US government warned against warrantless ‘gun checks’ — Analysis

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms’ ‘knock and talk’ visits are likely unconstitutional, an Iowa Republican senator said

US Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) has demanded to see legal justification for the growing number of ‘knock and talk’ visits to lawful gun owners by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF). 

In a letter written Tuesday to Attorney General Merrick Garland and reported on by Breitbart, Ernst laid out eight questions about the program, which according to Garland is aimed at uncovering ‘straw purchases’ – cases in which a person legally barred from buying a gun uses someone with a clean record to purchase it for them.

Videos have surfaced on social media showing well-armed and -armored ATF agents visiting the homes of individuals who – according to federal records – recently bought a gun, demanding to see the weapon and confirm they haven’t passed it off to someone else. The individual is expected to either go inside and retrieve the weapon or to invite the agents in – both moves any attorney would advise against.

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Ernst asked Garland what constituted probable cause for these visits and whether agents sought a warrant before turning up on the target’s doorstep, expressing concern about what procedures were in place to protect their Fourth Amendment right against unwarranted search and seizure. It was also raised whether there were any rules regarding the time agents can conduct inquiries, and whether uniforms are required for them to identify themselves as ATF. 

Asking whether sending federal agents to Americans’ homes just to make sure they’re following the rules “It was not meant to force or harass gun purchasers into at worst, legal questionable investigations,” she questioned whether the agency alerted local law enforcement to their activities – a reasonable precaution if the agents did believe their target was armed and/or dangerous. She wanted to know the total number of ATF visits since Garland launched the straw buyer enforcement program last month.

A Delaware gun owner who was visited by the ATF in the days before Garland’s announcement posted video of the “embarrassing” raid to social media, describing how “confused” he was at being ordered into his home to retrieve a rifle he’d recently bought. While he complied because he “didn’t want to end up on a watch list,” he said he “I felt they intruded on my privacy.” 

The Columbus gun owner was more creative. Agents tried to seize a shotgun that was allegedly in the house, but the warrant could not be produced. The homeowner phoned local police to report someone trying to steal his guns. Cops showed up and promptly arrested the ATF agent, who is now suing the police for “Excessive force.

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