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Congress Hears More On BATFE Tactics At Richmond Gun Show

Thursday, March 9, 2006

On February 28, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security, chaired by Representative Howard Coble (R-NC), held a second hearing on the heavy-handed enforcement tactics used by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives at several gun shows in Richmond, Virginia.

BATFE’s Assistant Director for Field Operations, Michael Bouchard, offered a very limited apology for some of the Bureau’s actions, acknowledging that “some techniques” used at the show were not “consistent with ATF’s best practices.”

In particular, Bouchard conceded that the Bureau shouldn’t have set up a command post at the show itself, creating a massive, visible law enforcement presence. He also said BATFE shouldn’t have given some attendees a letter accusing them of violating federal laws—a letter which summoned them to BATFE’s offices for further questioning, but which Bouchard said did not serve a legal purpose. Finally, he said the Bureau should have “more thoroughly explain[ed] the parameters” for the “residency checks” in which federal and local officers visited show attendees’ homes to ask their family members and neighbors about the attendees’ gun purchases.

Bouchard did not, however, fully answer many other concerns about the Bureau’s tactics, such as the strategies it used to target certain buyers for “discouragement” at the show, or traffic stops and gun seizures off the show premises. He also did not address the legality of using federal firearms licensees’ records for sweeping “residency checks” of hundreds of gun buyers, or why BATFE never responded to local officials’ concerns about the legality of those checks.

NRA-ILA applauds the subcommittee for airing the issues at this hearing, and will work to ensure that Congress continues to shine a light on federal agencies’ practices in enforcing the nation’s laws. Stay tuned for more information on future hearings or legislative activity!

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Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.