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Justice Department, gun owners, at odds over restrictions on rifle sales

The Associated Press reports the federal government is telling gun sellers in border states that they must report anyone who has purchased two high-powered rifles within a five day period.

The guidelines affect New Mexico, California, Arizona, and Texas.

The Justice Department made the argument before a judge after a coalition of gun store owners protested the two-month old rule. Federal lawyers argued before a judge that the restrictions curb the in-flow of weapons to Mexican drug cartels.

From the AP:

It requires sellers in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas to give the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives information about purchasers who buy two or more semi-automatic rifles greater than .22 caliber within five days.

Justice Department attorney Daniel Reiss said having a database of multiple purchasers gives ATF agents the power to trace gun sales within minutes, rather than a multi-day effort to trace the weapons back through the manufacturer, to the seller and eventually the buyer. He said two investigations have already been opened in the short time that the new reporting has been required.

“Without these reports it’s very difficult to identify these straw purchasers” who are buying the guns to pass on to the drug cartels, he said.

U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer questioned whether monitoring lawful gun sales is an appropriate way to stop the flow of guns to Mexican gangs. The requirement was imposed amid controversy over ATF’s Operation Fast and Furious which tried to track guns suspected of being bought by straw purchasers back to gun-smuggling ringleaders, who have long eluded law enforcement. But ATF agents lost track of 1,400 of the more than 2,000 guns identified by Fast and Furious as possibly straw purchases.

This is the second time in recent weeks federal government pressed on New Mexico gun regulations.

Earlier, The New Mexico Independent reported on a letter sent to gun store owners by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The owners were instructed to withhold the sale of arms or munitions to anyone suspected of having an interaction or addiction to prescription drugs, including marijuana.

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