US Legislators call for ATF to crack down on problem gun dealers, citing USA TODAY/The Trace investigation
States are passing a record number of voting restrictions
Republican state legislatures have passed a record number of bills curtailing voting access in the first five months of 2021, the year after a national election saw the highest turnout election in modern history without evidence of widespread voter fraud.Legislators in 14 states - all of which are controlled by Republican governors and legislators - have passed 22 bills to curtail access to the ballot box, according to a count maintained by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University. That surpasses the previous record set in 2011, when 14 states passed 19 new laws restricting ballot access.
Lawmakers are pointing to a recent investigation by USA TODAY andas proof that more should be done to regulate the country’s gun sellers.
When the New York Legislature took up a bill to crack down on errant gun dealers last week its author, Sen. Zellnor Myrie, praised the “explosive report” by The Trace/USA TODAY. Myrie said the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is a disgrace for not providing stricter oversight of the firearms industry.
“You can read through these reports and see state-by-state the guns flowing to New York,” the Democrat said. “The ATF has not been up to the job, and the industry has been immunized from coming to court. If the ATF won’t take on these bad actors, then the victims should be able to do it themselves.”
GOP indifference to gun violence stifles action
The fate of the House gun bill faces an uncertain future in the U.S. Senate where Republicans are wary of any action — however sensible — to restrict gun ownership.Recent tragedies demonstrate the urgent need for recognition of the victims and the imperative for Congress to take action to end the carnage.
U.S. Rep. Joe Morelle, a Democrat from upstate New York who has authored legislation to bolster the regulations governing gun dealers, vowed to continue pushing for budget increases to help the ATF conduct inspections on a more consistent basis. He said the USA TODAY/The Trace investigation showed him there were systemic issues within the agency that couldn’t be solved by money alone.
Thethat inspectors routinely document violations at shops around the country, only to be overruled by higher authorities to issue warning letters instead of revoking licenses.
Morelle said he found it “mind blowing” and “incredibly frustrating” to see how reluctant the ATF was to shutter dealers with lengthy histories of violations.
Pro-gun groups step up lobbying campaign against Biden ATF pick
David Chipman, President Biden's pick to run the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), is facing intense opposition from gun rights groups that are pushing key senators to reject his nomination.Chipman spent 25 years with ATF as a special agent. But pro-gun organizations are protesting his nomination over his support for stricter gun laws and previous work as a policy adviser for Giffords, a gun control group.AfterChipman spent 25 years with ATF as a special agent. But pro-gun organizations are protesting his nomination over his support for stricter gun laws and previous work as a policy adviser for Giffords, a gun control group.
“Compliance relies in large part on a degree of sanctions,” Morelle said. “Unless there’s a sea change in attitudes at the agency itself, all the money in the world and all the additional investigators won’t matter.”
A spokesman for the ATF said the bureau recently hired 20 new investigators and is in the process of recruiting 100 additional investigators in the next year, “to increase inspections to help ensure compliance and appropriate enforcement action.”begin at a salary of $37,674.
Morelle said he was considering asking the Justice Department for more information about issues highlighted in the USA TODAY/The Trace report. He urged President Joe Biden’s pick to lead the ATF, David Chipman, to make reforming the inspections program a priority if the Senate confirms his nomination.
During a May 26 Judiciary Committee hearing, Chipman, a former ATF agent who now works for the gun control group Giffords, faced scrutiny from a bevy of Republican senators. They called into question how his activist roles could impact his tenure as an ATF director.
Florida State softball's miraculous run continues to WCWS finals with another win against Alabama
The Seminoles will play for their second NCAA Championship in four years starting Tuesday against No. 1 Oklahoma.The final hurdle, a second consecutive game against No. 3 Alabama Monday night, looked like no problem when the Seminoles jumped out to an 8-0 lead in the third inning.
Gun rights groups, including the National Rife Association and National Shooting Sports Foundation, have ramped up lobbying in recent days, particularly to moderate senators who could sway the anticipated 50-50 party-line vote.
Chipman has declined to comment on The Trace/USA TODAY findings, but pledged during his confirmation hearing to review gun shop inspections if approved as the next ATF director.
The investigation drew the attention of gun blogs and prominent voices. Cam Edwards, editor of BearingArms.com, accused reporters behind the project of being anti-gun. He called into question the timing of publication the same week as Chipman’s confirmation hearings.
“While the new series by USA TODAY and The Trace is meant to bolster the argument that the ATF needs a permanent director like Chipman to whip agents into shape and to close gun shops that have repeatedly run afoul of the agencies regulations, you could also make the argument that, if the agency is truly as soft on wayward gun dealers as the reporters claim, that an ATF veteran like Chipman has been part of the problem,”“After all, he spent 25 years as an ATF agent, including several years where he was head of the Firearms Division.”
