Yesterday in its federal lawsuit against the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the trade association for America’s firearms industry, filed a motion asking the court to issue a preliminary injunction blocking the ATF from requiring 8,500 federally licensed firearms retailers along the Southwest border (Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California) to report multiple sales of certain long guns.
Specifically, the regulation requires retailers to report to ATF the sale of more than one semi-automatic rifle larger than .22 caliber and capable of accepting a detachable magazine that is purchased by the same individual within five consecutive business days. These commonly owned rifles, like all firearms, are lawfully sold by federally licensed firearms retailers only after an FBI background check is performed.
The NSSF lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Aug. 3. 2011, alleges that ATF exceeded its legal authority under the Gun Control Act by sending a letter imposing this new record-keeping and reporting requirement. The motion, if granted, would freeze the reporting requirement while the court considers NSSF’s underlying lawsuit.
NSSF Senior Vice President and General Counsel Lawrence G. Keane commented on the NSSF motion:
“A preliminary injunction will curtail an unlawful regulation by ATF that sets a dangerous legal precedent. If ATF can demand this information from these law-abiding retailers simply by sending a letter requiring it, then there is no record or report ATF cannot require of any licensee, anywhere in the country, simply because ATF had decided it wants to see the information. This is the proverbial ‘slippery slope.’ Our industry abhors the criminal misuse of firearms, whether on the streets of El Paso or in Juarez, Mexico. Though we can understand ATF’s motive is to try to curtail violence in Mexico, Congress simply has not granted ATF regulatory carte blanche.”
Despite its lawsuit, NSSF is encouraging all retailers to continue to cooperate with law enforcement and report any suspicious activity to the ATF.
“Members of the firearms industry take great pride in their longstanding cooperative relationship with ATF,” said NSSF President and CEO Steve Sanetti. “Retailers have long been considered by ATF to be a vital source of information for law enforcement in combating illegal firearms trafficking.”
Sanetti pointed out that for more than a decade the firearms industry has done its part to help prevent illegal straw purchases of firearms through its Don’t Lie for the Other Guy anti-straw purchasing program. The campaign, a cooperative effort between NSSF and ATF, educates retailers on how to better detect and deter illegal purchases of firearms and warns the public that it is a serious crime to attempt such an illegal purchase. The program is active in firearm retailer shops across the country. Over the last several years the firearms industry has solely funded the roll-out of Don’t Lie along the border to deter individuals from illegally purchasing firearms.