It’s not easy being a gun-grabber in the federal government these days. What with narrow — and soon to be split — control of Congress and a new judicial landscape that’s gone a long way to restoring the Second Amendment to its first-class status, it’s not only difficult to pass federal gun control legislation, but many laws that are already on the books are realistically in jeopardy now.
What’s a politician to do when the levers of power don’t seem to be working in their favor? Simple. Enlist the private sector to help out.
That’s what appears to have happened when both arms of the nation’s delivery duopoly simultaneously decided — purely of their own volition, of course — to revamp how gun retailers can use their services to ship firearms, firearm parts and accessories around the country.
It’s probably purely a coincidence that this happened after a group of the usual senatorial suspects sent letters to the heads of UPS, FedEx and other common carriers demanding that they do something about gun violence in America. In other words, figure out a way to make life more difficult and expensive for companies selling lawful products via interstate commerce.
As a result, retailers are now having to comply with new procedures and terms of service that not only enable the carriers to identify and track what’s being shipped to whom, but, according to reports, also ban the companies’ customers from talking about it.
In addition to complicating the lives of firearms and related retailers, the system the companies have devised creates, in effect, a database of gun purchases and customer information. That, of course, would be illegal for the government to do. Federal law prohibits Uncle Sam from creating a federal firearm registry.
But what if private businesses did at least part of that job for them? It would be super-convenient for the feds if all the ATF had to do was email a contact at FedEx or UPS and ask them to search their database to see what had been shipped to Mr. Joe Blow of Bimidji, Minnesota. Or his cousin in, say, Bozeman, Montana.
That’s what some people have come to suspect is behind the carriers’ moves to set up the new tracking system. And one of those people who’s suspicious of the timing and any possible coordination between government and private industry is Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen.
That’s why he, along with a passel of like-minded AGs from other free states, sent letters this week to the CEOs of UPS and FedEx asking them what the hell is going on. As the Washington Free Beacon reports . . .
Republican Montana attorney general Austin Knudsen alleges that new shipping guidelines allow UPS and FedEx “to track firearm sales with unprecedented specificity and bypass warrant requirements to share that information with federal agencies.” The letter, signed by Knudsen and 16 other state attorneys general, says the altered shipping guidelines force licensed firearm dealers into providing detailed information about purchasers who are receiving items through the mail. The letter does not have explicit proof that the shipping giants are sharing information with federal agencies but cites conversations between state officials and licensed firearm dealers who claim they were forced to comply with these regulations.
By requiring firearms dealers to provide an unprecedented level of information about their clients, the shipping companies may be giving “federal agencies a workaround to normal warrant requirements,” the letter states. This ultimately allows them “to provide information at will or upon request to federal agencies—information detailing which Americans are buying what guns.” The state officials are asking UPS and FedEx to provide them with information about any recent rule changes and disclose any role the federal government played in the matter.
That kind of information would be enlightening, wouldn’t it?
In addition to his job enforcing laws in Big Sky Country, AG Knudsen also happens to be an occasional TTAG contributor, so we talked to him today about the letters and what these new shipping requirements likely mean.
He is, to say the least, skeptical of the whole arrangement which he learned of from Montana-based FFLs that were forced to comply in order to continue shipping their products. He told us that it’s at least reasonable to suspect that what’s happening here is the establishment of a de facto firearms registry.
The letter sent by Knudsen and the other state attorneys general asks the two big carriers to disclose a range of information including any coordination of the new policies with ATF or anyone else in the Biden administration, a copy of the new service agreements the companies are imposing on customers, and whether FedEx and UPS
colluded coordinated their policies with each other before putting them in place.
AG Knudsen says he expects at least some kind of response from the companies within the 30-day time frame given. But if the companies’ responses aren’t, well, fulsome and useful, he’s prepared to go farther under Montana’s consumer protection laws and move onto a formal civil investigation demand for the information — the functional equivalent of a subpoena — and then filing a lawsuit if needed.
The story has some legs, too, as Knudsen is scheduled to be on Tucker Carlson’s show tonight to talk about his efforts to get to the bottom of this, as well as the dangers involved in this kind of government/private enterprise “cooperation”…if that is, in fact, what’s happening.