Montana gun owner raided by IRS, ATF in 'pattern of intimidation and harassment': report

"The IRS committed an egregious breach of privacy for Montana’s gun owners."

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The Highwood Creek Outfitters gun shop in Great Falls, Montana, re-opened for business after being raided by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) on Wednesday. 

In a letter to IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel and ATF Director Steven M. Dettelbach, Rep. Mathew M. Rosendale Sr. (R-MT) claimed, "This event is another example of President Biden weaponizing federal agencies to target and harass hard-working Americans for exercising their constitutional rights."

"While we wait to hear more details and the rationale behind this raid, given the positions of the Biden Administration this raid appears to be an attempt to intimidate firearms dealers and owners," the letter read. "A pattern of intimidation and harassment seems to be emerging under Director Dettelbach’s leadership of the ATF."

"This pattern appears to be orchestrated directly from the White House as evident by the 'fact sheet' released by the Biden Administration, where they detail their plans to hassle mom-and-pop gun shops over minor record keeping and paperwork discrepancies," the letter said. 

The congressman noted that the IRS confiscated all of the 4473 background check forms, even though they "include no financial information, and there is no discernable reason why the IRS would need these forms."

"The IRS committed an egregious breach of privacy for Montana’s gun owners," Resendale Jr. continued. "Although there are still some murky details regarding the events at Highwood Creek Outfitters. There is no circumstance in which 4473’s would be necessary in an investigation spearheaded by the IRS."

The owner of Highwood Creek Outfitters Tom Van Hoose said in an interview with MTN News that he has been the subject of government surveillance for a couple of years, and he doesn't know the reason why but fears it's political. 

“I can only assume that it’s because of the style of weapons that we have and the press that’s so against them,” he said. “The current administration seems to be hell-bent on getting those guns out of the hands of average Americans.”

Van Hoosen said his shop has a good relationship with the ATF. "We have a reputation of dotting all the i's and crossing all the t's because there's so much legal fun to be had,” he noted. 

"It's just not worth doing things that are going to get you in trouble." 

According to KRTV, the Great Falls Police Department was made aware of the investigation and helped with security, but the Montana Department of Justice had no involvement. 

In August, the Inflation Reduction Act authorized the IRS to bring on 87,000 new agents. A job posting at the time required new agents to be qualified to use deadly force if necessary.

Around the same time, the agency re-hired Nikole Flax to head an office with the new agents. Flax worked under former IRS head Lois Lerner during the years of the alleged IRS targeting scandal.  

The addition of the new agents drew scrutiny from Republicans who claimed that they would be used to target middle-class Americans. 

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