ATF using new laws to supposedly target straw purchases

AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

The ATF is supposed to try and keep guns out of the hands of criminals, though it seems they spend most of their time making life difficult for law-abiding gun owners.


Now, though, it seems they have a target that isn’t you or me.

President Biden signed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act last summer, making it a federal crime to traffic in firearms and stiffening penalties for “straw purchases” made on behalf of people who aren’t allowed to own guns.

Since then, new data from federal prosecutors shows they’ve charged 31 people in 17 cases under the new legislation.

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives spokeswoman Carolyn Collins called the laws “powerful new tools.”

The changes to the federal Gun Control Act “are designed to enhance ATF’s ability to identify, deter, and investigate those who illegally divert firearms from lawful commerce,” Collins wrote in an email.

The first case prosecuted with the new laws was against Said Hernandez, 26 in Laredo, Texas. He began his seven-year prison term for gun trafficking this week after being arrested last summer.

That’s all fine and well, but the ATF has always had the tools necessary to prosecute straw purchases. Additional penalties may well keep such people off the streets for longer, but there’s no evidence the new law will do much else.

Let’s think about this for a moment.

The law in question was passed in June 2022. Nearly a year later, they’ve prosecuted just 31 people. Just 31 people in a nation of 330 million people and with millions of violent crimes committed each year.

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like those 31 arrests aren’t really doing to accomplish all that much.


Why would they? We know most guns used in crime aren’t purchased via straw buys but by either theft or illicit black market gun deals, often using stolen guns.

What’s more, the ATF knows this, too. They’ve got the same data I have, if not better. They know that straw buys don’t represent an appreciable percentage of guns that get into criminal hands.

So why focus on this? Because it’s something they can do and pretend they’re accomplishing something. It’s something they can do to pretend the law passed last summer is actually going to do something to reduce violent crime in this country.

Yet when the sun has set and we look back on this time, it’ll be clear to all who care to look that the law in question accomplished little to nothing.

Straw buys aren’t legal and no one is really saying they should be, but this inane focus on them is just a shell game to make it look like the bureau is doing more than it really is.

Don’t be fooled and don’t let anyone else fool you, either.

The ATF wants you to look at this and hope you forget about their blatantly illegal efforts to harass law-abiding citizens not all that long ago.

Well, I may forget more than my fair share, but that’s something I won’t be forgetting.

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