CHICAGO (CN) – A Wisconsin gun dealer who failed to keep records and sold to straw buyers rightfully lost his federal license to sell firearms, the 7th Circuit ruled.
Shawano Gun and Loan has a rocky history with federal inspectors. After owner Timothy Backes obtained a federal firearms license in 1998, his store failed three inspections by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
The federal Gun Control Act requires dealers to keep paper records of all gun purchases and sales. They must also fill out paperwork for each sale verifying that a buyer can legally purchase a gun. Dealers are not allowed to sell to “straw buyers” who purchase guns that are then given to someone else.
In 1999, 2002 and 2007, ATF inspectors found missing paperwork and evidence that the shop was selling guns to straw buyers. Backes had signed acknowledgements of the violations and promised corrective action after each inspection and attended a warning meeting after his second failed inspection.
ATF finally served Backes with a notice of revocation of his license in October 2007. After his administrative appeal was rejected, Backes filed suit challenging ATF’s determination that he had “willfully” violated the act.
U.S. District Judge William Griesbach of Wisconsin upheld the license revocation, but stayed his decision pending appeal.
Griesbach accepted Backes’ affidavit that the missing records because of a computer error, rather than willful transgression, but he ruled that Backes was still in violation for failing to print the records every six months, as required.
Shawano also should have recognized straw-buying in multiple instances where the store sold to individuals with the same last name or address as others who had been turned down earlier that day or the day previous, Griesbach ruled.
On Tuesday, a three-judge panel of the 7th Circuit affirmed the decision.
“Despite being given multiple opportunities to take corrective action, Shawano continued to repeat its violations,” U.S. District Judge Patrick Murphy, sitting in by designation from Illinois, wrote for the court.
“ATF has the authority to revoke Shawano’s federal firearms license, and its decision to do so in this case is fully supported, as a matter of law, by the record submitted to the district court,” he added.
Straw buying is a federal felony but only a misdemeanor in Wisconsin. Neither Backes nor any of his clients have been charged with straw buying or selling.
Despite the revocation of his license, Backes’ business may continue to operate if he follows through on his plan to transfer the operation to his nephew who manages the operation.
Backes’ attorney Raymond Dall’Osto told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that revocation is unfair.
“They go from nothing to the guillotine,” Dall’Osto told the Journal Sentinel, adding: “My client is under the gun here.”