SEATTLE (CN) - The 9th Circuit seems unlikely to revive a lawsuit by a man who says alleged misconduct by his family-run business unfairly torpedoed his application for a personal gun dealer license.
Bruce Barany claimed the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF) refused to grant the license because he previously served as treasurer for The General Store, which had its gun-dealer license revoked for violations of federal firearms laws. The ATF concluded that Barany's application was "simply an attempt to circumvent the revocation of The General Store's license and continue operations as a licensed firearms dealer," according to court documents.
A federal judge dismissed the case last year, leading Barany to appeal.
At a hearing before a three-judge panel Thursday, Judge Richard Paez quickly interrupted Barany's attorney Thomas Smith as he began his arguments. The incredulous judge asked why Barany insisted it was a personal application. "He plans to operate this license out of The General Store, correct?" Paez asked. "Why isn't he just standing in for The General Store?"
Smith argued that Barany was applying as an individual. and federal law doesn't allow the ATF to deny a license to an individual "based upon the willful acts of a former corporate licensee."
Chief Judge Alex Kozinski wanted Smith to quote from the statute, but Smith failed to bring a copy of the law.
"What did you think we were going to do here today?" Kozinski asked.
"You've got a corporation that violated the terms of its license," he said. "Corporations don't act on their own. If they violate things, it's done by the people that run them. Your client was one of the guys that ran the corporation."
Kozinski then asked Smith why he thought it was unreasonable for the ATF to deny Barany a license. When Smith responded by asking a question, Kozinski interrupted saying, "I ask the questions."
"Did you hear the question?" Kozinski asked, raising his voice.
"I don't mean to argue with you, your honor," Smith said.
Kozinski interrupted again as Smith attempted to quote a section of the law. "You came to court to argue a case without having the law that you're relying on in front of you?" the judge said. "Would you like to borrow my copy?"
After borrowing a copy of the statute from the government's attorney, Smith said Barany shouldn't be "stained" for the rest of his life because of past corporate violations, even though Barany and his siblings were the only company officers.
"The law does not say that," Smith said.
But the judges seemed to disagree. "I guess we'll see, won't we," Kozinski said, laughing. "I think it would be irresponsible of the ATF to grant him a license."
The panel had no questions for Rolf Tangvald, representing the ATF.