ATF Memo: CA Law Enforcers Moonlighting as Gun Dealers

The agency has found that some law enforcement officers in southern California are buying and reselling guns in what could be a violation of federal firearms laws. The head of the ATF’s Los Angeles division describes the finding as an “emerging problem.”

The head of the ATF’s office in Los Angeles has sent a memo to Southern California police chiefs and sheriffs saying the agency has found law enforcement officers buying and reselling guns in what could be a violation of federal firearms laws, reports the Los Angeles Times. The memo from special agent Eric Harden describes the finding as an “emerging problem” and expresses concern about “the growing trend of law enforcement officials engaging in the business of unlicensed firearms dealing.”

He did not say how many officers the agency has found purchasing and reselling weapons, but the memo — dated March 31 — says some officers had bought more than 100 firearms. Some of the guns have been recovered at crime scenes. But Harden wrote that the goal is “to educate, not investigate, to ensure law enforcement officials comply with federal law in order to avoid unnecessary public embarrassment to themselves and your department/agency.”


Under New Law, Iowa Allows Guns in Capitol; NRA Approves

At least 17 states allow guns in their capitol buildings, and Iowa is about to join them. The NRA is pleased. A spokeswoman said, “In the halls where freedom is celebrated, freedoms should be exercised.”

Iowa is set to become the latest state to allow gun owners to keep firearms at their side while visiting the state Capitol, a move that has raised questions about how security workers would deal with armed visitors, reports the Associated Press. When Republican Gov. Terry Branstad signs the measure Thursday as part of a wide-ranging gun bill, it will mirror similar activity at statehouses around the U.S. in recent years. Under the provision approved by the GOP-controlled Legislature, any U.S. resident with a valid weapons permit could bring a concealed handgun into the Iowa Capitol. About 275,000 people in Iowa have such a permit.

At least 17 states allow guns in their Capitols, according to data compiled by the National Rifle Association’s lobbying arm, the Institute for Legislative Action. Among states that allow guns in their Capitols, Kansas, New Mexico and Utah have no restrictions, while Florida, New Hampshire, Oregon and Wisconsin allow only concealed permit holders to be armed. Missouri and Arkansas enacted Capitol gun provisions this year. “Iowa state lawmakers know it is hypocritical of them to allow carry elsewhere but to ban it in the Capitol building,” said an NRA spokeswoman. “In the halls where freedom is celebrated, freedoms should be exercised.”


Gun Thefts From Dealers Rose 24 Percent Last Year

A manhunt is under way for Joseph Jakubowski, an anti-government extremist. Surveillance video shows Jakubowski using a hammer to break into a store in Janesville, Wi., home of House Speaker Paul Ryan, and scoop up handfuls of handguns from a display case before fleeing.

Some 18,394 guns were lost or stolen from federally licensed dealers last year, a 24 percent increase from the years before and the first time since at least 2012 that thefts rivaled losses as the primary reason weapons went missing from dealers, says the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives,  reports The Trace. The tally includes 7,488 guns that were taken during burglaries, 1,423 in larcenies — police parlance for shoplifting — and 370 in robberies, brazen cases where the thief wielded a weapon or threatened violence to make off with firearms.

Armageddon Supplies in the Janesville, Wi., home of House Speaker Paul Ryan, was burglarized last week by Joseph Jakubowski, an anti-government extremist who is now the target of a massive manhunt. Surveillance video shows Jakubowski using a hammer to break the store’s front door window and jumping in. The video then recorded Jakubowski scooping up handfuls of handguns from a display case before fleeing. Wisconsin is one of 41 states that do not require gun stores to secure their inventory with gun safes or locks; surveillance systems or alarms; bars on the windows; or barriers to prevent cars smashing through the front door. Before he robbed Armageddon, Jakubowski mailed a 160-page manifesto to President Trump threatening to attack public officials and schools. More than 150 state and federal law enforcement officers are involved in the hunt for Jakubowski. Police said they would provide Speaker Ryan and his family with extra security.



Gorsuch Views May Be Key in Pending Gun Case

With Gorsuch filling the high court’s ninth seat, the justices may decide this week whether to hear a California case on whether people who want concealed-carry permit must show “good cause.”

Neil Gorsuch yesterday formally joined the Supreme Court, where he will play a deciding role in a number of high-profile cases and will vote this week on whether to take up a case asking the court to decide on concealed-carry permits in California jurisdictions, reports the San Diego Union-Tribune. The case asks whether law-abiding citizens should need to give local law-enforcement agencies a specific reason — other than generically fearing for one’s safety — to be granted permission to carry a concealed gun in counties like San Diego, where the case originated. If the Supreme Court takes the case, it could be biggest gun-rights case since the 2008 D.C. vs. Heller case that upheld the right to possess a handgun at home.

