? letting 14 guns into felon’s hands is a good deal? Strategy might be good but the tactics enable the possibility of several people being shot/killed. Now if you or i were one that face these guns , does that sound like a good deal to you?

  5. For now, at least, the government has decided to err on the side of gun rights. If all the sudden we are going to change the rules and start regulating handguns, the NRA is going to have a fit.

    You can’t have it both ways. I don’t think you can ask gun dealers to self-regulate, especially considering that the government refuses to do the job.

  6. I hate the things, but what does the average Glock buyer look like anyway? Bipedal with opposing thumbs?

  7. “Note to gun dealers: record all conversations with the ATF”

    Some states like Illinois require all parties to consent to recording.

    • I believe WA is this way also. My solution would be to simply tell them up front that you’re recording the conversation; if they don’t consent to be recorded, they can come in person–and be recorded. Preferably with a witness.

      • Some states do not allow you to record someone else in person in a clandestine manner. Oregon, as an example, allows one-party consent for telephone calls (assuming both parties are in Oregon), but prohibits recording someone iduring an “in person” conversation, subject to some exceptions.

        • “Exceptions?” You mean the requirement to notify the other party. Clandestine recording of federal agents will get you in trouble, but nowhere on this thread was clandestine recording mentioned.

  8. The BATFE should be put behind bars. Why don’t they provide me with all their personal info? They are the ones using coercion, they are wrong no matter what they do. It’s an evil organization of jack booted thugs, to borrow a quote from that NRA guy. If the organization were instantly abolished the consequence of the injustices they have perpetrated against society would still never be redressed. Its existence represents an ongoing crime against humanity, and any gun enthusiast or pro-gun advocate who supports the BATFE is a liar, hypocrite and self-contradicting moron.

    • Uncle Tom was a slave, not a slave owner. Are you using the colloquial meaning that you are a friend of his?

      • He used to go under Tom’s Nigger, which I thought was a reference to The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

    • Exactly. The store’s responsibility ends when they notify the ATF of suspicious activity and are told to proceed.

  9. I doubt if they refused, on their own accord they would be in much legal trouble. Like someone said, the ladies “rights” do not include forcing that gun store to sell her something they don’t want to. Some will say they would have done the same and that “its not my problem anymore, the ATF cleared the sale” and be glad for the transaction and small profit in todays crappy economy. People here arguing for/against the store going ahead and selling all have good points. I am not sure what I would do. I would like to think that I would ask her more questions and if uncomfortable refuse that sale. Unless of course I was struggling to pay the rent…

  10. Actually; ATF themselves state that: “If YOU have a suspicion (as an FFL), that a firearms purchaser COULD be engaged in an illegal act in the purchasing of a firearm from you; YOU have the right to REFUSE ANY SALE”. Period, end of story…In other words would you rather be SAFE or SORRY?
    As an FFL dealer; If I believe a straw purchase is being attempted I will REFUSE the sale; as it is ILLEGAL to knowingly or under suspicion/ probable cause as to the effect; complete a transaction regarding such a situation. It’s the LAW; read it.
    Period, end of story.

  11. “the ATF took Badger Guns to court for allowing straw purchases that the ATF had approved”

    The audacity of hope err I mean of government. If I was a dealer, I would record every conversation with the ATF. It would or will be something if the ATF ever denies the dealer the right to record the ATF instructions to complete the sale of a suspect straw purchase.

  12. In most states, its actually remarkably hard for the ATF to bust straw purchasers. They need proof that it is a straw purchase, which can be very hard to get, and if they do block or confiscate in error, then the same group on here that’s griping about them not blocking a straw purchase will be griping about them infringing on 2nd amendment rights.

    If you want the ATF and others to actually be able to enforce the laws on straw purchases, you need a CA-type mechanism where all transfers go through an FFL, so that, in followups, the purchase of several firearms without still having control over them is suspicious, rather then ehh, whatever.

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