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Gun Show

Leave it to the Obama administration to prod local police to cruise gun show parking lots with license plate scanners. Again. It’s nothing new to us. The plan, originally conceived by bureaucrats at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (and really big fires) back in 2010 is again in the news with a story in the Wall Street Journal.

The program is so shady that even the Journal has qualms about it. They are right. Uncle Sam snooping through parking lots to build a list of who’s naughty and who’s nice at gun shows is more than a little creepy. Especially for an administration that’s proven its willingness to weaponize government against political opponents. What’s next? Cruising the parking lots at Trump rallies? Chick-Fil-A restaurants?

Initially the plan, according to the WSJ, involved comparing gun show attendees’ plates with plates of folks heading south across the Mexican border. Was the BATFE looking for those competing with its own Project Gunrunner/Fast and Furious? That’s the program where the US Government literally gave guns to the Mexican drug cartels.

From the Wall Street Journal:

Gun-Show Customers’ License Plates Come Under Scrutiny
Federal agents enlisted local police to scan cars’ plates at shows’ parking lots

Federal agents have persuaded police officers to scan license plates to gather information about gun-show customers, government emails show, raising questions about how officials monitor constitutionally protected activity.

Emails reviewed by The Wall Street Journal show agents with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency crafted a plan in 2010 to use license-plate readers—devices that record the plate numbers of all passing cars—at gun shows in Southern California, including one in Del Mar, not far from the Mexican border.

Agents then compared that information to cars that crossed the border, hoping to find gun smugglers, according to the documents and interviews with law-enforcement officials with knowledge of the operation.

The investigative tactic concerns privacy and guns-rights advocates, who call it an invasion of privacy. The law-enforcement officials say it is an important and legal tool for pursuing dangerous, hard-to-track illegal activity.

Generally, people have no reasonable expectation of privacy in public settings. That would certainly apply to someone recording your license plate number in a parking lot or public street.

There is no indication the gun-show surveillance led to any arrests or investigative leads, but the officials didn’t rule out that such surveillance may have happened elsewhere. The agency has no written policy on its use of license-plate readers and could engage in similar surveillance in the future, they said.

It’s no surprise that people who attend gun shows are law-abiding. In fact, most folks don’t know that the US Department of Justice once conducted a study that found that exactly 0.7% of criminals got their guns from gun shows (not that you’d ever hear that state from the “universal background check”-loving media). See Firearm Use by Offenders – Bureau of Justice Statistics. That doesn’t stop the anti-gun folks from portraying gun shows as wretched hives of scum and villainy only frequented by the criminally-inclined.

Back to the WSJ:

License-plate readers are increasingly used by law-enforcement agencies as a way to search for fugitives, missing children, and, recently, the man who allegedly set off a bomb in New York City.

But their use at gun shows occupies a murky legal ground. While technology and data collection have greatly expanded the ability of government and companies to monitor citizens’ activity, U.S. courts, lawmakers, and senior officials have been slow to make clear what types of mass surveillance cross the line into violations of constitutional rights.

Remember…government is just another word for the things we choose to do together.

And anti-gun people wonder why The People of the Gun don’t trust the government.


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  1. LEOs conduct this kind of surveillance outside Las Vegas gun shows. They use the info to intercept people transporting items which are contraband in CA.

    • Yep, the BATFE apparently thinks the Mexican gun cartels want those 10-round limited AR15 mags from California, rather than the 30- and 40-round (and larger) ones they can buy in Arizona.

      • I believe it is the Cal DOJ that does it and then sets up interdiction across the California border.
        A lot of people here are worried they’ll do the same for ammunition purchases when import of ammo becomes illegal in 2018. I think they will.
        What a disgraceful big brother state.

        • If it is Cal DOJ doing this out of state, doesn’t that put them on shaky legal ground? Where is their jurisdiction? Or does any LEO have the privilege to scan plates anywhere any time, say a NJ trooper in Montana?

    • I remember when license plate readers were introduced a few years back. All the local police agencies wanted this shiny new tool and the feds were all too happy to give them grant money so they could buy them. Interestingly, many of these grants were anti-terrorism grants. Some of the agencies began positioning themselves on freeway overpasses so they capture hundreds, if not thousands of random plates a day. And, what did they do with all of this data. That’s the best part. They uploaded the plates into the fed’s FUSION center which was a vast data repository. Given enough time and enough scanners, the feds could actually build a database showing the daily travel schedule of thousands of innocent citizens. Not quite as good as illegally monitoring cell phone activity with Stingray devices, but a pretty useful tool to keep track of the masses.

