NSSF Files Lawsuit Over Multiple Tracking Requirement

The National Shooting Sports Foundation is urging federal firearms licensees to join the fight against the Department of Justice and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ new mandate that requires dealers in border-states (Texas, Arizona, California, and New Mexico) to track and report individuals who purchase more than one semi-automatic rifle, with detachable magazine greater than .22 caliber, within a five day period.

Yesterday, the NSSF took a step forward in that fight and filed a lawsuit against the DOJ and the ATF on the grounds that the demand letters being sent out to gun retailers are reaching beyond the legal authority of the DOJ and the ATF under the Gun Control Act.

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In an open letter to firearms retailers regarding the NSSF lawsuit, Lawrence G. Keane wrote:

The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) — the trade association for America’s firearms industry — will be filing a lawsuit challenging the legal authority of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and ATF under the Gun Control Act to impose this new multiple sales reporting requirement. When Congress authorized the reporting of multiple sales of handguns it could have required the same for the sale of long guns, but it did not. ATF is clearly exceeding its lawful authority under the Gun Control Act. Current ATF Acting Director Ken Melson himself has previously questioned ATF’s legal authority to impose this new requirement.

ar stype gun with magazines on top of bedding

The NSSF issue with this new regulation is based on the fact that the Gun Control Act, when drafted, did not include provisions pertaining to tracking requirements for semi-automatic rifles, with detachable magazine greater than .22 caliber, purchased within a five day period.  And while there is a federal law that requires tracking for handguns, it was enacted through Congress, not at the behest of the DOJ and the ATF.  Keane explains:

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Our primary legal concern is that this is the proverbial “slippery slope. If ATF is allowed to require this record-keeping and reporting requirement of law-abiding retailers in these four states simply by sending a letter demanding the information, than there is no record or report ATF cannot require of any licensee (manufacturer, distributor or retailer), anywhere in the country. ATF would simply need to send a “demand letter” to the licensee for the information it wishes. Congress has not given ATF this much discretion; otherwise the protections afforded licensees by Congress under the Gun Control Act, as amended, would be rendered meaningless.

shotguns displayed in a gun store

In short, a mandate or requirement like this should have to go through the proper channels, i.e. Congress, before it is enacted.

Attorney General Eric Holder disagrees.  Yesterday he told reporters in Washington the “action we have taken is consistent with the law.  The measures we are proposing are appropriate ones to stop the flow of guns from the United States into Mexico.”

officia united states portrait of eric holder

However, here one should note some facts concerning Operation Fast & Furious where, under the direction and non-interdiction tactics of the ATF, 1,418 weapons were walked into Mexico from the U.S.  Of those 1,418 weapons, 1,048 are still unaccounted for and at least one gun has been linked to the death of a U.S. Border Patrol Agent.

This of course raises many questions, not the least of which is shouldn’t the DOJ and the ATF get their own houses in order before they start demanding law-abiding, firearms retailers to change their tracking and reporting procedures?

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