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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Presidential Memo Expands the Definition of "Federal Law Enforcement Agencies"

    As part of the president's 23 "executive actions" on gun violence, a presidential memo was issued regarding firearms tracing in connection with criminal investigations.  The memo instructs that:
Federal law enforcement agencies shall ensure that all firearms recovered after the date of this memorandum in the course of criminal investigations and taken into Federal custody are traced through ATF at the earliest time practicable. Federal law enforcement agencies, as well as other executive departments and agencies, are encouraged, to the extent practicable, to take steps to ensure that firearms recovered prior to the date of this memorandum in the course of criminal investigations and taken into Federal custody are traced through ATF.
    However, another provision defines which agencies are included in "Federal law enforcement agencies":
(e) For purposes of this memorandum, "Federal law enforcement agencies" means the Departments of State, the Treasury, Defense, Justice, the Interior, Agriculture, Energy, Veterans Affairs, and Homeland Security, and such other agencies and offices that regularly recover firearms in the course of their criminal investigations as the President may designate.
     This is a pretty sweeping definition compared to the Justice Department's definition:
A federal law enforcement agency is an organizational unit, or subunit, of the federal government with the principle functions of prevention, detection, and investigation of crime and the apprehension of alleged offenders.  Examples of federal law enforcement agencies include the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Secret Service, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF). 
     Since the memo also addressed "other executive departments and agencies," it is unclear what this partial deputizing of other agencies as "law enforcement" means.  Perhaps further examination of other executive actions on gun violence will make this more clear.

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