Texas state Rep. Briscoe Cain, a Republican, is "deeply troubled" about this coordination with the state's unemployment agency and federal government.
“My office will be looking into whether the Texas Workforce Commission is assisting the ATF in the Biden Administration’s mission to violate the constitutional rights of law-abiding Texans," Cain told The Epoch Times after reviewing the emails obtained by Gun Owners of America (GOA) as part of its ongoing FOIA lawsuit.
Texan’s Income ExposedIn one of the documents, an ATF agent emailed the FBI that a person suspected of straw purchasing or firearms trafficking needed to be put into the gun background check database. The agent wrote that “per TWC,” the man’s “reported wage earnings with the State of Texas do not appear to supply the financial means to afford the firearms purchased.”
Texas's role in the program was uncovered in the ATF’s ninth production of documents to GOA as part of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit. The 42 pages are more heavily redacted than the previous ones given to GOA. There are seven pages of blacked-out information before the source of the income of the person in Texas is shown as TWC.
Second Amendment Sanctuary?A spokeswoman for TWC said in a statement: "Federal and State law provides a path for sharing income information with a federal governmental agency if the federal agency can establish a purpose that is permissible under law and enters into a written agreement which sets forth legal requirements regarding allowable use and protection of the information." She also said a warrant to release salary information is not required by law.
Texas does not have a state income tax. Employers report wages to the TWC in order to determine their unemployment taxes, so its the state's only source for tracking income.
When told about TWC's legal defense, Cain said he will put in a formal request to TWC for copies of the two contracts with ATF.
Steady Job, Too Many GunsAnother case in the documents shows agents in the ATF Dallas field office knew a Texas woman’s salary and used that information to get the FBI to put her into NICS. It does not say her salary came from TWC, but there is one paragraph redacted.
The agent wrote in Jan 2021 that the suspect “has a steady job however her annual salary in no way can support her current spending on firearms.” It also says that she “received multiple wire” transfers from a man in Sacramento, California.
It appears the woman was monitored daily by the FBI for at least 180 days. None of the emails between the FBI and ATF released have shown that a request to monitor someone was denied.
"Federal agents have no business deciding whether they think a person's income qualifies them to buy a certain number of guns. If ATF thought it had enough for a warrant, presumably it would get one," GOA's Olson said.
Man Makes $30,000In a previous FOIA production, an ATF agent from the “Houston Crime Gun Strike Force” requested the FBI monitor a Hispanic man who admitted to selling guns at a profit. The agent reported that “a review of [redacted] employment wages revealed he earns approximately $30,000/year.” The source of the information about his income is not given but could be behind the blacked-out part.
The Houston agent backed up his June 2020 request by citing that the Texas man “admitted to selling multiple firearms in order to make money” during “a non-custodial interview with law enforcement.” It’s not illegal to make money from selling guns. The ATF requires you to become a Federal Firearms Licensee (FFL) if you “repetitively buy and sell firearms with the principal motive of making a profit."
The ATF agent wrote that the man bought an “unknown amount of additional firearms from other FFLs.” This means licensed dealers did not suspect him of breaking the law.
Nevertheless, this Hispanic man's lower income and living in “low income government housing” resulted in his being tracked without a warrant.
Olson, GOA's lawyer, pointed out that there are reasonable explanations for gun purchases.
Feds SilentWhile TWC was open about its cooperation with ATF, the federal government would not answer questions. “ATF doesn’t have anything additional to add regarding investigative techniques that might be utilized in our criminal investigations," spokesman Erik Longnecker told The Epoch Times when asked about working with TWC. Longnecker has previously stated that “ATF utilizes a multitude of legal means in our criminal investigations to protect our communities from violent gun crime.”
The GOA first uncovered the NICS monitoring program in April 2021. The ATF refused to respond to FOIA requests, so GOA filed a lawsuit in November 2021. The ATF documents released as part of the lawsuit are from the FBI. There have been no internal ATF documents released.
Spokesmen for both the FBI and ATF refuse to say if the program is ongoing and how many people are currently being monitored by NICS who are not legally prohibited from buying guns.