GOP senator rips Biden's 'gun-grabbing' DOJ for taking nearly 2 years to answer for controversial policy

FIRST ON FOX: One Republican lawmaker is pulling no punches going after President Biden’s “gun-grabbing” Department of Justice (DOJ) after it took nearly two years to respond to her questions related to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosive’s (ATF) controversial “knock and talk” firearm enforcement policy.

Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, first wrote to the ATF in August 2022, demanding it answer for its methods in cracking down on firearm straw purchases — the illegal practice of an individual purchasing a firearm on behalf of someone else — that she worried could be infringing on Americans’ rights. In her letter, she stated that while enforcing laws against straw purchasing firearms was important, the DOJ must be clear about its methods.

“For nearly two years, Biden’s ATF has failed to answer my questions; instead, they are continually harassing law-abiding gun owners in their homes,” Ernst told Fox News Digital. “Biden ATF’s ‘knock and talk’ policy is unlawful, and by stonewalling me, they continue to hide the truth, pointing the finger at so-called ‘violence’ without addressing the law-abiding Americans that I clearly asked about.”

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Republican Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst and the outside of the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. (Getty Images)

“Biden’s ATF must stop bending the law to fit their gun-grabbing policies,” she added.

Ernst sent her 2022 letter just one month after the ATF began its straw purchasing crackdown. In it, she detailed reports and videos that had surfaced showing ATF agents engaging in such investigations. Ernst noted that those interactions involved ATF agents knocking on the front doors of private residences and asking residents to display the recently purchased firearms to prove they did not commit a straw purchase.

“In all of the ‘knock and talk’ incidents brought to my attention, none involved the presentation of a warrant,” Ernst wrote.

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Ernst said ATF agents often arrive at the house in full gear, wearing bulletproof vests and do not inform residents at the homes that producing the firearm was optional.

“The combination of these factors calls into question whether the ATF’s actions are meant to harass or coerce firearm purchasers into, at best, legally questionable ‘investigations,’” she stated.

The senator requested that Attorney General Merrick Garland provide details about the ATF investigations, including how the organization establishes probable cause to conduct these visits, as well as whether they obtain a warrant. She also called on the ATF to reveal how many “knock and talks” they have conducted since the ramp-up began in late July.

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Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) talks to reporters following the weekly Senate Republican policy luncheon in the U.S. Capitol on Feb. 14, 2023 in Washington, D.C. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The letter requested that Garland respond within 30 days.

Footage from one knock and talk incident in July showed ATF agents arriving at a Delaware man’s home. The man had reportedly purchased seven firearms since January.

Agents on the scene admitted to the man that they did not have a warrant. They also offered some insight into how they choose to make a visit.

“The idea is that when you purchase more than two guns at a time it generates a multiple sales report, and it comes to us, and we have to check them out,” the agent said to the citizen. “That’s all that is. You did nothing wrong – absolutely zero.”

The man ultimately produced one of the firearms. The agents then matched the serial number and left.

Fox News Digital reached out to the DOJ for comment.

Fox News’ Anders Hagstrom contributed to this report.

Brandon Gillespie is an associate editor at Fox News. Follow him on X at @BGillespieAL.

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