Both the FBI and ATF conducted warrantless surveillance of a Texas man who said that he had guns for sale in a Facebook post, according to a report from the Epoch Times.
According to internal documents obtained by the outlet, two ATF agents interviewed the man who admitted to “advertising” that the guns were for sale on Facebook. He told the agents that he had a “habit” of purchasing new guns, deciding he doesn’t want to hold on to them, then offering them up for sale. The man further told the agents that he never made a profit from any sales.
After surveilling the man for six months, the ATF was unable to uncover evidence of any crime, but they still opted to turn his information over to the FBI.
“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 in a statement to the Epoch Times. GOA obtained records that confirmed the surveillance after filing a Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) request against both the FBI and ATF.
“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 said.
ATF spokesman Erik Longnecker confirmed that the man was placed under daily monitoring by the FBI in 2021 for “suspected violations” of federal laws against straw purchases and selling firearms without a license.
The heavily redacted records obtained by GOA do not specify how the ATF became aware of the suspect’s activities. When asked by reporters if Facebook tips off federal law enforcement about posts involving guns, the ATF spokesman declined to comment.
Facebook’s policy allows licensed gun dealers to sell weapons and ammunition provided they comply with all applicable laws and platform regulations. Sales between private individuals are not permitted, however.
“It doesn’t make it a crime simply because Facebook doesn’t allow it,” Olson said.
Ultimately, the man’s conduct does not violate any provisions under the 1968 Gun Control Act. He was exonerated by the ATF for allegations of making straw purchases, a term used to refer to the purchase of guns for individuals who would otherwise not pass federal background checks.
The act specifically states that an individual does not need to be a licensed ATF gun dealer if they make “occasional sales, exchanges, or purchases of firearms for the enhancement of a personal collection or for a hobby.”