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State Attorneys General Fear New FedEx and UPS Shipping Policies Will Allow the Feds to Bypass Warrant Requirements by Creating a Private Gun Registry

by Jo Ellen Nott

On November 29, 2022, Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen sent a letter to the CEOs of FedEx and UPS asking them to explain new policies the shipping giants have implemented to track and record firearms purchases.  Knudsen and 17 fellow attorneys general want to understand if the new policies are being coordinated with the Biden administration.

The attorneys general are concerned that FedEx and UPS are too closely tracking firearm sales and creating a national database of gun purchasers and their weapons.  By doing this, Knudson warns that the shipping behemoths are inadvertently, or perhaps deliberately, providing federal agencies a workaround to circumvent federal warrant law.

Knudson emphasized in the letter that federal law has long prevented federal agencies from using gun sales to create gun registries.  He also emphasized that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms could easily use the FedEx and UPS databases to avoid having to secure a warrant through normal legal channels.  

The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution prohibits the federal government from conducting searches of U.S. citizens without a warrant based upon “probable cause.”  Advocates for the protection of personal freedoms are worried that banks, credit card companies, and now shipping companies are conducting those searches on the government’s behalf.

The letters sent to UPS and FedEx were for all intents and purposes identical, underscoring the fact that the new policies implemented by both are similar. This raises an additional concern of possible collusion between the two powerful companies that dominate the shipping market.  United States antitrust laws make collusion in restraint of trade illegal, going back as far as the 1890 Sherman Antitrust Act. 

Knudson and his signees recommended in their letter that the shipping companies “consider taking actions to limit potential liability moving forward, including the immediate cessation of any existing warrantless information sharing with federal agencies about gun shipments.”

The letter demands that the shipping companies clarify their policies and explain whether they acted in coordination with the ATF or any other government agency within 30 days.  It also asks them to explain a gag order that directed gun shops not to disclose the terms of this policy to the public.

Knudsen plans to make a civil investigative demand for documentation if the companies do not respond to the letter.  If they do not cooperate with the turning over of documentation, Knudsen foresees a lawsuit.  

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