In 2009, Edward Peruta sued the San Diego County Sheriff over what he says is an unconstitutional policy that requires concealed-carry applicants to show “good cause” for their permits. The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the policy does not infringe on citizens’ Second-Amendment rights. The high court could decide whether it will take Peruta vs. California as soon as this week. Gorsuch has not offered many clues on where he stands on D.C. vs. Heller. Still, the National Rifle Association threw its support behind Gorsuch through $1 million in television ads. As a constitutional “originalist,” could Gorsuch interpret the Second Amendment as a “right to keep and bear arms” beyond one’s home?


More Gun Carrying, More Thefts, Report Finds

“There may be something about people wanting easy access to guns that makes them more susceptible to the theft of their guns,” said study co-author Deborah Azrael, a researcher at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Gun owners who carry guns outside their homes, stash them in their cars, or simply own lots of them, are more likely to have their guns stolen, says a new study published in the journal Injury Epidemiology, The Guardian reports. The study, by public health researchers at Harvard and Northeastern universities, is the first to delve into how different characteristics among gun owners can increase their risk of theft. The findings come as several cities have seen sharp jumps in gun theft reports, and as states push to ease rules for carrying guns. Many stolen guns are never recovered, but when they do resurface, it’s often in connection with a crime or in the hands of someone legally barred from possessing one. In February, a man in Leesburg, Fl., was arrested on allegations he shot his wife and daughter with a stolen gun during a family argument. Last month in Sarasota, Fl. five teenagers were charged after a revolver stolen from an apartment days earlier was found on their middle school bus.

People who own guns for protection or had carried a gun on their person in the previous month were more than three times as likely to have experienced a theft in the past five years, the report says. People who owned six or more guns, stored their guns loaded or unlocked, or kept guns in their cars were more than twice as likely to have had their weapons stolen. “There may be something about people wanting easy access to guns that makes them more susceptible to the theft of their guns,” said co-author Deborah Azrael, a researcher at the Harvard School of Public Health.


Bloomberg Gun Control Group May Spend $25 On Races

Everytown for Gun Safety helped defeat Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and enact gun-control measures in three states last year.

Michael Bloomberg’s gun control group is threatening to spend more than $25 million in 2018 races, Politico reports. Everytown for Gun Safety, funded by the billionaire former New York City mayor, is hiring new top staffers and turning much of its attention to state legislatures, while moving to a defensive posture in Washington as it tries to stop “concealed carry reciprocity” from becoming law. That measure would loosen gun laws significantly by holding gun owners to the laws of their own state when carrying their weapons in other states, no matter how different the laws are in, for example, Texas versus New York. The measure is supported by the National Rifle Association, and President Trump supports it.

Everytown touts its significant spending last year in New Hampshire, where former Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte lost narrowly, as a warning to senators up next year and 2020. The group targeted her for voting against background checks in 2013. “This is a line in the sand on this issue, there’s no question about it. The NRA wants to normalize carrying guns in public. It’s not where the American public is,” said Everytown president John Feinblatt. Last year, Bloomberg spent $25 million on Senate races and four state ballot measures on gun control, three of which passed. Brynne Craig, illary Clinton’s deputy director of state campaigns, is joining as Everytown, as is Kirk Fordham, a former GOP congressional staffer and director of the LGBT advocacy group Gill Action Fund, and Matt McTighe, former director of another LGBT group.  Americans for Responsible for Solutions, founded by former Rep. Gabby Giffords and her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, is also prioritizing the fight against legalizing concealed carry reciprocity.


Gun Industry Is Poised to Shrink Under Trump

With a gun-friendly president and Congress, there is less demand for weapons than there was during the Obama administration.

President Trump promised to revive manufacturing in the U.S., but one once-burgeoning sector is poised to shrink under his watch: the gun industry, the Associated Press reports. Fears of government limits on guns led to a surge in demand during President Obama’s tenure, and manufacturers leapt to keep up. Over the decade ending in 2015, the number of U.S. companies licensed to make firearms jumped 362 percent. Now, sales are down and the bubble appears to be bursting with a staunch advocate for gun rights in the White House and Republicans ruling Congress. “The trends really almost since Election Day or election night have been that gun sales have slacked off,” said Robert Spitzer, political science department chairman at State University of New York at Cortland.