NRA Adds About 225K Paying Members Since January, Now Has Over 5M Registered
The NRA now boasts more than 5 million dues-paying members, and its controversial leader, Wayne LaPierre, continues to raise funds by selling himself as an aggressive guardian of the Second Amendment right to bear arms. LaPierre has positioned the NRA as the opposition to Democratic administrations. In 2016, he spent more than $30 million to support Donald Trump's campaign, according to data from the Federal Election Commission. After mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, Trump initially pledged to take action on extensive background checks for gun purchases but dropped the promise after a phone call with the NRA.
In Philadelphia, which is enduring a record number of homicides this year, City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson said the USA TODAY/The Trace report underscored a need for the ATF to curb illegal gun running and make sure weapons are not winding up in the wrong hands.
“I have not seen ATF in the city of Philadelphia addressing this issue aggressively or with a sense of passion and dedication,” said Johnson, who chairs the council’s Special Committee on Gun Violence Prevention. “Hopefully the new president and the new head of ATF will get them to take that type of approach.”
Johnson also wants the ATF’s Philadelphia Field Division to do a better job of coordinating with state and local law enforcement to curtail the violence that is taking a disproportionate toll on the lives of young Black and brown men.
Over the past 17 months, gunfire has injured or killed more than 800 Philadelphians under the age of 21. Mayor Jim Kenney has proposed spending $34 million on anti-violence initiatives in the 2022 fiscal year that begins July 1, but the violence has prompted Johnson and other city leaders to push to increase that amount to $100 million using federal coronavirus relief funds.
Johnson hopes the ATF will work closely with the city in its efforts.
“We have to take an all-hands-on-deck approach to tracking down where illegal guns are coming from and solving the problem of gun shops and gun shows selling firearms to people who may not be qualified to own them,” Johnson said. “That means local law enforcement, state law enforcement, and federal law enforcement need to be involved.”
Assault weapons: The legal battle over them continues. What are they?
A federal judge has ruled that California's 32-year-old assault weapons ban is unconstitutional -- and that the state cannot limit civilian access to weapons he considered to be "fairly ordinary, popular, modern rifles."A federal judge has ruled that California's 32-year-old assault weapons ban is unconstitutional -- and that the state cannot limit civilian access to weapons he considered to be "fairly ordinary, popular, modern rifles.
In New York, Myrie’s bill would expose gun dealers to civil litigation if plaintiffs can prove they have become a public nuisance – the legal standard that has been used to sue opioid manufacturers in recent years. He cited The Trace/USA TODAY investigation as evidence that the so-called Iron Pipeline firearms trafficking corridor from southern states to the New York metropolitan area remains a problem.
“You have to stop the flow of illegal guns or this problem of shootings will persist,” he said. “There’s one set of rules for East Flatbush in Brooklyn and another for shops in Ohio, Florida and Georgia, it seems.”
The New York effort takes direct aim at the 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act that generally prohibits civil lawsuits against gun manufacturers and dealers. One of the exceptions it seeks to exploit is known as the “predicate exception” allowing suits alleging violations of state public nuisance laws. The legal battle has been examined by several federal appeals courts that reached different conclusions.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation opposes the measure. Larry Keane, the group’s senior vice president, described the legislation as misguided in a recent online commentary.
“The (arms act) keeps activist trial lawyers and gun control groups from placing the blame on the industry for the criminal misuse of legal firearms that are lawfully sold,” Keane wrote. “Sen. Myrie’s proposal would be akin to a state allowing a lawsuit to be brought against Ford for the actions of a drunk driver that killed someone after getting behind the wheel.”
Cornyn says bipartisan talks with Democratic senator on expanding gun background checks have ended
Sen. John Cornyn said on Wednesday his bipartisan talks with Connecticut Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy regarding the expansion of gun background checks have come to an end. © Provided by Washington Examiner “Unfortunately, we've been unable to find an agreed-upon outcome, so basically, he suggested to me that there wasn't any real reason to continue talking right now," the Texas Republican told CNN. Murphy expressed confidence about reaching some agreement with Republicans, even if it is not through discussions with Cornyn.
For this project, USA TODAY partnered with, a nonprofit newsroom dedicated to improving public understanding of gun violence, increasing accountability and identifying solutions.
More in this series
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY:
The Backstory: Our investigation found the ATF goes easy on problematic gun dealers. Here's how we did it. .
Reporters found dealers that sold weapons to convicted felons and domestic abusers, lied to investigators and falsified records to hide their actions. "In many cases when the ATF caught dealers breaking the law," the story found, "the agency issued warnings, sometimes repeatedly, and allowed the stores to operate for months or years. Others are still selling guns to this day." The investigation was a partnership between USA TODAY and The Trace, an independent newsroom that reports on gun violence.