ACRU

ATF Wins First Round against Gun Owners in Border-State Lawsuit

This column by ACRU Senior Legal Analyst Ken Klukowski was published January 18, 2012 on The Washington Examiner website.

Gun owners just lost the first round in a court struggle with President Obama’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

ATF issued orders requiring all firearm dealers in the border states (Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California) to report to ATF purchases of multiple semi-auto rifles, under the auspices of stopping Mexican drug cartels from paying operatives to buy guns in America and smuggle them into Mexico (because we all know the bang-up job Obama’s people have done stopping gun-running).

But the Firearm Owners’ Protection Act of 1986 (FOPA) seems designed to prevent exactly this outcome. Also known as “McClure-Volkmer,” FOPA was sponsored by two outspoken Second Amendment supporters in Congress.

Rep. Harold Volkmer, a Missouri Democrat, was a member of the National Rifle Association (NRA) board of directors until his death in 2011. It was signed by President Reagan.

The FOPA forbids the federal government from creating anything resembling a national gun registry. All gun dealers must perform a background check with the feds before selling a gun, but then the feds must discard that data within hours.

So the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) sued ATF in federal district court in DC. Judge Rosemary Collyer ruled last Friday that the language of another federal statute allows ATF to issue this demand, and that the order does not violate FOPA.

The NRA is pushing legislation, S. 570, to clarify that ATF cannot issue such demand letters to dealers, and NSSF is appealing the decision to the D.C. Circuit appeals court.

Gun owners rightly look askance at the Obama ATF’s actions because of the ongoing Operation Fast and Furious fiasco, and the record of manifest hostility that both Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder have consistently displayed regarding gun rights. Taken in that context, ATF’s order looks suspicious.