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March 2018
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Tag: ATF

Ganja or Guns? Sessions’ Crusade Against Marijuana Imperils Firearm Ownership

By Steve Neavling

Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ zealous opposition to marijuana has placed the gun-loving Trump administration in the crosshairs of many firearm supporters. 

When Sessions gave federal prosecutors the green light two weeks ago to crack down on marijuana in states that have legalized it for medicinal or recreation use, he placed gun owners in a serious bind: Federal law prohibits the sale of firearms to anyone suspected of using cannabis or any other other controlled substance.

Although marijuana is illegal on the federal level, 29 states have legalized cannabis in some form.

Under President Obama, U.S. attorneys acted in accordance with each state’s marijuana laws, largely disregarding the federal ban.

But Sessions, who has compared marijuana to heroin, blamed pot for spikes in violence and declared that “good people don’t smoke it,” has opened the door for federal law enforcement to bar marijuana users from buying guns.

“There are no exceptions in federal law for marijuana purportedly used for medicinal purposes, even if such use is sanctioned by state law,” ATF spokeswoman Cherie R. Duvall-Jones told the Philadelphia Inquirer

That means many pot smokers may have to choose between ganja or guns.

In Pennsylvania, which plans to roll out its medicinal marijuana program early this year, health officials announced Friday they will no longer provide the names of medical marijuana patients to law enforcement agencies.

The state also called for the federal government to reclassify marijuana so it’s legal on the national level. 

“Pennsylvania, and the other 28 states where medical marijuana is legal, need the federal government to recognize what voters and bipartisan legislatures across the nation have overwhelmingly called for, and that is that medical marijuana must be rescheduled as a Schedule II medication,” the Health Department statement read.

ATF Under Fire for Controversial Stings Primarily Targeting African Americans

By Steve Neavling

ATF stings have come under fire because they’re predominately targeting African Americans and prompting allegations of racial profiling and entrapment.

The Chicago Tribune reports that the ATF has “convinced hundreds of would-be robbers across the country that they were stealing large quantities of narcotics, only to find out the drugs were a figment of the government’s imagination.” 

Because of mandatory federal sentencing laws, suspects caught up in the controversial stings are spending decades or even life behind bars, even though the drugs never existed.

The Tribune wrote:

Now the legal battle is coming to a head in an unprecedented hearing at the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse in Chicago before a panel of nine district judges overseeing a dozen separate cases involving more than 40 defendants.

The hearing, which has been four years in the making, will take place over two days in the courthouse’s large ceremonial courtroom. As many as 30 defendants, their relatives and individual attorneys are expected to attend, and an overflow courtroom has been set up to handle the anticipated crowd.

“In my 46 years of practicing law, I’ve never seen anything like this before,” attorney Richard Kling, who represents one of the defendants, told the Chicago Tribune this week.

The testimony will focus on dueling experts who reached starkly different conclusions about the racial breakdown of targets in the stash house cases.

A nationally renowned expert hired by the Federal Criminal Justice Clinic at the University of Chicago Law School — which is spearheading the effort to have the cases dismissed — concluded that disparity between minority and white defendants in the stings was so large that there was “a zero percent likelihood” it happened by chance.

Other Stories of Interest

ATF to Determine if It has Authority to Ban Bump Stocks on Weapons

Acting head of ATF Thomas Brandon.

By Allan Lengel

Two months after the Las Vegas shooting, ATF said it has begun reviewing whether it has the authority to ban bump stocks, a device that allowed the shooter to essentially convert weapons into automatic ones, the Sacramento Bee reports.

Lawmakers have called on ATF officials to determine whether the agency has the authority to regulate bump stocks without congressional action.

ATF’s Acting Director Thomas E. Brandon is testifying in front of a Senate committee hearing about the issue this week.

Those like Sen. Dianne Feinstein believe Congress should pass legislation addressing the issue rather than relying on ATF to make changes.


FBI Allows Tens of Thousands of People with Outstanding Warrants to Buy Guns

By Steve Neavling

The names of tens of thousands of people wanted by police have been purged from the FBI criminal background check database this year after the FBI narrowed its legal interpretation of “fugitives from justice.”

In February, the FBI said only people who have crossed state lines are considered “fugitives from justice,” prompting the removal of tens of thousands of names, the Washington Post reports

That means fugitives under the old definition can now buy guns, unless they are barred for some other reason. In other words, people with outstanding warrants are now allowed to buy firearms.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he ordered the FBI and ATF to conduct a comprehensive review of the criminal background check database.

Other Stories of Interest

FBI, ATF Help in Manhunt Following Fatal Shooting of Pennsylvania Officer

Photo via FBI

By Steve Neavling

The ATF and FBI have joined the hunt for a suspect in the fatal shooting of a rookie cop in Pennsylvania.

An arrest warrant has been issued for 29-year-old Rahmael Sal Holt, who is accused of killing New Kensington Officer Brian Shaw during a traffic stop Friday night, KDKA/AP reports.

Holt has a lengthy criminal record, ranging from assault to carrying a firearm without a license.

The 25-year-old rookie officer was chasing Holt on foot when the cop was shot in the chest. 

The FBI, U.S. Marshall’s Service and ATF contributed a combined $40,000 in reward money for the capture of Holt.

Other Stories of Interest

Four in Custody in Theft of ATF Car in California

ATF Logo

By Allan Lengel

Four suspects accused of stealing an unmarked ATF car with guns in La Jolla, Calif., were in custody Monday, NBC 7 reports.

The car vanished last Thursday.  Government property and personal belongings have been recovered from the suspects.

The theft took place in the morning along Black Gold Road near Black’s Beach, the station reported.

How FBI, ATF Are Assisting Las Vegas Authorities Investigate Mass Shooting

fbigunbadgeBy Steve Neavling

The FBI and ATF are assisting local law enforcement in Las Vegas determine whether the gunman responsible for the mass shooting during the music festival acted alone.

While local authorities are taking the lead in the investigation, the federal agencies are helping gather evidence.

“When you have a mass shooting scene like Las Vegas, you are talking about a lot of manpower,” Dana Ridenour, a retired FBI agent who was part of its Evidence Response Team that traveled to New York following the 9/11 attacks, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

“You have to bag and collect all that evidence,” Ridenour said.

Federal authorities would take the lead if the shooting was considered a terrorist attack. Since it’s not, the feds are taking a supportive role.

“The FBI is vital in the assistance of this investigation,” Sheriff Joe Lombardo said moments after the Oct. 1 tragedy occurred. “They are providing federal resources available in this investigation.”

New ATF SAC in Phoenix Wants to Focus on Infiltrating Criminal Groups

By Allan Lengel

John Durastanti, the new head of ATF in Phoenix, is taking aim at groups involved in violence, people he refers to as “trigger pullers.”

“Those gangs, those groups that are contributing to the most violence in any community, that’s one of our priorities. Our primary goals? Go in, infiltrate those gangs and take them off the streets,” he tells 3TV/CBS5.

He came from ATF headquarters in D.C.

3TV | CBS 5