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Tag: NRA

Ex-ATF Official Talks About the Power of Gun Rights Groups and the Agency’s Director Position


David Chipman

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

David Chipman knows a thing or two about guns. The Michigan  native worked as an agent and official at the Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) in Detroit and elsewhere for 25 years, enforcing the nation’s gun laws.

These days, he works for the Washington-based organization, Giffords: Courage to Fight Gun Violence. The group was founded by former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who was shot and wounded in 2011, and her husband Mark Kelly, a former astrounaut, who is running for U.S. Senate in Arizona. The mission is to advocate for sensible gun laws, policies and ways to make communities safer.

Chipman talked to Allan Lengel, editor of ticklethewire and a sister publication, Deadline Detroit, about the influence of guns rights groups like the NRA and what it will take in Washington to make notable inroads against gun violence.

Editorial From Valley News: ATF’s Firearms Tracing Hurt by Absurd Law

By Valley News Editorial Board

When law enforcement agents seek information on guns found at crime scenes, they call the firearms tracing center of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Agents at the tracing center, in West Virginia, then try to establish a chain of custody based on the gun’s serial number, manufacturer, distributor and retailer.

The agents pursue this task in the most inefficient, wasteful and time-consuming manner imaginable, manually searching records — about 800 million of them — because federal law purportedly prevents the center from organizing them into a searchable digital database.

This absurd prohibition needs to be lifted.

The law, the 1986 Firearms Owners’ Protection Act, resulted from a marriage of ideological rigidity and political cowardice. It expressly prohibits “any system of registration of firearms, firearms owners, or firearms transactions or dispositions.”

Of course, if a gun sale is legal, and it’s made by a federally licensed dealer, then all that information exists. The National Rifle Association doesn’t want officers of the law to be able to access it efficiently.

To read the full editorial click here. 

Trump Directs Justice Department to Propose Regulations to Ban Bump Stocks

File photo of guns, via ATF

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

President Trump, in a significant departure from his uncompromising, pro-NRA stance on guns, is directing the Justice Department to propose regulations to “ban all devices” such as the bump stocks used in the Las Vegas mass shooting.

Under intense pressure to address the alarming proliferation of mass shooters using assault-style rifles, Trump has indicated it’s time to move swiftly on guns designed to kill a lot of people.

“We must move past clichés and tired debates and focus on evidence based solutions and security measures that actually work,” Trump said during a White House ceremony.

The Florida school shooting that left 17 people dead at Majority Stoneman Douglas High School has placed on pressure on NRA-supporting Republicans to finally get tough on assault-style guns. They failed to act on a ban bump stocks last year.

Even the predominately conservative Florida state legislature, after many years of reluctance, is drafting legislation to reduce access to semiautomatic rifles.

“The Parkland shooting seems to be a change moment in terms of the way Republicans view gun control measures,” said Mac Stipanovich, a longtime Florida Republican lobbyist and operative.

On legislation drafted by state Senate President Bill Galvano, Stipanovich said, “None of these are necessarily earth-shaking, but all of them, at least in recent times, are unprecedented in the Florida Legislature.”

Protests broke out across the country over Republicans’ failure to address gun control.

Russian-Linked Bots Suspected of Sowing Divisions Immediately After Florida School Shooting

Cyber crime expert, via FBI.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Suspected Russian-linked Twitter accounts pounced on the gun control debate just an hour after last week’s school shooting in Florida.

Many of the social media accounts, the New York Times reports, had been the target of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference during the presidential election in 2016. 

“This is pretty typical for them, to hop on breaking news like this,” said Jonathon Morgan, chief executive of New Knowledge, a company that tracks online disinformation campaigns. “The bots focus on anything that is divisive for Americans. Almost systematically.”

The news comes after last week’s indictments of 13 Russians accused of waging an unprecedented propaganda campaign to help Donald Trump get elected.

To experts on disinformation campaigns, it’s no surprise that Russian agents quickly seized the opportunity to sow division among Americans. The bots are designed to pit Americans against each other on divisive issues such as gun control, race and immigration.

The bots are “going to find any contentious issue, and instead of making it an opportunity for compromise and negotiation, they turn it into an unsolvable issue bubbling with frustration,” said Karen North, a social media professor at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. “It just heightens that frustration and anger.”

Top intelligence officials warned Congress earlier this month that Russian agents, emboldened by their success during the presidential campaign, are planning a similar disinformation campaign during the mid-term elections this year.

