Gun control advocates are still feeling blowback from the scandalous Fast and Furious gunwalking scheme, six years after the story broke. In response to the scandal, Representative Evan Jenkins (R-W.Va.) recently introduced the Protecting the Second Amendment Act in the U.S. Congress. The bill, H.R. 1976, would bar the federal government from requiring gun store owners to report the sales of multiple rifle or shotgun sales to the same person “based on the geographic location” in which the store is located.
The Protecting the Second Amendment Act is aimed at rolling back ATF Demand Letter 3 and to deter future Administrations from engaging in the sort of behavior that Obama’s ATF dabbled in during his first term. Demand Letter 3 requires gun stores located in the southwest border states (Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California,) to report to the ATF any occasions where a person legally purchases two or more “semi-automatic rifles capable of accepting a detachable magazine and with a caliber greater than .22 (including .223/5.56 caliber).”
The Obama Administration engineered support for this rule via its 2009 Fast and Furious program, which encouraged gun stores in the border states to sell rifles to members of Mexican drug cartels.
Fast and Furious was supposedly a sting operation aimed at arresting cartel members. President Obama, however, had another goal in mind: justifying more draconian gun control regulations. As CBS News reported in 2011, internal ATF emails show that Fast and Furious was used as political justification for Demand Letter 3. Correspondence from ATF Field Ops Ass. Director Mark Chait to the ATF Agent in charge of Fast and Furious, Bill Newell, on multiple dates confirmed this.
From July 2010:
“Bill – can you see if these guns were all purchased from the same (licensed gun dealer) and at one time. We are looking at anecdotal cases to support a demand letter on long gun multiple sales. Thanks.”
From July 2011:
“Bill–well done yesterday… (I)n light of our request for Demand letter 3, this case could be a strong supporting factor if we can determine how many multiple sales of long guns occurred during the course of this case.”
I spoke with a FFL holder in one of the named border states and he stated that, despite the Trump Administration’s push to reduce administrative regulations across-the-board, so far there’s been no change with regard to Demand Letter 3.
“My understanding is that we’re supposed to continue following [Demand Letter 3] until we hear different from them [the ATF],” he said. “So far, we haven’t heard anything, so we’re continuing to follow it.”
If enacted, H.R. 1976 would indeed roll back Demand Letter 3. But there’s one thing it wouldn’t change: according to the Gun Control Act of 1968 (18 U.S.C. sec. 923(g)(3)(A)), gun stores are required to report sales of “two or more pistols, or revolvers,” over the course of a five day period to law-abiding gun purchasers. That’s hard-coded into the statute, and Rep. Jenkins’ bill doesn’t touch it.