The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and FBI coordinate to track the gun purchases of specific individuals through the federal background check system, according to documents that Second Amendment advocacy group Gun Owners of America obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request.
Shared exclusively with the Epoch Times, the documents include communications in which ATF agents request the monitoring of specific gun purchasers by means of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) in a system the FBI dubs the “NICS Monitoring Services.”
Federal agents, at the behest of the ATF, then manually check the NICS on a daily basis to see whether an individual the ATF flagged has purchased a firearm. The ATF appears to be using this system to monitor suspected criminals or straw purchasers.
NICS works to stop individuals banned from purchasing firearms from doing so. A prospective gun purchase must clear the background check before the dealer may complete the sale. Federal law also requires that the NICS record of a gun purchase be deleted after 24 hours. Hence, the need for the FBI to check the system daily.
This process may go on indefinitely. One email from an FBI agent to an ATF official confirming a specific monitoring request indicated the agent was prepared to routinely monitor one suspect for roughly an entire year.
“I will monitor your suspect for 180 days, at the end of 180 days I will contact you and ask if you would like to continue for another hundred days and keep repeating this process until such time as you wish the investigation stop,” read the email.
Gun Owners of America told the outlet that the agency was using this method to effectively surveil Americans without going through the warrant process.
“If they had probable cause, they could seek a warrant from a judge, but they aren’t doing that. They are just deciding they have some reason to believe a certain person’s exercise of Second Amendment rights needs to be monitored,” said GOA attorney Rob Olson. “And it’s their own system so they make up their own standards. There doesn’t appear to be any oversight here.”
“They are basically tracking—without a warrant—every gun purchase by these people,” Olson also said. “There’s no legal process here. At best, this is highly questionable, if not outright unlawful.”