ATF requests info about semi-automatic rifle sales in border states

CBS
The Justice Department announced today it will require federally licensed gun shops in Texas, California, Arizona and New Mexico to report to the ATF purchases of two or more of some types of semi-automatic rifles within a five-day span by the same person.

The implementation of the new rule is an attempt to address and prevent firearm sales to "straw purchasers," people who claim to be the purchasing firearms for themselves but who are actually purchasing them on behalf of others.

In a statement today, Deputy Attorney General James Cole explained the reasoning behind the information request , saying federal, state and foreign law enforcement agencies have determined "that these kinds of rifles---greater than .22 caliber and with the ability to accept a detachable magazine---are highly sought after by dangerous drug trafficking organizations and frequently recovered at violent crime scenes near the Southwest Border."

According to the ATF, 36,148 reports of multiple sales of hand guns sales were submitted by Federal Firearms Licensees in fiscal year 2010 in the four southwest border states. ATF estimates the rule announced today will generate over 18,000 reports a year.

The reporting requirement comes on the heels of congressional hearings on the ATF's controversial "Fast and Furious" operation, in which ATF agents let guns "walk" into Mexico. As CBS News has reported, President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder both denied they approved the operation known as "Fast and Furious." The Inspector General, the House Oversight Committee under Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) are investigating.

In a memo to reporters today, Sen. Grassley called the new ATF reporting rule a "distraction" and alleged it would do little stop gun trafficking.

"We've learned from our investigation of Fast and Furious that reporting multiple long gun sales would do nothing to stop the flow of firearms to known straw purchasers, "Grassley said. "Many Federal Firearms Dealers are already voluntarily reporting suspicious transactions."

The all new
CBS News App for Android® for iPad® for iPhone®
Fully redesigned. Featuring CBSN, 24/7 live news. Get the App