ATF Uses Operation Southbound To Have Inspectors Carry Out Warrantless Searches

ATF Uses Operation Southbound To Have Inspectors Carry Out Warrantless Searches

WASHINGTON D.C.-( In an internal meeting, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) heads have asked Industry Operations Investigators (IOIs) to use their gun store visits to investigate whether firearms are being trafficked to the Southern Border into the hands of Mexican drug cartel members.

Operation Southbound is the program that is supposed to cut firearms trafficking to Mexican drug cartel members and cut off the flow of drugs coming northbound from Mexico. The operation is led by the ATF but is also a joint project with multiple other law enforcement and federal agencies such as the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the Department of State (DOS).

The U.S. government is working with Mexican law enforcement agencies to trace guns recovered at Mexican crime scenes back to the original purchaser on the U.S. side of the border. The Mexican authorities report the serial numbers of the recovered firearms to the ATF. Then the agency starts an investigation into how the guns ended up in the hands of Mexican drug cartel members.

The ATF is now going further in its efforts to stop guns from getting into Mexico.

Some advocates worry that the new initiative violates a long-standing ATF agency policy and could lead to the agency violating the people’s right to due process by doing what amounts to a warrantless search.

The ATF is asking its IOIs to use their official visits to gun shops to examine federal firearms licensed (FFL) dealer’s books and paperwork to look for patterns of guns flowing to the southern border. This new order is an expansion of the IOI’s mission. IOI does not have training in looking for patterns of the illegal flow of firearms to the southern border.

IOIs are supposed to use their inspections to assure that FFLs are complying with record-keeping laws. According to ATF rules laid out in the IOI handbook that Gun Owners of America (GOA) obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, the inspectors are not allowed to investigate crimes. Yet, that is what the head brass at the ATF is asking the IOIs to do. That changes the mission of the IOIs from administrative investigations to criminal investigators. IOIs are not law enforcement officers.

The ATF rules say that Special Agents are responsible for executing any criminal investigations, and IOI is expressly prohibited from participating in criminal investigations. The Special Agent would need to get a search warrant for an investigation. The ATF is now using the IOI’s once-a-year visit as a warrantless search. The IOI is told not to inform the FFL holder that they are looking for criminal activity when examining the gun store’s books.

AmmoLand News shared the evidence of the change of the IOI mission with some firearm attorneys familiar with ATF operations.

They worry that this expansion of the IOI mission is a warrantless search and has the potential to become another Fast & Furious-like operation.

AmmoLand News Journalist David Codrea broke the story of Operation Fast & Furious. Starting in 2009 and lasting until 2011, The ATF allowed firearms to flow into Mexico from border states in what is known as “gun-walking.” A man used one of the guns that the ATF allowed to reach the hands of cartel members to kill Border Patrol Agent, Brian Terry.

AmmoLand News will continue to investigate Operation Southbound and the expansion of the use of IOIs to look for patterns of criminal activities. If you have more information on this or other inside knowledge to advance our investigative reporting please use our Tip Line.

About John Crump

John is a NRA instructor and a constitutional activist. John has written about firearms, interviewed people of all walks of life, and on the Constitution. John lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and sons and can be followed on Twitter at @crumpyss, or at

John Crump

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Shocker! The government is yet again abusing its power and violating American citizens’ civil rights. What would be surprising is a story of them following the law and respecting the Constitutional limitations on government for a change.


I will vote yes on that happening but I know it will be only a dream because all facets are in play for the nightmare to continue in the Obiden administration.


Yup.. The kinyun first verse waspretty bad. Second verse, the same or worse than the first. The THIRD verse, (after one insturmental break for Mr. OrangeMan “bad”) even worse than the second, but same tune.

And how many folks actually believed the kinyun was REALLY stepping down? He’s just ducked behind the curtain to quickly change into a new costume. He’ll be back after a short “pubic service announcement”


Don’t know if you will get this but It’s worth a shot. Instead of a new edgar suit (MIB) he is wearing a new Walter suit.


The AFT is investigating guns going South-of-the-Border at Official LEGAL FFL dealers? The INVESTIGATIONS MUST begin IN HOUSE at the ATF/BATF/BATFE! The GUN RUNNING was done by the 44th appointee occupying OUR White House along with his co-conspirator “deep state sycophants”. BEGIN the INVESTIGATIONS THERE!!!


You beat me to it.They need to investigate where it all started. What moron came up with that idea? Sell guns to cartels to track them? And then what invade the sovereign country of Mexico to hunt down who got the guns? The government thinks we have a short memory. They need to declare these cartels as terrorist organizations and send in the military. We’d sweep through Mexico and have that crap cleaned up in a weekend. 5000 Marines would do the trick. I can’t believe what this country is turning into. I know a lot of gun dealers through… Read more »


My understanding is that the reason they did it was to show how bad the gun trafficking was and to create a war on the border to help them in their cause to justify taking away our AR 15s from us.


True story.


between atf giving them guns and the zetas military connections very few of the guns they confiscate have any other origin , some come up from the south the gangs in central america sell what they dont have a use for left over heavy weapons from civil wars , castro and noriaga had hoards stashed to fight the war with gringos Venezuela has 1,000,000 ak47s bought by chavez stashed near slums all over the country so only small time thugs would bother with US ffl rules kidnap someone make us relative buy gun give it to someone else to free… Read more »

Roland T. Gunner

The real problem is not AR-15’s snuck across 1 at a time fron US, its the conex containers full of real AKMs.


