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Posted: 2/16/2006 6:06:33 AM EDT
Link Posted: 2/16/2006 6:10:09 AM EDT
Link Posted: 2/16/2006 6:24:51 AM EDT
WOW.  Everyone needs to read this, including the witness and opening statements.

Was this made known on the board?
Link Posted: 2/16/2006 6:25:07 AM EDT
Link Posted: 2/16/2006 6:34:31 AM EDT
Link Posted: 2/16/2006 6:45:33 AM EDT
us VA peeps know about it, very well
Link Posted: 2/16/2006 6:48:29 AM EDT
Link Posted: 2/16/2006 6:49:59 AM EDT
Link Posted: 2/16/2006 9:00:13 AM EDT
Link Posted: 2/16/2006 9:44:08 AM EDT

Statement of the Honorable Howard Coble, Chairman United States House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security Oversight hearing of The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE): Part 1: Gun Show Enforcement February 15, 2006, 4:00 p.m.

Today the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security convenes the first in a series of hearings of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. This hearing will examine the ATF’s operations at Richmond, Virginia area gun shows between May of 2004 and August of 2005. Specifically, we will focus on ATF’s residency check program, and its straw purchase enforcement, as well as allegations of racial profiling by the ATF and possible attempts by its agents to intimidate lawful gun purchasers from purchasing weapons.

At the outset, I want to be clear that this is not an indictment of the ATF. Serious allegations have been made regarding the activities and behavior of the ATF. As such, we will be given first hand testimony from four citizen eyewitnesses who have bravely volunteered to come forward and testify. Of course, in order to be fair and conduct a thorough inquiry, we will provide ATF with an opportunity to testify and respond to these allegations at a hearing following the Presidents’ Day recess. This hearing is in no way an attempt to impugn or diminish the reputation or dedication of the ATF and its agents. However, we have a responsibility to review these allegations to determine their veracity.

I am certain that every member of this Subcommittee will agree that ATF has a daunting task when it comes to keeping illegal guns off our streets and out of the hands of criminals. However, this responsibility should not come at the expense of civil liberties and the rights of individuals to engage in lawful commerce. When allegations arise that ATF may be compromising these long cherished Constitutional rights of American citizens, it is our job to collect all of the relevant facts and ensure that these types of practices have not occurred and will never be repeated.

Between May of 2004 and August of 2005, ATF conducted a series of 8 gun show operations in the Richmond area. These operations were conducted in conjunction with the Virginia State Police, the Henrico County Police Department and the Richmond Police Department. According to the Virginia State police, these operations were intended to “reduce the number of firearms being purchased and transferred to prohibited persons who may be involved in criminal and gang related activities.” We applaud this stated intention, but take issue with the manner in which it was allegedly carried out. The ATF has confirmed stories from witnesses that 49 agents and police officers were assigned to just one gun show. We must determine whether this is a proper allocation of resources, particularly in light of recent crime statistics showing a rise in homicides in metropolitan areas. Certainly, 49 law enforcement officers could have found a better way to curb criminal activity in the Richmond area.

In addition, I am deeply troubled by allegations that ATF activity had a chilling effect on lawful purchases by legitimate customers exercising their Second amendment rights. ATF conducted a full scale residency check on every single person, residing in the City of Richmond or Henrico County, who purchased or attempted to purchase a firearm. Uniformed law enforcement went to the homes of the purchasers and knocked on their doors and the doors of their neighbors. When conducting these residency checks, law enforcement officers would ask for a full description of the individual attempting to purchase the firearm, where he or she works, how many firearms the potential purchaser already owns, and, in some instances, how the individual being interviewed felt about the fact that the potential purchaser was attempting to buy a firearm. A normal residency check entails verifying a state driver’s license and another form of identification with a matching address. As a result of the residency checks, the wait time before a purchase could be approved went from approximately a half an hour to up to four hours and in some cases overnight. Many potential purchasers simply walked away from the transaction as a result of the wait time.

During these gun shows, ATF admits to stopping and interviewing approximately 206 individuals as a result of their attendance at or purchase of a firearm at the gun show. Additionally, 50 individuals had their firearms seized by ATF and were provided with a letter indicating that these individuals may have knowingly made a false statement to a firearms dealer, a crime punishable by imprisonment for up to five years. These 50 individuals were ordered to appear at the local ATF office to discuss their transactions and were warned that failure to appear could result in a federal arrest warrant being issued for the alleged charges. A copy of this letter is on display in the hearing room and will be made part of the record.

According to ATF, seven convictions for “straw purchases” and three convictions for knowingly making a false statement to a firearms dealer have been obtained as a result of the Richmond gun show operations. Another six are pending prosecution. There were sixteen additional convictions obtained on various other crimes committed. While I applaud ATF for obtaining these convictions, I think they need to be put into the context of 206 stops and 50 seizures of property. How many law abiding citizens were unnecessarily caught up in this operation for no other reason than legally purchasing a firearm? It should be asked – and I certainly hope ATF will answer – on what basis and legal authority this letter was issued and on what probable cause ATF acted.

I look forward to our witnesses’ testimony and hope that it can shed some light on the allegations we have heard concerning ATF’s gun show operations in Richmond. Before I introduce our witnesses, let me recognize the Ranking Member of this Subcommittee, the distinguished gentleman from Virginia, Mr. Bobby Scott.
Link Posted: 2/16/2006 9:58:36 AM EDT
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