Brady Center and International law firm Covington & Burling LLP announce lawsuit to obtain crucial documents
Washington D.C., October 16, 2017—Today, the Brady Center and co-counsel Covington & Burling filed suit against the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF) in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. The lawsuit was filed after the ATF failed to comply with Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for information regarding ATF's secret -- but leaked -- memo about reducing regulations on the gun industry as well as documents about gun dealers that, according to ATF inspections, did not comply with their legal obligations to avoid selling guns to dangerous people.
"The ATF has a critical role in monitoring the gun industry and keeping America safe from gun violence. We sought information about its work, and it did not respond, even though it is required to do so under federal law. We certainly hope that ATF is doing its job and the public deserves these documents so we can make sure that the ATF is doing everything it can to stop gun trafficking and other crimes," said Avery Gardiner, Co-President of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
Brady lawyer Mariel Goetz added, "The Brady Center has worked diligently to follow all procedures to obtain this information. Last week, our organization filed a class action suit on behalf of the attendees of the Las Vegas music festival who suffered through the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history. Today, we file suit on behalf of all Americans. We all deserve information about our government's efforts to regulate firearms and stop illegal gun trafficking. We need transparency to make sure that the federal government is doing what it should to stop gun violence."
Federal agencies have 20 days to respond to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, but the ATF has failed to respond to FOIA requests filed six months ago by Covington & Burling and the Brady Center. Senior counsel Alan Pemberton of Covington & Burling LLP added, "Many of our lawyers have worked with the Brady Center over the years on a variety of gun safety issues, and this is a continuation of that work."
In March, the Brady Center filed a FOIA request for documents related to a white paper written by the second highest-ranking official of the ATF, Ronald Turk. That white paper laid out recommendations to remove or reduce federal regulations on guns. These proposed rollbacks have long been priorities of the gun lobby and have been supported by the National Rifle Association, which was a major contributor to President's Trump campaign.
In August, Brady filed another FOIA request to support its "Bad Apple Gun Dealer" campaign, seeking to obtain recent records relating to annual inspections of licensed gun dealers that showed serious violations of law. Identifying the dealers that violate federal law and are involved in negligent and illegal behavior is one of the most important ways that Brady holds the gun industry accountable for supplying guns to criminals who terrorize our communities.
Both of these requests are central to the Brady Center's core mission to prevent the 93 deaths and hundreds of injuries due to gun violence every day. Mariel Goetz and Jonathan Lowy of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence and Kevin Barnett, Alan Pemberton, and Nooree Lee of Covington & Burling, LLP are leading this case.
Brady has one powerful mission — to unite all Americans against gun violence. We work across Congress, the courts, and our communities with over 90 grassroots chapters, bringing together young and old, red and blue, and every shade of color to find common ground in common sense. In the spirit of our namesakes Jim and Sarah Brady, we have fought for over 45 years to take action, not sides, and we will not stop until this epidemic ends. It’s in our hands.