Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, says Attorney General Merrick Garland’s recent crackdown on firearm straw purchases may be infringing on Americans’ rights.
Ernst sent a letter to Garland on Tuesday stating that while enforcing laws against straw purchasing firearms is important, the Department of Justice must be clear on its methods. “Straw purchase” refers to the practice of an individual purchasing a firearm on behalf of someone else, which is illegal.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms and Tobacco (ATF) started cracking down on the purchases in July.
“Several reports and videos have surfaced detailing ATF agents engaging in ‘knock and talk’ investigations of straw purchases,” Ernst wrote in the letter obtained by Fox News Digital. “During the course of these ‘knock and talk’ investigations, ATF agents knock on the front door of a private residence and ask the resident to display a recently purchased firearm as proof that the resident did not conduct a straw purchase. In all of the ‘knock and talk’ incidents brought to my attention, none involved the presentation of a warrant.”
Ernst says ATF agents often arrive at the house in full gear, wearing bulletproof vests and do not inform residents at the homes that producing the firearm was optional.
“The combination of these factors calls into question whether the ATF’s actions are meant to harass or coerce firearm purchasers into, at best, legally questionable ‘investigations,’” she stated.
The senator is requesting that Garland provide details about the ATF investigations, including how the organization establishes probable cause to conduct these visits, as well as whether they obtain a warrant.
She also called on the ATF to reveal how many “knock and talks” they have conducted since the ramp-up began in late July. The letter requests that Garland responds within 30 days.
Footage from one knock-and-talk incident in July shows ATF agents arrive at a Delaware man’s home. The man had reportedly purchased seven firearms since January.
Agents on the scene admitted to the man that they did not have a warrant. They also offered some insight into how they choose to make a visit.
“The idea is that when you purchase more than two guns at a time it generates a multiple sales report, and it comes to us, and we have to check them out,” the agent said to the citizen. “That’s all that is. You did nothing wrong – absolutely zero.”
The man ultimately produced one of the firearms. The agents then matched the serial number and left.