Industry News: Amendment to Prohibit ATF “Gun-Walking” Passes Senate
By Robert M. Hausman

An NRA-supported amendment by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) to prohibit funds from being used by the Department of Justice to conduct “gun-walking” programs similar to the now-infamous “Fast and Furious” operation was passed in the U.S. Senate with unanimous bipartisan support (99-0).

Specifically, the amendment to the Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations bill states that: “No funds made available under this Act shall be used to allow the knowing transfer of firearms to agents of drug cartels where law enforcement personnel of the United States do not continuously monitor or control such firearms at all times.”

Responding to the passing of the amendment, Sen. Cornyn said, “Today’s bipartisan effort is just the first step towards ensuring that such a foolish operation can never be repeated by our own law enforcement. The onus is now on Attorney General Holder to hear not just today’s bipartisan call for answers, but the American people’s demands that Washington be held accountable.”

NRA-ILA Executive Director Chris Cox said, “As more details of ‘Fast and Furious’ are unraveled, we are all learning more about the incompetence and dishonesty of those responsible. While it is reprehensible that a program like ‘Fast and Furious’ would be approved by the Obama administration, it is absolutely unacceptable that American taxpayers had to foot the bill. The Senate responded appropriately to ensure future illegal, shameful and deadly scandals aren’t funded and NRA would like to thank Senator Cornyn for his leadership efforts on this important issue.”

Taxpayer Funds May Have Bought Guns for Cartel

Congressional investigators are confronting the Justice Dept. on evidence they say indicates an FBI informant used U.S. taxpayer funds to buy drugs and possibly guns for the Senaloa cartel.

This information was apparently known to the FBI and DEA as early as 2009 but not passed on to the ATF which went on to spend millions of dollars trying to identify that informant.

The informant was allegedly buying guns in January 2010 from Manuel Cells-Acosta, the Phoenix man considered the main target of ATF’s operation Fast and Furious.

In a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder from Rep. Darrell Issa and Sen. Charles Grassley, the representatives ask Holder to tell Congress how much the Dept. of Justice paid the informant, when he became an informant, and how much the informant spent buying guns for the cartels.

“If ATF had known in January 2010, as the DEA and the FBI apparently knew, that the straw purchasing ring was procuring weapons for this informant, then Operation Fast and Furious may have ended 10-months sooner than it did,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter. “This would have prevented hundreds of assault type weapons from being illegally straw purchased on behalf of Mexican drug cartels.”

“Sources have indicated that this information was communicated to numerous senior people in the DOJ Criminal Division, including Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer and several of his top deputies, including Jason Weinstein, Kenneth Blanco and John Keeney,” the letter says.

The letter says that ATF knew by July 2010 that Cells-Acosta had crossed the U.S.-Mexican border 15 times, but chose not to arrest him; even though those crossings and the hundreds of guns ATF agents witnessed him receiving constituted probable cause.

Grassley and Issa have requested Holder turn over the request documents by Oct. 4th. So far, the Justice Dept. has provided just 12 documents over the past month, according to a Grassley spokesman.

Operation Fast and Furious began in October 2009. All told, more than $1.25 million was spent on the illegal guns. ATF later acted as the seller of the guns to known illegal buyers.

New Rules on Guns Leaving the EU

New rules are going into effect on the export of civilian-use firearms in the European Union.

The new EU regulation will give effect to the United Nations Firearms Protocol which aims to put more in place more effective controls of the export of civilian-use firearms.

European exporters will have to seek authorization from Member States to export firearms and ammunition to countries outside the EU. Before issuing an export license, Member States will have to ensure that the destination country has no objection to the import or transit of the shipment. No authorization will be required for hunters and sport shooters if they justify the reason for their journey and return to the EU within 24 months.

A listing of firearms requiring export authorization will be regularly updated.

The new EU rules will not apply to fully automatic, deactivated or antique firearms, or to those for use by the armed forces or public authorities of Member States. Neither will they apply to state-to-state transactions.

ATF Says P.O. Boxes & Rural Routes Are OK

ATF has issued an Open Letter (dated August 29, 2011) stating that FFLs may accept a government-issued identification document that shows only a post office box or rural route address as their residence address after requesting and obtaining a variance from ATF. The ATF offers further guidance on selling to purchasers who present an identification document bearing a rural route address.

The residence address required on Form 4473 must be sufficient to identify the physical location of the purchaser’s residence in the event the firearm is the subject of a trace request. For this reason, Form 4473 states that a post office box is not an acceptable residence address.

Unlike a post office box, a rural route address is considered the person’s legal residence, and that address is sufficient on “identification documents” issued by states recognizing rural routes. Accordingly, ATF has determined that FFLs may transfer firearms to customers who provide an identification document listing only a rural route address, provided that the purchaser resides in a state or locality where a rural route is considered by the jurisdiction to be a legal residence address and no ATF variance is needed prior to making such transfers.

Anti’s Blocking Hatch Amendment

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) is seeking to offer an amendment to the Commerce, Justice and Science appropriations bill now being debated on the Senate floor, but anti-gun senators are blocking a vote on the amendment.

The Hatch amendment would make permanent 10 different appropriations “riders” - essentially directions from Congress to the administration about how they must spend, or not spend, funds - into permanent law. Traditionally, each “rider” had to be reauthorized on a year-by-year basis. Some of these riders go back 30 years.

Provisions in the Hatch Amendment:
  1. Firearms Database Prohibition - A prohibition on the use of funds to create, maintain or administer a database of firearms owners or their firearms.
  2. Curio and Relic Definition - A prohibition on the use of funds to change the definition of a “curio or relic.”
  3. Transfer of BATFE Authority - A prohibition on the use of funds to transfer any duty or responsibility of the ATF to any other agency or department.
  4. Physical Inventory Prohibition - Prohibition on a requirement to allow a physical inventory of Federal Firearms Licensees.
  5. Information Retrieval Prohibition - A prohibition on the use of funds to electronically retrieve personally identifying information gathered by Federal Firearms Licensees.
  6. Business Activity -A prohibition on the use of funds to deny a Federal Firearms License or renewal of a Federal Firearms License on the basis of business activity.
  7. Information Gathering Prohibition - A prohibition on the use of funds to maintain any information gathered as a part of an instant background check or to maintain information for more than 24 hours.
  8. Firearms Trace Data Disclaimer - A requirement that any trace data released must include a disclaimer stating such trace data cannot be used to draw broad conclusions about firearms-related crime.
  9. Firearms Parts Export to Canada - A prohibition on the use of funds to require an export license for small firearms parts valued at less than $500 for export to Canada.
  10. Importation of Curios and Relics - A prohibition on the use of funds to arbitrarily deny importation of qualifying curio and relic firearms.

The author publishes two of the small arms industry’s most widely read trade newsletters. The International Firearms Trade covers the world firearms scene, and The New Firearms Business covers the domestic market. Visit www.FirearmsGroup.com. He may be reached at: FirearmsB@aol.com.

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V15N5 (February 2012)
and was posted online on February 2, 2012


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