John Balazs is an attorney in Sacramento, California, specializing in criminal defense, including appeals, habeas corpus, pardons, expungements, and civil forfeiture actions. After graduating from UCLA Law School in 1989, he clerked for Judge Harry Pregerson of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. John was an Assistant Federal Defender in Fresno and Sacramento from 1992-2001. Please email EDCA items of interest to Balazslaw@gmail.com. Follow me on twitter @balazslaw.
This blog is for informational purposes only. Nothing in this blog should be construed as legal advice. The law can change rapidly and information in this blog can become outdated. Do your own research or consult with an attorney.
The Sacramento Bee today highlights a surge in black market "ghost" guns in California in a front page piece with quotes from Sacramento ATF agent in charge Graham Barlowe and discussion of a couple of EDCA cases.
Federal agents have broken the back of a gang in the greater Sacramento area allegedly engaged in illegal and large-scale firearms trafficking and manufacturing.
Between Feb. 6 and Sept. 28, undercover law enforcement officers paid members of the gang at least $150,000 for 16 commercially manufactured firearms, 47 unlawfully manufactured firearms, and 37 unlawfully manufactured silencers, according to papers on file in Sacramento federal court.
The sting operation has thus far yielded six arrests.
Medical marijuana protesters are congregating at the Sacramento federal courthouse for a protest coinciding with the U.S. Attorneys' meeting and press conference today.
Photo of Brian David (used with permission). Brian told me that, although he is a California State pistol champion, he could potentially be barred from possessing a firearm under this ATF Memo, 9/21/11 purporting to bar medical marijuana users from possessing guns or ammunition.
Federal authorities have seized nearly $250,000 from the accounts of two Sacramento area dispensaries in a probe into alleged concealment of medical marijuana proceeds.
U.S. Magistrate Gregory G. Hollows approved two warrants Sept. 22, allowing authorities to seize business checking accounts from operators of the One Love Wellness Center dispensary in Sacramento and Mary Jane's Wellness in Gold River.
The warrants, sought by a U.S. Treasury Department criminal task force, alleged the two dispensaries may have violated U.S. financial laws through irregular banking deposits to avoid detection by the Internal Revenue Service.
Firearms dealers in states that allow medical marijuana can’t sell guns or ammunition to registered users of the drug, a policy that marijuana and gun-rights groups say denies Second Amendment rights to individuals who are following state law.
Federal law already makes it illegal for someone to possess a gun if he or she is “an unlawful user of, or addicted to” marijuana or other controlled substances. A Sept. 21 letter from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives [available here], issued in response to numerous inquiries from gun dealers, clarifies that medical marijuana patients are included in that definition.
The Blaze, 9/29/11; but see Sent Law & Policy, 5/19/11, reporting that Oregon Supreme Court has held that federal law does not permit the state to withhold concealed weapon permits on the basis of drug use to medical marijuana card holders.
In the latest chapter on the ATF gun smuggling to Mexican cartel scandal, see How Could Anyone Have Thought This Was a Good Idea?(part 1) and (part 2), today's LA Times reports that the head of the ATF is attempting to shift some of the blame to other federal agencies:
The embattled head of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has told congressional investigators that some Mexican drug cartel figures targeted by his agency in a gun-trafficking investigation were paid informants for the FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration.
Kenneth E. Melson, ATF's acting director, has been under pressure to resign after the agency allowed guns to be purchased in the United States in hopes they would be traced to cartel leaders. Under the gun-trafficking operation known as Fast and Furious, the ATF lost track of the guns, and many were found at the scene of crimes in Mexico, as well as two that were recovered near Nogales, Ariz., where a U.S. Border Patrol agent was killed.
In two days of meetings with congressional investigators over the weekend, Melson said the FBI and DEA kept the ATF "in the dark" about their relationships with the cartel informants. If ATF agents had known of the relationships, the agency might have ended the investigation much earlier, he said.
As a result of Melson's statements, "our investigation has clearly expanded," a source close to the congressional investigation said Wednesday, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the inquiry is ongoing. "We know now it was not something limited to just a small group of ATF agents in Arizona."
The acting director of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is poised to step down because of a controversial operation that allowed the sale of weapons to suspected agents of Mexican drug cartels, according to two sources inside the agency.
The shuffle, which could happen as early as this week, is the most significant repercussion yet from a growing public outcry over the "Fast and Furious" operation, under which ATF agents stood back and watched while a network of straw purchasers acquired more than 1,700 AK-47s and other high-powered rifles from Arizona gun dealers and delivered them to others. Large numbers of the weapons turned up at crime scenes in Mexico and the U.S.
In March, I blogged about a LA Times exposé reporting on an insane ATF plan to allow guns to be smuggled into Mexico so the agency could supposedly track how and where these guns reached Mexican cartel members. Not surprisingly, the ATF lost track of most of these firearms and many ended up linked to murders and violent crimes in the United States and Mexico. With the matter now being investigated before a U.S. House Committee, the LA Times has a follow-up series this week. Below is an excerpt from "Many Guns Intended For Mexico Drug Cartels Ended Up In U.S., Agents Testify," LA Times, 6/16/11 and links to two more, "Report Describes Gun Agents' 'State of Panic,'" LA Times, 6/14/11 and "ATF Chief Regularly Briefed on Botched Gun Operation," LA Times, 6/15/11:
Even as high-powered weapons flowed toward Mexican drug cartels in a controversial U.S. surveillance program, hundreds more guns probably escaped into the hands of criminals inside the U.S., federal agents told Congress on Wednesday.
"We weren't giving guns to people who were hunting bears. We were giving guns to people who were killing people," Peter Forcelli, group supervisor at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Phoenix, told a House committee.
The ATF agents said they were ordered to watch as more than 1,700 guns, including AK-47 variants and other high-powered rifles, were sold to "straw purchasers" in Arizona and then transferred to suspected agents of Mexico's violent drug trafficking organizations.
Mexican officials now believe that at least 150 Mexicans have been killed or wounded with guns smuggled in the operation, code-named Fast and Furious. Less understood is what happened to guns that slipped into the hands of suspected criminals in the U.S.
By the ATF's own estimates, at least 372 guns sold to suspect purchasers have been recovered in Arizona and Texas, mainly at crime scenes. ATF Agent John Dodson has estimated that about a third of the guns sold as part of the operation remained in the U.S.
A federal operation that allowed weapons from the U.S. to pass into the hands of suspected gun smugglers so they could be traced to the higher echelons of Mexican drug cartels has lost track of hundreds of firearms, many of which have been linked to crimes, including the fatal shooting of a Border Patrol agent in December.
The investigation, known as Operation Fast and Furious, was conducted even though U.S. authorities suspected that some of the weapons might be used in crimes, according to a variety of federal agents who voiced anguished objections to the operation.
Many of the weapons have spread across the most violence-torn states in Mexico, with at least 195 linked to some form of crime or law enforcement action, according to documents obtained by the Center for Public Integrity and The Times.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which ran the operation, said that 1,765 guns were sold to suspected smugglers during a 15-month period of the investigation. Of those, 797 were recovered on both sides of the border, including 195 in Mexico after they were used in crimes, collected during arrests or intercepted through other law enforcement operations.