- The Washington Times
Friday, July 22, 2022

A Washington state sheriff recently advised residents in his county that if agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) come to their homes without a search warrant asking to inspect their firearms, they can tell them to leave their property.

Klickitat County Sheriff Bob Songer said in a press statement on Friday that agents are “making surprise home visits of persons who have purchased two or more firearms at one time. To my knowledge, these ATF visits have not occurred in Washington State yet.”

Sheriff Songer told The Washington Times he became concerned about the Second Amendment rights of the residents of Klickitat County after viewing a doorbell video that showed a firearms owner who ATF agents coerced, without a warrant, to inspect his firearms.

“I’m a constitutional sheriff. I got a lifetime membership with the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association,” he said. “And I believe strongly in the fact that my duty as sheriff is serving the citizens that put me in office to protect their constitutional rights and liberties.”

Sheriff Songer, who is running for reelection to a third term in office, said that if residents are contacted by an ATF agent or any other federal agent lacking a search warrant to inspect firearms they have purchased, residents do not have to cooperate with the authorities and should contact his office if the agents refuse to leave their property.

“The ATF must answer questions on why they decided to conduct an illegal search, especially since the homeowner had done nothing wrong,” Sheriff Songer said in the statement. “These actions by the federal government are unsettling, and they have no business going door-to-door to see who owns firearms. I fear that there will be more illegal inspections to come as the Left continues its assault on our 2nd Amendment rights. Congress should investigate this immediately.”

The ATF defended itself in a statement to The Washington Times, saying the agents’ actions were “entirely appropriate.”

“Ask the agents to show you their search warrant to inspect your firearms,” Sheriff Songer said, advising his constituents to make sure a warrant is signed by a judge. “Ask them if the sheriff is aware of them contacting people in our county.”

The sheriff then suggests telling the agents to leave the property. If they refuse, “they are trespassing,” he said. Sheriff Songer said they should then call the Klickitat County Sheriff’s Department and report the incident, which could lead to the arrest of the federal agents.

“If the ATF agents do not have a search warrant signed by a judge, and you have told them to leave your property and they refuse to do so, call me, and I will make contact with the agents,” Sheriff Songer said in his statement. “If they still refuse to leave, I will personally arrest the ATF agents for Criminal Trespass and book them into the Klickitat County Jail.”

“In my opinion, these surprise visits by ATF Agents are nothing more than a fishing expedition to see what guns you have in your possession,” Sheriff Songer said.

The sheriff warned that agents are looking in areas across the nation for “straw purchases,” in which a legal gun buyer purchases two or more firearms, and then gives or sells the gun to someone who cannot pass a legal background check.

“It appears at this time, ATF agents are making surprise home visits along the I-95 corridor [and] in the states of Indiana, Nevada and Arizona,” he said.

Attorney General Merrick Garland announced last year in late July that the U.S. attorney’s offices and ATF agents were targeting straw purchasers in metropolitan areas and neighboring towns, including within these particular states. 

Sheriff Songer says he is not concerned about angering state or federal officials.

“I really don’t care what the FBI or the ATF or the Biden administration has to say. One thing about an elected chair, his only boss is the people that elect him — not the county commissioners, not the governor, not the city, state attorney general, not the president or anyone,” he said. “So, I don’t really worry too much about what they have to say.”

Sheriff Songer’s press release came out one day after a recent doorbell video recording from a Delaware resident showing ATF agents and a state police trooper asking a legal firearm owner for his weapons’ serial numbers without a warrant.

The video, which the ATF defended as “entirely appropriate,” caused an uproar among Second Amendment advocacy organizations, including Gun Owners of America, which said the U.S. “background check system has turned into a de facto registry, allowing the federal government to check up on who owns what firearms because of the ATF unlawful actions.”

Rep. Matt Rosendale, Montana Republican, called for an investigation into the incident, saying that he fears “that there will be more illegal inspections to come as the Left continues its assault on our Second Amendment rights. Congress should investigate this immediately.”

• Kerry Picket can be reached at kpicket@washingtontimes.com.

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