      • ALPRS (automated license plate readers) have been in use since the early 1980’s and have grown since then with every gain in computing power.

        They jumped way ahead in the mid-late 90s, and were pretty much drilled-down by 2000. Now they just get faster, a single unit tracking/running thousands of cars per hour.

        My local (wealthy) podunk PD has had them for over a decade. That horse had left the barn, and sired many a colt by a ‘few years ago’. ~70% of US police depts deploy some ALPRS.

      • If memory serves me correctly, there was a BIG ballyhoo when the Feds hired two former KGB big shots to help them design “Choke Points” across America where the government could set up checkpoints when un-monitored travel from State to State is made Illegal if you haven’t gotten a “permit”, the way the Soviets did it. How’s THAT for a CLUE as to what is coming from the thugs in D.C. if we keep electing Democrats?

    • They also do the exact same thing on the
      I-10 freeway west when they try to catch people coming back from Gun shows in Arizona. I know this first hand as myself and three friends were returning from a gun show located just outside of Phoenix. We crossed the AZ/CA border (heading west on the 10 freeway ) yes I was speeding doing around 80 or thereabouts. The CHP pulled us over and after I handed him my DL, insurance and registration cards, he asked us where we were coming from and where we were going. Well none of us had purchased any firearms, nor any Accessories. We did purchase ammunition in various calibers and different amounts mostly 500 to 1000 rounds of each caliber.
      I told him that we’d just attended a gun show in AZ and we’re headed home. He asks if we’d purchased anything, I told him about the ammo. He has me exit the car and has me open the trunk so he can have a little look see. Well nothing illegal about having close to almost FIVE THOUSAND ROUNDS OF AMMUNITION. He eventually let us go. But just because I mentioned about going to a gun show especially in AZ that was enough to cause the search.

  2. There’s all sorts of problems with this, but the main one is they give the impression that guns are being bought at the Del Mar gun show, tossed in the trunk and driven south to Mexico. But in California a 10-day wait is required before you can take possession of any gun, whether purchased from an FFL or a private party.

    And honestly, why does the BATFE think that Californians attending a gun show will be as dishonest and hold the law in the same contempt that the BATFE does?

  3. That doubles the penalty for going to a gun show.

    On top of jackass “dealers” who treat you like shit, other jackasses trying to sell .22 for $80 a brick (and the bigger jackasses who actually pony up that cash), no selection to speak of in firearms, and nothing but very dubious ammo I wouldn’t trust, you now get your plates photographed.

    Oh and extra penalty: Being required to disarm, and in some cases, leave your ammo in the car to boot.

  4. So everyone wondered awhile back if there is a database of gun owners. Of course there is. With this and other “freely” obtained “public” data they track all of your movements. You start compiling these databases together and you start to get a good picture of who owns what. There is no more privacy in this country.

    My kids seem to accept this now – they’ve grown up with the surveillance state and they accept it. George Orwell called this a long time ago. It’s sad and it will be abused. It always is…..

    • Our numbers protect us for now. They tell that lie that gun ownership is dwindling. But they know it’s a lie.

    • I live in California so I am certain they have all the info on the guns I’ve purchased and, starting next year, they’ll be collecting info on my ammo purchases as well.
      It won’t stop until I leave which I will if I can move my business (difficult) or retire in about a half of a decade.

      • Not next year, the year after, starting 1/1/18. Stock up. Prices are going to jump 20% or more over night.

        • There’s a place called Bluffdale Utah, where the entirety of the web is recorded in real time. There are things called algorithms that suss and sort that data in really interesting ways.

          If you think it’s not possible to sift all that data, let alone tag it to any one of us, you are living about 20 years in the past. They’re really good at it now, and getting better every day.

          edit: Shoulda been for Southern Cross

      • Good. Bore them with bullshit. Pity the poor apparatchik who has to scan the data.

        They did something similar in New South Wales, Australia, but it was eventually restricted to pistol calibers only and completely ignored “rifle” calibers and reloading components.

        Considering the only ammunition I buy once every few years is .22LR, it doesn’t affect me. I’m mostly dependent on reloads as they are tuned to my rifles.