What hypocrites. IF they wanted to get serious about this they should charge Obama and Holder.


That was the first thought when reading the first paragraph. Isn’t it funny how the demonkkkrats can clearly violate the laws rules and regulation but still get off because they have the backing of their fellow comrades in other positions of power all the way up to stealing an election.


And the vast majority of “Republicans’ and “Conservatives’ will stand by in silence. That is how evil prevails. It is not so much that these rabid progressives are strong and determined. No, it is that their opposition is weak and timid. Stand up. Just say no.

Roland T. Gunner

I have come to absolutely loathe “moderate” Republicans and “moderate” conservatives. They typically are just trying to occupy a faux “moral high ground”, or seperate themselves from those “extremists”, farther to the right than themselves.


Like anyone got a file ? Building ghost guns ? Watch this will be another attack on 80% lowers. Or another Govt ran Fast & Furious to push their BS gun narrative. Defund these clowns.




Rinse and repeat.


Business as usual with the BATFE.


Fast & Furious 3.0


When the Government is no different than the criminals but have the means to get away with crimes we are a lost country . Politicians continuing to work on problems that are irrelevant to the survival of our society , statutes , political correctness, history , et’c. And all the feel good programs that do nothing concrete to correct the really important issues facing our country. Real life or death issues like border security , the economy , are ignored while supporting the liberal indoctrination in the educational systems while ignoring the truly basic problems confronting our society . Worrying… Read more »


That’s what professional magicians ( and politicians)call MISDIRECTION.


“IOI does not have training in looking for patterns of the illegal flow of firearms to the southern border” But they mean well. The only qualification for effective progressive public policy is to mean well. Consequences and unintended consequences, law and reason be damned. So here we go again on another version of Fast and Furious.

Roland T. Gunner

Unintended Consequences.


UH…in the case of government agencies/bureaucracies, it’s INTENDED consequences.


Unintended Consequences. A great book that obviously wasn’t read by enough people…


bureaucracies don’t care about following the rules they write. they are only concerned about accumulating power and wielding that power over others. power is an addiction, once you get it, you want more. congress has abdicated its authority to the bureaucracies instead of doing their job and should be removed from office. no one should be a government employee/official for their entire life. these bureau’s have violated many of their own regulations and i don’t see any change coming unless there congress takes back their authority.


Does Eric Holder use his real name or does he apply as Hunter Biden to avoid scrutiny?


The excuse for a government we have, uses narratives that “the sheeple” folks will entertain without a fuss. Sure….sounds good…Cartels Bad!
That is until they show up on your front porch without a warrant!…….and you will probably ask…”How did this happen?”


They ostensibly are looking for “errors” and “mistakes” and “anomalies”, not “crimes”. Minor paperwork faults that can lead to fines, but are not “crimes”. The change is they are now being ordered to search for patterns of illegal arms trafficking accross our sothern non-border. Back when F n F was roaring along, ATF were ordering FFL’s to proceed with skanky sales to VERY skanky people so those guns thus purchased could end up in the hands of the select drug cartels south of the Rio Grande. When confronted about this illegal scamming, Holder and Comapny along wiht his head cheese… Read more »


Sure would enjoy a cold one with you sometime. Your comments just crack me up. lol


power is an addiction, once you get it, you want more. congress has abdicated its authority to the bureaucracies instead of doing their job and should be removed from office. no one should be a government employee/official for their entire life. these bureau’s have violated many of their own regulations and i don’t see any change coming unless there congress takes back their authority.

Last edited 1 year ago by abirahemmed

I don’t see any changes unless those worthless and treasonous government employees are removed, and the People make clear that the 2nd shall not be infringed.

American Patriot

Since Eric Holder & Obutthead aren’t in office anymore it shouldn’t be as big of a problem now…..Just sayin’


Yeah because I’m sure old Buck Fiden wasn’t paying attention then. And now he’s on top of his game. LMAO


Whuddya mean, the kinyun isn’tin office anymore? He’s likely got MORE power and infuence toda than he did beforenMr. Trump stepped up and took the reins. You don’t really believe he bought that tenmillion dollar spread a few blocks away from his old digs, then had a few more $Mn spent to bring the security and data capabilities up to current milspec. Ya think the kinyun is NOT running things? Guess again. He’s got help but he is IN THERE.


Anything that comes after “should” or “shouldn’t” is fantasy, magical thinking, and forlorn hope. Strike it from your vocabulary.


As I understand it, FFL licensees agree to warrantless inspections as a condition of the license, and citizens who hold Class III tax stamps are subject to warrantless inspections to make sure that those weapons are, as required by law, stored in an approved gun safe.

I think that the courts will use Chevron deference to dismiss any cases filed against the ATF for such behavior.

Last edited 1 year ago by TEEBONE

Your tax stamp assertion is news to me. Have never heard anything about requirement to keep a suppressors in a safe or anything like that. Is that a state law somewhere? My suppressor is still at SOT and probably will lol be fun or another year, unless Chipman gets confirmed – in which case it will never be approved. Guess ghost suppressors are the way to go. 🙂


As a FFL I can say none of that is true.


Maybe they should with Operation Fast and Furious conducted by the Obama/Biden administration.