FBI Illegally Surveilled Man Who Posted Firearms for Sale on Facebook

According to Emily Miller of The Epoch Times, a Texas man who posted guns for sale on Facebook was subjected to warrantless surveillance by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). The ATF conducted an investigation of the man and did not arrest him. Nevertheless, they passed his information to the FBI to spy on him for at least 6 months.

Per internal documents that The Epoch Times analyzed, two ATF special agents interviewed the Hispanic man who admitted to “advertising” on Facebook his guns for sale. He admitted that he had a “habit” of buying new firearms, modifying them, losing interest, and selling them later on. The man informed the agents that he never made a profit off of these transactions.

“I kept waiting for the part where ATF identified something illegal, and it never came,” Eric Olson, a lawyer for Gun Owners of America (GOA) , said to The Epoch Times. GOA got its hands on the records through  aFreedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit it filed against the ATF and FBI. 

“They are monitoring this guy for doing what millions of other hobbyists do—selling part of their personal collection. That’s not a crime, but apparently, ATF doesn’t like people turning over their guns at a high rate,” Olson stated.

ATF spokesman Erik Longnecker revealed to The Epoch Times that the man who used Facebook to advertise his firearms was placed under FBI daily surveillance in 2021 for “suspected violations” of federal laws against straw purchasing and selling firearms without a license.

This latest revelation is part of an ongoing, exclusive series concerning the recent discovery of a program in which the ATF and FBI use the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) to surveil individuals for “potential” violations of the law. NICS is a database of individuals who are barred from buying guns due to domestic violence, drug use, felony convictions, drug use, and other disqualifications.

Every suspect that the ATF sends to the FBI’s NICS Monitoring Services is placed on a daily, manual check for firearm sales for 30–180 days.  In addition, there is an option for the unlimited renewal of surveillance.

Facebook policy currently allows licensed gun vendors and online dealers to sell guns and ammunition on the social media platform, as long as they abide by all relevant laws and regulations. However, Facebook bans the sale or trade of firearms and ammunition between private individuals.

The ATF agents from the McAllen Field Office appeared to have exonerated the man in their report concerning straw purchasing. This term refers to the purchase of guns for another individual, usually an individual who wouldn’t go through the NICS background check system.

However, the man informed agents that he “mainly would sell firearms to his friends, but denied purchasing firearms specifically for his friends.” The record also noted that the suspect made agents aware that he purchases guns only for himself and would “mess around with them by adding a new spring or a trigger, would get bored, and then post the firearms for sale.”

With respect to the allegation that he was selling firearms without a license, the suspect informed agents that he would “break even or lose a lot of money depending on how he treated the firearms.”

Olson argued that the man is like any individual with “limited resources but unlimited appetite for new toys.” He made references to people who share similar hobbies such as buying and selling art, cars, designer clothes, guitars, or jewelry. “People like to try new guns. They overextend themselves financially, and then they sell part of their collection to fund their hobby.”

The ATF and FBI yet again prove why they’re awful institutions that need to be abolished. Its entire existence is centered on harassing lawful citizens. The worst part is that their functionaries and leaders cannot be held accountable for their misdeeds by virtue of the fact that they’re unelected bureaucratic agencies. 

Ultimately, it’s going to take a concerted effort from a coalition of pro-gun activists and politicians to pass legislation that will defund and eventually abolish these wretched institutions.

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