Washington, D.C., November 15, 2018 - Today, the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence filed two lawsuits against the Department of Justice and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, continuing the organization’s oversight efforts and exposing gun dealers across the country who have violated federal law with limited, if any, consequences. The suits, filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, are in regards to two separate Freedom of Information Act requests that the DOJ and ATF have ignored months beyond the agencies’ statutory requirements. Those filings can be found here and here. The accompanying original FOIA requests can be found here and here.
The first suit is a continuation of Brady’s ongoing efforts to obtain ATF inspection reports of gun dealers who have repeatedly and seriously violated the law. Brady’s efforts have already led to widespread interest from the Senate, House of Representatives, media, and public at large. The FOIA request that is subject to the new lawsuit expands on Brady’s previous request to include any reports from July of 2017 through the present. The second suit seeks to obtain updates to ATF Order 5370.1B, which provides guidelines to field agents on what violations lead to specific remedial actions - a key piece of information when seeking to understand the ATF’s disciplinary process for gun dealers breaking the law and whether that process is applied consistently.
“We already know that the ATF is letting gun dealers get away with breaking the law and knowingly selling guns to dangerous people - now we need to see just how deep that failure to protect the public goes,” stated Avery Gardiner, co-president of the Brady Center. “For over a year, we’ve reached out to the Trump Administration to work with us on this issue, but they’ve stonewalled us every step of the way, forcing us to take action in court. I’d ask what the ATF has to hide by ignoring our requests, but given what we’ve seen, we already know the answer - plenty.”
The first FOIA request seeking to obtain inspection reports was filed on July 3, 2018, with acknowledgement from the ATF on August 2. The request for the ATF order was filed on June 28, with no response whatsoever. Both requests are well past the legally specified time limits of 20 days for a required response, leading to today’s lawsuits.
“Our previous efforts have already shed light on the ATF’s failure to revoke the licenses of the minority of gun dealers who repeatedly and seriously break the law, and we owe it to the public to press on,” added Brady attorney Josh Scharff. “We know that 90 percent of crime guns in this country come from just 5 percent of gun dealers. Unfortunately, we also know that the ATF is doing very little to keep our communities safe from this 5 percent. It’s in the public’s interest to hold the ATF and DOJ accountable to properly regulate and police the gun industry, and we will save lives by doing so.”
A previous version of ATF Order 5370.1B from 2013 was made public in 2015, providing some insight into the ATF inspection process. However, it has been five years since that order was issued, with a new administration taking office during that time that has proven to be influenced by the gun industry. There are reasonable questions as to whether the order has been significantly updated, and this suit seeks to resolve that issue.
Senior counsel Alan Pemberton of Covington & Burling LLP added, “We look forward to helping the Brady Center get the information it is seeking about how ATF does its job.” Jonathan Lowy and Joshua Scharff of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence and Kevin Barnett, Alan Pemberton, and Nooree Lee of Covington & Burling, LLP are leading the case.
The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence is dedicated to reducing gun injuries and deaths in America by stemming all of the causes of gun violence. For more than 25 years, the Brady Center’s legal team has fought in and out of the courts to obtain justice for victims of gun violence, to reform dangerous industry practices, and to defend reasonable gun violence prevention laws.
In an increasingly regulated world, Covington & Burling LLP provides corporate, litigation, and regulatory expertise to help clients navigate their most complex business problems, deals, and disputes. Founded in 1919, the firm has more than 1,000 lawyers in offices in Beijing, Brussels, Dubai, Frankfurt, Johannesburg, London, Los Angeles, New York, Palo Alto, San Francisco, Seoul, Shanghai, and Washington.
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.