Gun control group Brady Campaign wants federal regulators to cough up documents relating to an internal memo leaked earlier this year advocating relaxed gun policies, according to a lawsuit filed in a D.C. federal court Monday.
In the complaint, Brady asks for communications between Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives employees and representatives from gun manufacturers and the National Rifle Association over an 11-page “white paper,” drafted by the ATF’s associate deputy director and chief operating officer Ronald B. Turk.
Obtained by the Washington Post in January just after the inauguration of President Trump, the paper advocates removing restrictions on the sale of suppressors; conducting a study concerned with lifting the ban on imported assault weapons; and requiring a higher amount of crime guns to be traced back to specific dealers before the federal government asks for additional information from those dealers.
The lawsuit argues the white paper recommendations “appeared inconsistent with the ATF’s duty to enforce the law” and its stated mission to protect communities from criminal violence and the illegal use and trafficking of firearms. The group says it filed the lawsuit after a Freedom of Information Act request filed six months ago went unanswered. “While many recommendations in the reported White Paper appeared inconsistent with the ATF’s mission, many appeared consistent with the NRA’s agenda of removing and reducing firearms regulations,” the lawsuit says.
Seized upon by gun rights advocates as a vindication of a number talking points in the Second Amendment community, Turk drew fire from House Democrats in April. U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Virginia, called out Turk over his unofficial paper during a hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, asking him if he had any input in producing it from gun rights groups. “A lot of those thoughts read like an NRA white paper,” Connolly said. “Do you represent the NRA or do you represent the American people at ATF?”
The Brady request also seeks the courts to order ATF to hand over information concerning gun dealers that have been subject to warnings or license revocations by the agency because of potential violations of federal firearms laws. Like the white paper communications, the gun control group filed a FOIA request with the agency that did not meet with a positive response.
The group specifically wants license revocation notices, warning letters, conference documents, and reports of violations and firearms inspection narrative reports issued to federal firearms licensees from July 1, 2015, through June 30. The data is to be used in conjunction with Brady’s “Bad Apple Gun Dealer” program which highlights shops with a questionable record of compliance.
“The ATF has a critical role in monitoring the gun industry and keeping America safe from gun violence,” said Avery Gardiner, Brady co-president, in a statement. “We sought information about its work, and it did not respond, even though it is required to do so under federal law. We certainly hope that ATF is doing its job and the public deserves these documents so we can make sure that the ATF is doing everything it can to stop gun trafficking and other crimes.”