Everytown’s suit against ATF closed, but agreement still pending

The case between Everytown for Gun Safety and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives over a records request has reached a milestone where the gun control group has the option to either accept an agreement or start from scratch.

Although the case officially closed last month, a memo endorsed by a New York federal court on March 7 shows Everytown is still working to come to an agreement with ATF for the 2015 lawsuit alleging the agency failed to comply with a Freedom of Information Act request. The case is at the point where ATF will release a limited number of documents as part of an agreement, or Everytown can request the court reopen it, which the request must be sent before June.

According to a letter sent to the court in late January by Everytown’s attorneys, the nonprofit and the federal agency have been continuing discussions and had “managed to narrow their disputes to a handful of remaining issues.”

A letter sent the court the following month indicated they had come to an agreement, but still needed to work on distilling it into a written format that would then need to be approved by the ATF and the Department of Justice, and requested an additional 30 days.

However, following the February status report, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Sullivan dismissed the case without cost, but granted a 30-day time period for the parties to request the case be re-opened.

Everytown requested the case be reopened to ensure that the court retains jurisdiction to make a decision if Justice Department and ATF officials reject the agreement reached by legal counsel. Additionally, the nonprofit’s attorney pointed out that the counsel for both parties were working to come to an agreement on attorney’s fees, and keeping the case open would allow them to do so “without the cost of a burdensome and potentially unnecessary fee litigation.”

But Sullivan ruled on March 7 that the case remain closed, although he extended by 90 days the time period to request the case be restored. Both parties have until late June to request the case be restored.

Everytown declined to comment, telling Guns.com last week that it does not comment on pending litigation.

Last summer, Everytown filed the complaint against the ATF for the agency’s failure to include information on the “time to crime” for firearms found at crime scenes in its response to a FOIA request for their aggregate trace data from 1998-2005.

The ATF is tasked with tracing the history of firearms recovered at crime scenes, using the gun’s serial number and other details to trace it back to the original dealer and purchaser.

The ATF provides data dating back to 2006 on its website. However, trace data prior to 2005 isn’t available online.

The nonprofit’s lawsuit indicates that since their initial request in 2013, the ATF has dodged their follow-up requests for the information, although they did release the trace data for the dates requested.

However, the ATF has argued the documents requested are exempt from disclosure under FOIA law, and denied the allegations that they had failed to respond to requests.

The nonprofit’s lawsuit seeks the release of the information requested and the court costs waived, but no damages.