Ravenwood - 08/29/05 05:00 PM
Two weeks ago, a story started to break about the ATF questioning the family and neighbors of prospective gun purchasers. Gun dealers at the Richmond (VA) gun show would turn in the paperwork required to conduct a background check on gun buyers. While the paperwork was being processed, the ATF would grab their name and address and dispatch officers to their home to question friends and family members about their purchase. Officers would ask friends (and sometimes neighbors) questions like: "Did you know your husband was going to a gun show today?" "Did you know your husband was going to buy a gun today?" "Did you know that your neighbor was buying a gun today? How do you feel about him doing so?"
The "residency checks" as the ATF called them were not only heavy handed, but probably violated federal privacy laws.
At first the idea of federal agents and police visiting your home while you were waiting to buy a gun seemed absurd. But now the Virginia Citizens Defense League has the smoking gun. [link in PDF]
In an email, VCDL President Philip Van Cleave points out that this wasn't the first time:
One of VCDL's members did a Freedom of Information Act request to the Virginia State Police on the BATFE 'residency check' scheme that was being run on purchasers at the last Richmond gun show...These "residency checks" have been going on since at least July of 2004 and as of January 2005, 43 firearms have been confiscated for various reasons. So far this appears to be limited to the Richmond Regional Office, but may in fact be happening in other cities across the country.
The first three pages talk about the last gun show. The fourth page was created sometime before March of this year.
Notice on page four that 'residency checks' have been going on for at least a year! I'm surprised that we didn't learn about it earlier. I would guess that many people either didn't know who to notify or, more likely, were too intimidated...
Also it is noted on the third page that "Twenty-one individuals were deterred from making purchases due to questioning by Task Force members." It doesn't say that those were all criminals buying guns. It is very likely that it spooked off mostly legitimate gun purchasers who didn't want to purchase a gun in an oppressive environment where the police were hanging around and appeared to be chomping at the bit to bust someone.
Finally, it is noted on page three that the BATFE is only suspending the 'residency check' scheme, not terminating it. Thus, it could rear its ugly head in a more covert manner in the future.
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