  5. Should bookmark this and have it handy for the next jackass who tells you you’re being a paranoid gun owner.

  6. Please vote in November Trump. This is downright disgusting what’s going on with the ATF. They need to be the federalized and brought back under State Control. That way our Governors can regulate what they’re up to. And limit their reach. The criminal Behavior that’s been going on in the 80s for the last 10 years is downright sickening. Somebody needs to shorten up these fellas and ladies reach. Shorten the Rope or their leash.

    • Trump won’t stop this kind of stuff. He doesn’t give a shit about the plebes who go to gun shows.

      It doesn’t matter whether you disagree with me about that either, since, in addition to feint a terrible human being and a terrible businessman, he is also a terrible Republican candidate for President.

      Hillary is going to win and we are all going to suffer the consequences.

  7. This confirms my urge to always back into the parking space at a gun show, I know for damn sure they won’t bother to get their butts out of the car with some kind of hand scanner. I would make a magnetic stick on cover to go over the plate but I would forget to take the stupid thing off and get a ticket for an obstructed plate driving down the road. This urge large PD departments have to mount scanners for plates irritates me anyway. If they immediately destroyed the data it wouldn’t bug me like the ones that sell that data do.

    • Mosques, Kanye West concerts, NAACP conventions, Bernie Sanders rallies any and all anti-gun rallies.

  8. Well the po-leece in my burb constantly scan liscense plate #’s. Revunue enhancement. I have no interest in any local gun shows but I wonder if they scan plates in places like Cabelas previously mentioned here…??

  9. So, the next time you want to go to a gun show clearly you should borrow your Muslim neighbor’s car…

    • Being a vast right wing conspiracy, I’m told I am islamophobic, so I’m unable to borrow a car from christianophobics, but it would be a good idea.

    • Uber put in a minute delay the day after a major shooting, asking it’s patrons to take a minute to think about gun violence. I instead took a minute to ask Uber support to terminate my account, and stayed using Lyft. Seems cheaper to boot…

      That being said, you have bigger problems going to gun shows, including the crossroads of the west shows pictured above. Terrible deals, and generally a somewhat unsafe place to go, people muzzling each other all day long… I’m glad to see new people get into the sport, but it’s not a place I go anymore.

      • You’ll be out of luck with Uber if you take a gun to the show either per your CCW or to trade. UBER has an antigun policy which prohibits drivers or passengers from having a firearm in the car. I’ll remove my license plates while I’m in the show. To hell with the bastards!

        • Well said sir. By the way, gun owners and or pro gun people who currently use UBER services might wish to reconsider, though that is up to the individual.

  10. It just goes to show, that no matter how innocuous its original purpose, any number the government can attach to you will eventually be used to track, coerse and threaten you as well.

  11. So I guess that bad people looking to do bad things would never go to a gun show in a rented vehicle.

  12. “Federal agents have persuaded police officers to scan license plates to gather information about gun-show customers,…”

    Anyone still convinced police will refuse orders to violate your second amendment rights?

  13. Want to create a Keystone Kops moment? Next gun show start a campaign that all attendees remove their tags and cover their VIN when going inside.

    • ‘Cept in Commiefornia, you have to have a valid plate even on private property. Let alone covering your VIN…

      It’s a nutty place. Parts of it I still miss, the rest of it, good riddance.

  14. The CT police used to go into New Hampshire to get the plates of CT Residents who were buy fireworks and taking back to CT. Soon as the person crossed the state line, they would arrest them.

    The local press showed a news story about this and people sued. Until that case went into court, people would go into New Hampshire and rent a car nearby and since it has NH plates, the PD would not grab those plates.

    The state was finally sued and the practice stopped and now there are plenty of fireworks even on holidays other than 4th of July. It is a stupid waste of time and money what they are doing.

    • People would actually go to NH, rent a car, bring fireworks back, then return the rental and go back to get their car?

      Damn, Connecticutians must really love their fireworks, because that sounds like WAY too much work for some firecrackers and sparklers.

      • You think it would make more sense to just go in, buy fireworks, and then keep driving 20 minutes and turn around and go back in a different way.

    • Long time ago, Ma sent troopers to do the same thing in the state liquor store lots. NH gov at the time got ticked off, so he sent NH troopers down to arrest the Ma troopers.

      Fun stuff.

  15. Ugh… Abolish licence plates and car registration, seriously. Since when it’s okay for the govt to determine whether you can transport yourself to work or not using public roads? The servants should know their place.

    • Since 1903. And the public servants are serving the public, the vast majority of whom are sensible enough to realize the need for license plates.

