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Gun Show Attendees Subjected To Government Monitoring

October 10, 2016

As we learned earlier this week, federal law enforcement officials have been secretly enlisting the help of local police to record the license plates of gun show attendees. The practice has drawn outrage from the gun owning community and civil liberty advocates alike, with calls for a probe of the practice by the House Oversight Committee. Both NRA and CRPA are investigating the actions of state police, who are often “cross-designated” as federal agents to give them federal authority. As a result, exactly what agency was leading this effort still needs to be determined.

For over 10 years, NRA and CRPA have been warning gun show attendees about undercover police working at gun shows in California, Nevada, and Arizona. Every violation of the law at a gun show is politicized and ultimately used by the gun ban lobby to advance its cultural and political war against civilian firearms ownership. It’s more important than ever to ensure that any firearm transactions are properly processed by a licensed firearms dealer, and that gun owners refuse to participate in illegal transactions.

Just last year, the American Civil Liberties Union obtained information on a secretive program between the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives to track gun show attendance using automatic license plate readers. DEA emails stated that their “Phoenix Division Office is working closely with ATF on attacking the guns going to [redacted] and the gun shows, to include programs/operation with LPRs at the gun shows.” In its response to the discovery, DEA was quick to deny that the activity was taking place, stating that the program was merely a “proposal” and was “never” implemented.

But just this week, the Wall Street Journal reported that, contrary to earlier denials, newly surfaced email communications illustrate that the federal government has in fact been using license plate readers at gun shows in Southern California, including the Crossroads of the West gun show at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, since 2010. The emails also reveal how Federal agents intended to use the license plate scanner technology at other gun shows in California, including shows held at Ontario and Costa Mesa, with one federal agent stating in an email that they were “good to go on all of them.”

At this time, it is unclear if the government has kept or intends to keep the records it has collected so far. The government claims the practice was aimed at identifying illegal gun traffickers, yet failed to identify a single instance in which the collected information led to an arrest or conviction. As a result, the only real effect of the program is an unjustified infringement on civil liberties.

Even the CEO of PlateSmart Technologies, Inc., the company responsible for manufacturing the license plate readers, called the practice “an abuse of the technology.”

Attendees should know that Federal, State, and local law enforcement have continuously stepped up efforts to enforce firearm laws, particularly at gun shows in California and bordering states. Civilian informants and undercover plainclothes law enforcement officers regularly conduct “stings” by enticing gun buyers and sellers to forego the requirement that a gun sale be processed by a licensed California firearms dealer. Should you be unsure of the legalities surrounding a particular transaction, we encourage you to ask a licensed dealer, a uniformed officer, or the show’s main office where free information is available summarizing California firearm law and interstate firearms transactions.

As we learned earlier this week, federal law enforcement officials have been secretly enlisting the help of local police to record the license plates of gun show attendees. The practice has drawn outrage from the gun owning community and civil liberty advocates alike, with calls for a probe of the practice by the House Oversight Committee. Both NRA and CRPA are investigating the actions of state police, who are often “cross-designated” as federal agents to give them federal authority. As a result, exactly what agency was leading this effort still needs to be determined.

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