The nation’s largest gun lobby has pulled its litigious trigger against the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), calling new federal firearm requirements in several border states a “bait and switch scheme.”
Late Wednesday, the National Rifle Association coordinated firearms dealers’ lawsuits against the ATF after the government agency, reportedly under the direction of the Obama administration, quietly instituted new reporting requirements for gun sales in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.
“This is a bait-and-switch scheme by an administration and a bureau frantically trying to distract lawmakers and the general public from the deadly ‘Fast and Furious’ debacle,” said Chris Cox, executive director of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action. “This scheme will unjustly burden law-abiding retailers in these four border states. It will not affect drug cartels and it won’t prevent violence along our borders. ”
According to a directive from the Justice Department, gun vendors in those states are now required to report individuals’ purchases of two or more rifles, and purchases of multiple high-caliber rifles, made within a five-day period. The practice is called “straw purchasing,” and was used by ATF agents during Operation Fast and Furious and Project Gunrunner — both of which are now under investigation by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
In Operation Fast and Furious, the ATF facilitated and tracked the purchase of “straw buyers” who moved huge caches of weapons to Mexico. One of those purchased guns was eventually used to kill a border patrol agent.
Attorney General Eric Holder said the DOJ will “vigorously oppose” these new lawsuits.
“We think that the acts that we have taken [are] consistent with the law and that the measures that we are proposing are appropriate ones to stop the flow of guns from the United States into Mexico,” said Holder, according to Reuters.
The NRA says it is “fully funding and supporting” lawsuits, filed yesterday in Washington, D.C. and New Mexico. Another lawsuit will be filed in Texas on Thursday. Cox told The Daily Caller that the lawsuits are meant to block the implementation of the new requirements. Gun-rights advocates say those requirements are a back-door attempt at unnecessary and unconstitutional gun control.
The new ATF requirements are part of a series of proposed restrictions pushed by the White House, according to The Daily Beast. Attorney General Eric Holder and some federal lawmakers are advocating harsher sentencing requirements for those convicted of attempting to carry straw-purchased firearms across the U.S. border. They also want to make the “trafficking of firearms to known felons or someone intending to commit a felony a federal offense,” according to the Los Angeles Times. (RELATED: Did Operation Fast and Furious have a Tampa twin, Operation Castaway?)
Cox said the new requirements, along with the proposed rules, won’t prevent drug cartels from continuing to commit crimes along the border, with or without the help of the ATF, and will only hinder “law-abiding retailers.”