Federal Lawsuit: ATF Illegally Going After Gun Store Licenses

A new federal lawsuit filed in Texas by a gun shop owner against the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) claims the Biden administration is violating federal firearms laws and his civil rights. The case focuses on the government’s new policy of revoking federal firearms licenses over small clerical errors in required paperwork applying to gun sales.

The complaint filed last month in the case alleges the ATF is engaging in an unlawful scheme that uses the 1968 Gun Control Act as a pretext to close down gun retailers over minor clerical errors. As an example, the ATF has taken away licenses for misspelling “county” as “country” on federal firearm transaction form 4473. That form alone has 100 data fields that must be completed for every covered retail sale.

The Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) filed the lawsuit on behalf of Michael Cargill, a federal firearms license holder and owner of Central Texas Gun Works in Austin.

TTPF attorney Nate Curtisi told the Washington Times that the Biden administration “has begun revoking licenses based on a handful of these inadvertent mistakes among thousands of Form 4473s that do not result in criminals or prohibited possessors obtaining guns.”

That poses a significant legal problem for the ATF, according to Curtisi. “The administration’s enforcement policy ignores the text of the Gun Control Act,” he said.

Curtisi added that the Gun Control Act only permits the revocation of federal firearms licenses “when dealers willfully violate federal or state gun laws.” The federal law states that its purpose is to prevent criminals or dangerous individuals from purchasing guns.

A spokesperson for the ATF admitted in a statement that the agency is only allowed to revoke licenses for “willful violations.” However, the ATF maintains that the law does not define what “willful” means, and the agency considers violations made with “intentional disregard of a known legal duty or with plain indifference to their legal obligations” as “willful.”

The types of willful violations the ATF has historically revoked licenses for include failing to perform background checks, selling a gun to a prohibited person, falsifying official records, refusing an ATF administrative inspection, and failing to maintain legally required records.

In June 2021, the Biden administration announced it would begin revoking licenses when dealers failed to strictly comply with state laws as a measure called a “force multiplier in protecting public safety.”

The new lawsuit seeks a nationwide injunction against the Biden administration and the ATF prohibiting the enforcement of the new policy allegedly in contradiction to the law.

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