The National Rifle Association filed suit on Wednesday to challenge new federal regulations requiring dealers to report bulk sales of semi-automatic weapons in states bordering Mexico, arguing the Barack Obama administration doesn’t have the power to impose the rule without congressional approval, the New York Times reported.
Deputy Attorney General James Cole announced the rule last month as a measure to combat rampant gun trafficking to Mexico, affecting sales for more than 8,000 firearms dealers in Arizona, Texas, New Mexico and California, according to the N.R.A.’s compliant.
The N.R.A., which signaled it would challenge the rule less than 24 hours after Cole’s announcement, is bringing suit in the name of two dealers from Arizona, J&G Sales of Prescott and Foothills Firearms of Yuma. The organization has also asked a judge in the District Court for the District of Columbia to halt enforcement of the rule.
“N.R.A. has always viewed this as a blatant attempt by the Obama administration to pursue their gun control agenda through back-door rule-making, and the N.R.A. will fight them every step of the way,” N.R.A. Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre told the Times.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation, which represents the firearms industry, has also said it will bring suit.
But Attorney General Eric Holder said the department would oppose the court challenges.
“We think that the action we have taken is consistent with the law, and that the measures that we are proposing are appropriate ones to stop the flow of guns from the United States into Mexico,” Holder said.
The rule requires gun dealer in the four states to report, within five days, the sale of more than one semi-automatic weapon capable of accepting a detachable magazine and ammunition larger than .22 caliber.
N.R.A. lawyers argue that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives doesn’t have the authority to enforce the rule and that existing regulations enacted by Congress expressly say that dealers shall not be required to report information “except as expressly provided by this section,” according to court documents.
But a spokesman for the ATF told the Times that the Attorney General may require dealers to report to the government whatever information he specifies from reports the law requires them to keep.
The two gun dealers themselves say that complying with the reporting measure would be costly and deter potential customers who worry about privacy.
The complaint also says that requiring a tracing center to compile reports on bulk sales would violate a separate law passed by Congress that prevents the DOJ from keeping a centralized database of gun-sales records.
Cole said at the rule’s announcement that it is meant to hamper straw purchasers from buying military-style weapons and smuggling them across the border to Mexican drug cartels.
But many Republicans in Congress argue the measure was intended to distract from growing controversy over another effort to fight gun-trafficking to Mexico: the ATF’s Operation Fast and Furious. That operation allegedly allowed thousands of guns into Mexico in a botched attempt to prosecute cases against higher-ups in trafficking organizations.