Feds launch national anti-gun trafficking effort even as ATF focuses on ‘straw purchases’

Border Report Tour

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – A federal agency has launched a campaign to slow the trafficking of guns here and across the border.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ Anti-Firearms Trafficking public safety initiative consists of public service announcements, posters and a tip line that allows citizens to report illegal gun sales, trafficking and individuals who ask others to buy guns on their behalf. The latter practice is known as “straw purchases” of guns.

“A straw purchase is a person purchasing a firearm that is not for their personal use or is intended to go to a person who is prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm,” said Richard Chmielewski, resident agent in charge of the ATF Las Cruces, New Mexico Field Office.

The initiative comes in addition to ongoing enforcement actions such as the multi-agency Operation Southbound, which has been in force since April 2020 aiming to disrupt firearms trafficking to Mexico.

Chmielewski declined to comment specifically on gun-running into Mexico, which that country’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has decried in public statements urging the U.S. to do something about it.

Law enforcement officials have said many of those guns are part of the “straw purchase” phenomenon and is motivated by financial gain. However, they point out not all of the guns acquired under false pretense on the border go to the cartels in Mexico. Many, they say, are purchased on behalf of convicted felons, gang members and other people in the U.S. who are ineligible to legally acquire a firearm.

The tip line to report firearms violations is 1-800-ATF-GUNS (1-800-283-4867).

According to the ATF website, the agency in the fiscal year 2020 initiated 39,449 criminal firearms investigations, recommended 8025 cases for prosecution and contributed to 6,934 indictments.

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