Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence

SEPTEMBER 22, 2006
3:23 PM

CONTACT: Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence
(202) 898-0792

Federal Agents, Police Leaders Blast Gun Dealer Protection Bill

WASHINGTON - September 22 - Eight retired senior agents of the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives, including two former ATF chiefs, and two of the nation’s most prominent police groups today sent letters to members of Congress urging them to oppose a bill, H.R. 5092, that would weaken federal powers to crack down on gun dealers who violate the law.

The retired ATF leaders wrote the legislation “would severely undermine the Bureau and protect corrupt gun dealers.”  The Major Cities (Police) Chiefs Association said the bill “would have a devastating effect on the ability of law enforcement to stem the flow of firearms from lawbreaking gun dealers to violent criminals.”

The International Brotherhood of Police Officers (IBPO) wrote “a vote for H.R. 5092 in any form is a vote against police officers.”

The letters are available at
Yesterday, the House leadership indicated that the bill, H.R. 5092, Could be brought up as soon as Monday for a final vote. 

“Supporters of this bill have waged a campaign of utter deception about what it would do,” said Paul Helmke, President of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.  “They say it would strengthen federal enforcement.  In fact, the bill would decimate federal power to shut down the most irresponsible gun pushers, leading to more guns in the hands of criminals.”

The ATF veterans, including former ATF Directors Stephen Higgins and Rex Davis, wrote that the bill would “protect lawbreakers, at the expense of public safety” by requiring ATF to meet an “extraordinary burden of proof” to revoke the licenses of dealers who violate the law.  They also wrote that, although the bill would give ATF the authority to levy fines and impose suspensions against dealers, the legislation “places such severe impediments on ATF’s ability to impose these sanctions as to make them nearly meaningless.”

Major Chiefs Association President Harold Hurtt wrote “it is not hard to see the devastating effect that H.R. 5092 would have on law enforcement around the country… If ATF is unable to revoke the licenses of corrupt gun dealers, our communities will continue to be flooded with firearms from these irresponsible gun sellers.”

IBPO Legislative Affairs Director Steve Lenkart wrote “this senseless legislation would serve only to cripple law enforcement’s ability to track and prevent the flow of illegal guns across the country.”

H.R. 5092, misnamed the ATF “Modernization and Reform Act of 2006,” would cripple ATF’s ability to crack down on the nation’s worst gun dealers by reclassifying a host of serious federal gun law violations as “minor,” and raising the burden of proof to require ATF to show gun dealers specifically intended to break the law.  The legislation would add to the supply of illegal guns available to criminals, since studies show that about one percent of the Nation’s gun dealers supply almost sixty percent of the guns traced to crime.

Earlier this week, the Brady organization issued a study which dismantled the gun industry claim that federal law enforcement authorities penalize gun dealers for mere “trivial violations” of gun laws unrelated to public safety.  Instead the study found that federal action against gun dealers typically occurs only after numerous, consistent and serious violations of the law.  The study - “Trivial Violations”?:  The Myth of Overzealous Federal Enforcement Actions Against Licensed Gun Dealers, is available on the Brady Campaign website.

The new report examined every published Federal court decision during the Bush Administration - 21 in all -- in which gun dealers challenged ATF’s license termination actions.  Instead of “trivial violations,” the cases are replete with frequent and serious illegal conduct by dealers.