The automated Twitter accounts pounced on the hashtag #Parklandshooting, injecting the issue of metal illness in the gun control debate. Some of the accounts also claimed the gunman searched for Arabic phrases on Google before the massacre.

FBI Investigating Whether Suspected Russian Mobster Funneled Money to NRA to Help Trump During Election

Russian banker Alexander Torshin, via Wikipedia

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The FBI is investigating whether a Russian banker with ties to the Kremlin, mobsters and money laundering illegally funneled money to the National Rifle Association to help Donald Trump win the presidency.

Two sources familiar with the investigation told McClatchy that FBI counterintelligence investigators are scrutinizing the activities of Aleksander Torshin, who has been described as a godfather of a major Russian criminal organization.

Torshin, a leading figure in President Vladimir Putin’s party, is a lifetime member of the NRA. Authorities said Torshin met with Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., at an NRA event in Kentucky in May 2016, when his father won an early endorsement from the gun-rights group.

The investigation comes as special counsel Robert Mueller continues a far-reaching probe into alleged collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russia to undermine Hillary Clinton’s chances of winning the 2016 election. 

ATF: Gun Store Thefts Surge for Fifth Straight Year, Setting Records in 2017

ATF photo

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Thieves stole an alarming number of firearms from gun stores and other licensed dealers in 2017, setting a new record for the fifth consecutive year, according to annual statistics compiled by the ATF.

Burglaries and robberies resulted in the theft of 8,129 stolen guns from licensed firearms dealers across the country in 2017, a 3.3% increase over 2016.

Since 2013, the number of stolen guns has surged more than 135%.

Also on the rise for the fifth consecutive year was the number of gun stores that were robbed or burglarized. In 2017, 610 stores were targeted by thieves, compared to 347 in 2013.

Alarmed by the five-year upward trend, the ATF is urging gun dealers to create stronger security measures. Stolen firearms are particularly worrisome because they’re disproportionately used to commit violent crimes, according to numerous studies.

Without federal security requirements, gun store owners in most states are free to operate with no safeguards.

The surge in stolen guns has prompted federal lawmakers to introduce legislation to combat firearm theft. 

In October, many Democrats in the Senate have supported a measure that would require gun dealers to secure their firearms in a locked safe or vault after the store closes. But the proposal is opposed by the National Rifle Association because of potentially detrimental costs, and not one Republican  has offered to cosponsor the legislation.

The proposal with the best chance of passing was introduced by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and it calls for stiffer jail sentences for gun thieves.   Even many Democrats have pledged to support the bill.

FBI’s Gun Background Checks Are Missing Millions of Problematic Cases

background checkBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Millions of people who should be barred from legally buying guns may still be eligible to purchase a firearm because government agencies are failing to alert the FBI’s background-check system of citizens with criminal convictions and mental illnesses.

The Air Force, for example, acknowledged it erred by failing to notify the FBI of the Texas church shooter who killed 26 people earlier this month. The gunman had been court-martialed on charges of beating his wife and child. He also escaped a mental health institution after threatening to kill superiors.

The Air Force’s failure to flag the former airman is part of a larger systemic breakdown in which government agencies are failing to forward criminal records and mental health diagnoses to the FBI gun background checks, the Washington Post reports

The FBI is uncertain how widespread the problem is, but the NRA estimates about 7 million records are missing from the system, according to a 2013 report by the nonprofit National Consortium for Justice Information and Statistics. The reported found that “at least 25% of felony convictions … are not available” to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

NRA’s Influence Over Congress Leaves ATF Understaffed

atf-gunsBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Even if the government decided to take away people’s guns, the ATF is so understaffed that it would be unable to follow through.

“Look, we don’t have the people,” Corey Ray, an ATF spokesman told Mother Jones. “Even if we were like, ‘Yeah, we’re coming to take your guns,’ 30 years from now you might get a knock on your door.”

The ATF said the lack of manpower is the result of the NRA’s powerful influence over Congress.

“Look, we don’t have the people,” Corey Ray, an ATF spokesman told Mother Jones.  “Even if we were like, ‘Yeah, we’re coming to take your guns,’ 30 years from now you might get a knock on your door.”

The ATF estimates that there are more guns than people in the U.S., and an additional 10 million new guns are manufactured every year.

To put that into perspective, the ATF has 2,600 special agents.