Gun sellers in states on the U.S.- Mexico border will have to report to the federal government if a customer buys two or more semiautomatic rifles over five days that are greater than .22 caliber and include a detachable magazine.
The regulation will improve the government’s ability to detect illegal weapons-trafficking networks that divert firearms to criminals, said Deputy Attorney General James Cole in a statement today.
“The international expansion and increased violence of transnational criminal networks pose a significant threat to the United States,” Cole said. The requirement will help “confront the problem of illegal gun trafficking into Mexico and along the Southwest border.”
The reporting requirement, part of a one-year-pilot program, will affect about 8,500 gun sellers in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, said a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives official, who spoke on condition of anonymity and wasn’t authorized to discuss the matter. They will be required to report the purchases to the ATF within 24 hours, the official said.
The ATF has been facing congressional criticism over an operation called Fast and Furious that allowed guns to be illegally purchased in the U.S. The operation was an effort by the U.S. to track illegal shipments to Mexico and link the guns to Mexican drug cartels.
Senator Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican who has been investigating the ATF operation, criticized the reporting requirement.
“We’ve learned from our investigation of Fast and Furious that reporting multiple long-gun sales would do nothing to stop the flow of firearms to known straw purchasers because many federal firearms dealers are already voluntarily reporting suspicious transactions,” Grassley said in a statement. The policy is a “distraction” from the administration’s “reckless policy to allow guns to walk into Mexico,” Grassley said.