The pendulum swing is apparent at Battle Rifle Co., tucked into a strip mall outside Houston, with a storefront section featuring cases filled with handguns and walls lined with assault rifle-style long guns. “President Obama was the best gun salesman the world has ever seen,” said production manager Karl Sorken, an Army veteran who voted for Obama. “You might have people who were more inclined to buy because they were worried they might not be able to later. That’s going away for sure.” There are nearly 10,500 U.S. gunmakers, many of them founded since 2000, said Larry Keane of the National Shooting Sports Foundation. Many are drawn to long guns. Sales for them rose after a Clinton-era ban on “assault weapons” expired in 2004. Politicians’ threats to restrict them drove demand. Shooting sports grew in popularity, and returning veterans sought out weapons they used in Iraq and Afghanistan. From 2004 to 2013, sales of all handguns — pistols and revolvers — increased nearly fivefold, and sales of rifles tripled.


When Will Trump Convene His Coalition of Gun Advisers?

One officer of a coalition announced by President Trump a few days before the November election says the president’s son will have a big role in the effort, saying, “this whole thing is about providing policy and legislative recommendations for the new administration through Donald Trump Jr.”

A few days before the November election, Donald Trump announced the formation of a coalition of gun enthusiasts to advise him on Second Amendment issues. He hasn’t mentioned them since, USA Today reports. The coalition hasn’t convened, and it’s unclear when, or whether, that will happen. “I suspect there’s more things on the president’s plate of higher urgency,” said coalition co-chairman Michael Kassnar, an executive with IWI US, a subsidiary of an Israeli small arms manufacturer. The White House now calls the group a “campaign coalition.”

Co-chairman John Boch believes Donald Trump Jr., an avid outdoorsman, will serve as a conduit between the advisory group and the White House. He and National Rifle Association lobbyist Chris Cox were tapped to lead the group. “As it was explained to me, this whole thing is about providing policy and legislative recommendations for the new administration through Donald Trump Jr.,” said Boch, of the nonprofit Guns Save Life Inc. Several co-chairs of the coalition said the Trump administration should pursue legislation to nationalize concealed carry permits, a top priority for gun advocates that Trump says he supports. Another priority is legislation to make it easier to buy firearms suppressors, or silencers.


TX Considers Allowing Concealed Guns Without Permit

Backers want Texas to join 11 other states that don’t require gun owners to fill out an application, take gun training and pay a permit fee before carrying their handguns publicly.

Despite law enforcement concerns, Texans could be allowed to carry firearms concealed or openly without a permit or safety training under a proposal considered by the state House this week, reports the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. State Rep. Jonathan Stickland, said his measure known as Constitutional Carry would fully restore Texans’ Second Amendment rights. “Texans are sick of big government,” he said. “They are sick of wondering if their rights are always disappearing.” It’s unclear how far the proposal will fare in the House or the Senate.

Stickland and his supporters said it’s time Texas joins the other 11 states that don’t require gun owners to fill out an application, take gun training and pay a permit fee before carrying their handguns publicly. “I don’t think the government has a right to say you have a Second Amendment right only if you take this class and pay this fee,” he said. “Right now there is no way for us to legally carry without begging the government for permission.” Some worry that this proposal opens the door for felons and people with mental issues to end up carrying handguns in public, because the bill restricts peace officers from asking people if they are legally carrying. “We are opposed to this,” said Andrea Brauer of Texas Gun Sense, a group that pushes for gun control measures. “Training shouldn’t be optional. Licensing shouldn’t be optional. With this bill, anybody can carry with absolutely no oversight. It really puts public safety at risk.”



ATF Will Hit the Road in a Rolling Ballistic Forensic Lab

The new van is equipped with state-of-the-art forensic equipment to examine the markings left behind on casings expelled from fired guns, which can be matched to a database of crime-scene casings. It will travel to places where law enforcement might not have the resources to analyze ballistic evidence.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives unveiled a state-of-the art mobile forensic lab this week designed to travel around the country to help law enforcement probe cases involving guns, reports the Washington Post.  The new van is the first of its kind and will become part of the agency’s National Integrated Ballistic Information Network, which allows investigators to examine the markings left behind on casings expelled from fired guns and compare them to a database of other casings found at other crime scenes. The van will go to places where law enforcement might not have the resources to analyze ballistic evidence, said the ATF’s Jim Ferguson.

Like other facilities that analyze ballistic evidence, the van will allow technicians to capture digital images of the unique “fingerprint” that individual guns leave on spent bullets and cartridge cases and compare them to the network of “fingerprints” from other crime scenes. Ferguson said anywhere from 20,000 to 30,000 items are entered into the network’s database monthly from 172 sites and 3,500 agencies nationwide, a jump from the roughly 10,000 to 12,000 monthly submissions two years ago.