WASHINGTON (CN) – A gun group is outraged that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives asked gun dealers and pawnbrokers in states on the Mexican border to report to the ATF whenever they sell “two or more semi-automatic rifles capable of accepting a detachable magazine, and with a caliber greater than .22 to an unlicensed person.”
The National Shooting Sports Foundation says that ATF demand for information on the gun sales “exceeds the scope of its statutory authority and violates federal statutory law.”
The lawsuit comes on the heels of embarrassing revelations that the ATF “lost” more than 1,700 guns that it sold into Mexico in a bungled sting to try to track down armorers for the Mexican drug cartels.
Handguns and most rifles are illegal in Mexico, and groups on both sides of the border have complained for years that the drug gangs and the police that follow their orders get their heavy weapons from the United States.
The ATF “Fast and Furious” sting began in November 2009. Nearly 200 of the lost guns have been found at crime scenes in Mexico, and two AK-47s from Fast and Furious were found tat the scene of the fatal shooting of a U.S. Border Patrol agent in Arizona, according to reports in credible newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times.
According to a U.S. Embassy cable obtained by the L.A. Times, the ATF did not inform even the U.S. Embassy of the Fast and Furious sting.
Revelations of the ATF’s botched operation, which became public in July, have led at least one border-state congressman to demand the resignation of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Jr.
But in its federal complaint, the Connecticut-based National Shooting Sports Foundation says the ATF does not have legal authority to track such sales at all.
The NSSF claims the ATF violated federal law when it sent letters to 8,500 federally licensed firearms dealers demanding that they report all unlicensed people who buy multiple semi-automatic rifles.
The NSSF says the ATF sent the letters to gun dealers and pawnbrokers in California, Texas, Arizona and New Mexico.
The ATF letter asks that beginning on Aug. 14, the gun dealers inform it of “multiple sales or other dispositions whenever they sell or otherwise dispose of, at one time or during any five consecutive business days, two or more semi-automatic rifles capable of accepting a detachable magazine, and with a caliber greater than .22 to an unlicensed person.”
The ATF wants to know the date of sale; the gun dealer’s business or trade name; the name, address, sex, race and date of birth of the buyer; and the model, serial number, manufacturing and caliber of rifles sold, according to the NSSF complaint.
“Federally-licensed firearms dealers are not statutorily required to maintain records reflecting the information demanded by ATF in its letter to these dealers and Congress has not conferred statutory authority on ATF to collect the information demanded,” the NSSF says.
The NSSF says its membership includes 6,000 gun makers and sellers, including 789 in California, Texas, Arizona and New Mexico. It claims its mission is to “promote, protect and preserve hunting and the shooting sports by providing leadership in addressing industry challenges, advancing participation in an understanding of hunting and shooting sports.”
It seeks declaratory judgment that the ATF’s demands violate federal law and an injunction forcing the Bureau to “destroy” all forms on the matter.
The NSSF is represented by King Hill III of Venable LLP, in Washington.
More than 35,000 people have been killed in Mexico’s so-called war on drugs since President Felipe Calderon took office in 2006. Calderon’s major, and most controversial move, was to unleash the Mexican Army. Violence exploded after he did so.
Although most news reports on both sides of the border claim that the 35,000 people died in Mexico’s fight against drugs, more credible reports indicate that Mexico’s many police agencies, and now the army, are acting at the behest of the drug cartels, which are fighting for control of the drug smuggling routes, and, some say, for control of the Mexican government.