ATF Announces Campaign to Crack Down on Straw Purchases in Baltimore

Industry to pay for billboards and radio ads

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The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), a gun industry trade group, and local law enforcement announced an initiative targeting illegal straw purchases in Baltimore on Thursday.

Larry Keane, National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) vice president and general counsel, said the industry trade group would pay for ads emphasizing the fact that it is illegal to purchase a gun on behalf of anyone who cannot legally own firearms. The campaign, called "Don’t Lie for the Other Guy," has been ongoing for nearly 20 years and is designed to raise awareness of the steep penalties on buying guns for criminals—up to 10 years in jail and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines. The group is now working with both the ATF and local law enforcement to share that message with millions in the Baltimore area and beyond.

"During the Don't Lie campaign there will be almost 20 million media impressions in the Baltimore market delivered by billboards, digital and social media impressions, and a 30-second radio spot," Keane said during a press conference. "Public service announcements are funded entirely by the National Shooting Sports Foundation on behalf of the shooting sports industry."

Robert K. Hur, U.S. attorney for the District of Maryland, said stopping straw purchases is a key way that law enforcement can prevent gun violence.

"The levels of gun violence in Baltimore city, which of course has effects in surrounding areas including Baltimore county, have unfortunately captured the attention of the entire nation," he said in the press conference. "Gun violence has certainly captured the attention of the folks in our own city and our own county. It is making our people less safe. It is making them worry about themselves and their loved ones and it has to stop. In my view, job one is to reduce the levels of violent crime in Baltimore city and in Baltimore county. How to prevent gun crime is what we in law enforcement think about morning, noon, and night."

He said straw purchases lead directly to violent crimes and murder.

"So, to folks who are thinking about lying and buying a gun for someone else: you may not think it's a big deal but these are not victimless crimes," Hur said. "The fact is these guns can and do end up in the hands of people who are not allowed to have them. These guns end up being used to hurt people and to kill people. Someone's son. Someone's daughter. Someone's mother. Someone's father."

Baltimore police commissioner Michael Harrison commended the ATF and NSSF for their help in publicizing the penalties for straw purchases.

"Every opportunity to take a gun out of the hands of someone who wasn't supposed to have it is a great opportunity and a great initiative and we're certainly glad," he said. "We're certainly thankful for the ATF and the National Shooting Sports Foundation for this initiative, for highlighting the importance of straw purchases."

Rob Cekada, ATF Baltimore field division special agent in charge, said the focus of the operation is not legal gun owners but those who are assisting criminals who use firearms to commit crimes.

"There are millions of firearms legally owned and legally used every day in this country," he said. "We are not focused on those firearms. We are focused on the firearms that are being utilized in violent crimes."

Keane said the campaign is an example of how the gun industry can work with law enforcement to stop the criminal use of firearms.

"The firearms industry is proud of its long-standing cooperative relationship with law enforcement as is demonstrated by those that are here today with me and in particular ATF," he said. "We welcome the opportunity as an industry to assist law enforcement in their efforts to combat the illegal acquisition and criminal misuse of firearms."