Feds Want Reporting for High-Powered Rifle Sales

December 20, 2010 - 6:32 PM

Washington (AP) - The federal agency that monitors gun sales wants weapons dealers near the Mexican border to start reporting multiple sales of high-powered rifles, according to a notice published in the Federal Register.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has asked the White House budget office to approve an emergency request requiring border-area gun dealers to report the sales of two or more rifles to the same customer within a five-day period.

The emergency request, published Friday in the Federal Register, is likely to face stiff opposition from gun rights advocates, including the National Rifle Association. ATF wants the Office of Budget Management to approve the request by Jan. 5.

NRA officials did not immediately return a telephone message for comment Monday. Last week the group's chief lobbyist, Chris Cox, told the Washington Post that the "NRA supports legitimate efforts to stop criminal activity, but we will not stand idle while our Second Amendment is sacrificed for politics." The Post first reported the proposal.

High-powered rifles have become the weapon of choice for Mexico's warring drug cartel. More than 30,000 people have been killed in Mexico's drug war since President Felipe Calderon launched an offensive against the powerful drug gangs shortly after taking office in late 2006.

Officials on both sides of the border have said weapons bought legally in the United States are routinely smuggled into the Mexico. The proposed reporting requirement would apply to sales of two or more semi-automatic guns more powerful than .22-caliber rifles that use a detachable magazine within a five-day period.

ATF, which tracks weapons found in Mexico and has tied tens of thousands of recovered guns to U.S. dealers, has been criticized for not doing enough to curb the flow of guns to Mexico, where firearms sales are highly restricted.

Last month a Justice Department report on the agency's Operation Gunrunner criticized the program as being narrowly focused on individual gun buyers and not larger smuggling organizations believed responsible for significant numbers of guns being shipped across the border.

Currently there are no reporting requirements for rifles.

If approved by the White House, the new reporting requirement would affect nearly 8,500 border-area gun dealers in Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas and be in place for 180 days.