Iowa Sen. Ernst Questions ATF’s Harassment Of Legal Gun Owners

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) is calling attention to overreach and harassment of American firearm owners by Joe Biden’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

Breitbart News published a letter Ernst sent on Tuesday to Attorney General Merrick Garland asking whether the ATF is unduly coercing citizens into legally questionable investigations. She specifically addressed the agency’s tactics in investigating “straw purchases” of guns. That term describes a process where one person buys a gun on behalf of someone else.

Ernst acknowledged that straw purchases might be used in certain cases to violate federal law. However, she expressed strong concerns over recent media reports and social media posts indicating the ATF appears to be using intimidation and harassment to threaten gun owners.

She referenced recent reports showing ATF agents are engaging in “knock and talk” investigations. That technique often includes dubious ways of securing cooperation from citizens.

ATF agents typically knock on the front door of a private residence and ask an identified resident to display a recently purchased firearm, apparently to have the subject prove that they did not engage in a straw purchase for someone else.

Ernst pointed out of all “knock and talk” investigations she had reviewed, none included the presentation of a warrant of any type. Many times multiple agents dressed out in official ATF tactical gear including bulletproof vests appeared at someone’s door and failed to advise them that their compliance was optional.

The senator demanded that Garland describe the particular criteria ATF agents use to establish that probable cause of a federal crime exists before engaging in knock and talks. She also asked if warrants from judges are ever obtained and if they are not what steps are taken to ensure there is no violation of rights protected by the Fourth Amendment.

Ernst asked Garland if the ATF notifies local or state law enforcement officials before they engage in knock-and-talk investigations of straw purchases. She also asked how many knock and talk visits have been done by ATF agents without warrants.

She pointed out that even though the ATF is a federal agency, it must never operate “outside of proper legal channels.” She insisted that the agency must only conduct criminal investigations with reasonable cause and with a proper warrant issued according to the requirements of the Constitution.