December 26, 2011
The Obama administration has decided to eliminate a 1998 restriction on the sale of guns to foreigners, claiming federal law does not allow the government to have different gun-control rules for noncitizens.
In a letter to firearms dealers, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) said it would no longer require sellers to obtain proof from foreign buyers that they have lived in the state for 90 days. The rule was originally instituted after a disturbed Palestinian, 69-year-old Ali Abu Kamal, admitted to the United States on a legal nonimmigrant visa, bought a 380-caliber Beretta semiautomatic handgun in Florida and, on the observation deck of the Empire State Building in New York City, shot to death one person and injured six others.
“The Department of Justice … has recently concluded that, as a matter of law, applying a more stringent State residency requirement for aliens legally present in the U.S. than for U.S. citizens is incompatible with the language of the [Gun Control Act],” the ATF letter reads.
Some gun-control advocates criticized the change. Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-New Jersey) said that eliminating the regulation defied “common sense and puts Americans at risk” because it could make it easier for foreign terrorists to obtain weapons inside the country.