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Was ATF Killing Of AR Airport Leader A Case of Agent Overreach?

The loud noises outside their bedroom door woke Bryan Malinowski, who looked at his wife, Maer. “Stay back,” she remembers him saying after he reached into a drawer for his gun and loaded it. He crept into a hallway in their home in Little Rock, Ark., and saw figures in the darkness. He started shooting and was met with return fire. The people shooting back at him were agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, executing a search warrant on suspicion that Malinowski, director of the Little Rock airport, had repeatedly sold guns without a license. As the agents fired back, a bullet struck Malinowski, 53, in the head, and two days later, he died. His death has been met with outrage by his family, friends, and gun rights supporters in Arkansas and beyond, who say the March 19 raid was ill-conceived, unnecessary and a shocking case of government overreach, reports the New York Times.

Last week, House Judiciary Committee members grilled ATF director Steven Dettelbach about the case, one of the latest tension points in the bitter divide on access to guns. In a heavily armed nation where illegal gun sales are linked with other, often violent crimes, some law enforcement experts defend both the investigation of Malinowski and the need for serving search warrants early in the morning. Shortly after the raid, ATF said it had been investigating Malinowski for months on suspicion that he had been selling a large number of firearms at gun shows without a license, sometimes soon after he bought them. The law at the time was vague, exempting people who occasionally sold guns as a hobby but not spelling out how many sales were too many. The agency said Malinowski was selling so many guns that he should have had a federal firearms dealer license. That would have required him to conduct criminal and mental health background checks on buyers.


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