      • I’m sure the residents in 1903 were envisioning a future where computers were constantly recording and archiving license plates into a database that could be used to track the movements of mass numbers of people simultaneously. I wonder if they would they be critical of it or find it “sensible?”

      • Need for who? Me? Why should I pay the state for the privilege of putting an ugly piece of metal advertising the state on my property? If anything, they should be paying me.

  16. I think the attendees of gun shows should do whatever it takes to make the feds feel so unwelcome that they will want to leave.

  17. At the gun show they should sell hard plastic license plate covers that say “mind your own business.” Everyone at the show can put them on while they are parked at the show. This creates an effect where the scanning of plates is no longer worth the effort for the local gestapo fuzz. Simply install when you arrive. Take it off when you depart.

  18. Since I live in a one plate state I always back my truck into any parking space for this exact reason.

  19. Let’s see, I will be attending a local gun show this weekend. The car rental agency is close by. That would be $50.00 + for the car, a $250.00 deposit tied to my credit card for a few days, or up to a week, just for the rental. Been a long time since I’ve rented a car, but those were the prices years ago. That’s a heck of a price to pay for free parking.

    No, worse. Son is working the show. He’s not 25 years old, he can’t rent, but his vehicle is in my name. He needs a full size truck (which he does drive) or van to set up on Friday, work Saturday, Sunday, and take down Sunday. I doubt U-Haul is cheaper, when the add-ons are totaled.

    Somehow, I can’t understand why I am not spending all my time speaking to police, every time I drive.

    • If you rent a car with your own credit card, you’re may as well set cash on fire. That rental is tied to your credit card, and the NSA can directly tie the rental to you via the rental company computers through the back door. Not to mention facial rec if you pass any cameras.

      Rent it using a neighbor’s credit card, and obscure your face from CCD cameras by wearing a hat or shirt with UV LEDs in it, then maybe you’re onto something.

  20. Every time someone suggests that these sanctuary city satraps gets off their rear and report illegal alien felons to ICE, they whine and cry about how that’s the federal government’s job, not the local P.D.’s Well.

    They sure seem willing and able to do the King’s anti-gun bidding when the mood suits them. Same with anti-drug duties. They line up for those federal initiatives. Oh! That’s because the feds pay for that with grants.

  21. How many fine, upstanding local cops told the Feds to pound sand when the request to scan plates came in? My guess would be somewhere between slim and none. There are no good cops, every one is corrupt.

  22. Author John Boch stated the obvious with the statement “Generally, people have no reasonable expectation of privacy in public settings.” However, once you get back into your vehicle the Constitutional protections of the Fourth Amendment now apply. If you are stopped by a LEO based on a LPS, politely but FIRMLY refuse a request from the officer to search your vehicle or possessions unless the officer can articulate reasonable probable cause for him to do so – and an LPS scan alone with no “hit” associated with it just plain ain’t gonna hack it.

  23. If, and that’s a big IF our government was trustworthy this wouldn’t much of an issue, but I don’t trust this administration or the gun hating politicians here in Commieforina. What else are they doing with this information???

  24. In commenting I try to avoid the use of “strong language”. I will make an exception here,and with respect to”the government”, DOJ and ATF, screw them.

  25. By God, if I attend a gun show I’ll take the plates off my truck, front and back and paste a sign over the plate holder that says, “You ain’t gonna scan my plate!” If I get a ticket I’ll take it before a judge, with an attorney, and say I was justified in removing the plates to preserve my right to privacy. Maybe all attendees should do it.

  26. Just another reason for me not to go to gun shows anymore…this and beef jerky, turquoise, women’s pocket books (not to be confused with men’s pocket books) coins, Nazi regalia, raffle tickets, 20 year shelf life “food”, tee shirts, etc along with all the other stuff that has absolutely nothing to do with guns and ammo. Where local guns shows are held in 2 major metro areas of my state, the gun shows run concurrent with at least 5 other events at the same time. Those events have nothing to do with guns and ammo. The feds are just as likely to scan the plate of a reptile enthusiast as they are a gun collector.

  27. Twenty five or thirty years ago we had an anti-tax group and the police parked in the cafe parking lot across the street every time during our whole meeting.

  28. Having legally parked your vehicle in a designated area, the following might work, though who knows, given the vagaries of the law. Cover your license plate of plates with a piece of cardboard, the following admonition, being inscribed thereon. To blazes with Obama, The DOJ and ATF. Edit the text to suit your preference, but avoid threats, and or hostile language..

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