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Federal Authorities To Collect More Data On Gun Buyers Along Border

The Obama White House has cleared the way for federal authorities to get more information on gun purchases along the southwest border.

Dealers who sell multiple semi-automatic weapons to the same person in a short period of time must report the sales to federal authorities.

The new rule will apply in Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas — states where illegal gun running from the U.S. to Mexico is rampant — and comes as gun trafficking along the border gets scrutiny from Congress.

Deputy Attorney General Jim Cole says people who buy several semi-automatic rifles with detachable magazines in a 5-day period will be reported to federal authorities.

Those weapons are popular among Mexican drug cartels and they're often found at crime scenes along the border. The Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms had asked for the measure last year, but the White House stalled.

The effort got revived recently, amid investigations by Republican lawmakers into a failed federal gun trafficking operation known as Fast and Furious.

As we have reported previously (see posts here and here) during Fast and Furious:

Federal investigators wanted to follow the flow of guns from the U.S. into the hands of deadly Mexican drug cartels. So, in what's become known as "gunwalking," they monitored illegal gun purchases — but allowed the buyers to walk away with the weapons. Some of the weapons, including at the scene where a U.S. border agent was killed, were traced to Fast and Furious.

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, issued a statement today saying, in part, that:

"It is the height of hypocrisy for the Obama administration to restrict the gun rights of border state citizens, when the administration itself knowingly and intentionally allowed guns to be trafficked into Mexico. ... This rule unfairly punishes citizens in Border States who have the right to purchase firearms to protect themselves and their families from dangerous drug traffickers and human smugglers."

But Cole, in a statement, said that:

"This new reporting measure — tailored to focus only on multiple sales of these types of rifles to the same person within a five-day period — will improve the ability of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to detect and disrupt the illegal weapons trafficking networks responsible for diverting firearms from lawful commerce to criminals and criminal organizations."

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Carrie Johnson is a justice correspondent for the Washington Desk.