ATF director visits St. Louis, touts campaign to crack down on illegal gun transactions

Tribune Content Agency

ST. LOUIS — The director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives visited St. Louis this week to promote the rollout of a federal campaign aimed at cracking down on illegal gun transactions.

The public awareness campaign, “Don’t Lie for the Other Guy,” aims to remind people it’s a crime to buy a gun for someone who can’t legally buy their own firearm, a maneuver often called a “straw purchase.” The effort is funded with money from the gun industry.

The campaign includes billboards, posters and online bulletins as well as 1,000 radio spots and more than 2.5 million targeted advertisements on Facebook and Instagram.

If convicted, a straw purchaser faces up to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000, as well as an additional 15 years in prison if the purchase is made with the intent of trafficking across state lines, according to the campaign.

“Guns are moving from legal commerce to illegal use quicker than they used to,” ATF director Steven Dettelbach told the Post-Dispatch in an interview Wednesday. “That’s a number that we call time to crime. … So, the time to crime for America’s crime guns is shrinking. That means the time frame when it’s legally sold to the time it ends up hurting somebody.”

The director noted a recent ATF study found that one in four guns used in crimes are recovered by police less than a year after they are purchased.

Dettelbach met with local law enforcement and ATF officials on Wednesday, and on Thursday unveiled the campaign with National Shooting Sports Foundation president and CEO Joe Bartozzi and Sayler Fleming, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri.

The “Don’t Lie” program also provides resources to local firearm retailers so they’re prepared to detect and deter potential illegal straw purchases.

“There’s a constant drumbeat of firearm violence. Over 109 people every single day in this country die from gun violence,” Dettelbach said. “And if you ask me, my biggest fear is that somehow people will come to accept it or become numb to it or somehow think it’s part of being an American. It is most assuredly no part of being an American.”

The “Don’t Lie for the Other Guy” campaign is a collaborative effort between the ATF, the Department of Justice and the National Shooting Sports Foundation.