GOF Sues Over Biden's Zero-Tolerance Policy
The Federal Firearms Licenses (FFLs) of a gun shop that previously filed a lawsuit against the federal government with the help of Gun Owners of America (GOA) and Gun Owners Foundation (GOF) over the Biden-mandated Final Rule on frames and receiver rule have been revoked by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
Morehouse Enterprises, located in North Dakota, joined forces with GOF and GOA to challenge the ATF's attempt to regulate unfinished frames and receivers through administrative measures. The ATF’s rule was issued in response to a White House directive to address so-called "ghost guns." President Joe Biden pushed for the rule in response to calls from anti-gun groups.
Shortly after Morehouse Enterprises initiated the lawsuit, the ATF conducted an inspection of the gun shop. This visit from the ATF was the store's first-ever inspection. During the inspection, Jacob Temp, the Industry Operations Inspector (IOI), jokingly told the store owner that there were discussions within the ATF about whether the inspection might be perceived as retaliation for the GOF/GOA lawsuit against the Bureau. The IOI revealed that the ATF had discussed whether or not to postpone any inspection of the store for at least three years, pending the litigation, but decided to proceed with it nonetheless.
The Inspector acknowledged that the store was overall compliant and expressed satisfaction with their adherence to ATF regulations. Every firearm was accounted for, including the documentation of all 2,700 guns that the shop had taken in and all 2,400 firearms that the transferred off their books. The shop felt confident about the inspection, but their optimism would soon wane.
The store was shocked when on March 6, 2023, the ATF issued the shop a "Report of Violations" which identified five compliance infractions, three of which were simple paperwork errors. The first violation involved the store's failure to record the return of a firearm to a customer who had brought it in for gunsmithing. The second violation occurred when the store inadvertently wrote a customer's Social Security number in the NICS transaction number (NTN) box. The third clerical error involved a missing number in a NICS transaction record.
The store also faced two more serious violations. Firstly, they had transferred a handgun to a resident of Georgia. FFLs are prohibited from transferring handguns to residents of another state due to variations in gun laws pertaining to handguns. In this case, Georgia's gun laws were not stricter than those of North Dakota, This was a simple mistake.
The second violation involved allowing a customer to use a Georgia concealed carry permit in lieu of a NICS background check. The Brady law does provide exceptions to background checks, including accepting a state's concealed carry permit if it meets or exceeds the same scrutiny as a NICS check. While Georgia's concealed carry permit meets these requirements, it can only be used as a substitute for a NICS check within the state of issue. The customer was not a prohibited person and was legally allowed to own a firearm.
Two months later, the ATF notified Morehouse Enterprises of its intent to revoke both of the company's FFLs. There were no violations under the second license. President Biden's stringent policies have exerted pressure on the ATF to shut down FFLs. FFL revocations have seen a 300% increase since Biden took office. However, even under the zero-tolerance policy, the store's violations do not warrant license revocation. According to the president's policy, these infractions would typically result in a "Warning Conference." Yet, the ATF is leaning on the zero-tolerance policy to shut down the gun shop.
GOF and GOA have once again partnered with Morehouse Enterprises to defend the company against the ATF's egregious actions. The gun rights groups argue that the Bureau's actions are "Arbitrary, Capricious, an Abuse of Discretion, and Not in Accordance with Law." The plaintiffs also claim that the ATF's restrictions on gun acquisition violate the right to bear arms.
Moreover, the plaintiffs allege that the ATF is acting vindictively against the shop for daring to fight back over the ATF’s overreach and abuse of power. They argue that Morehouse Enterprises' due process rights have been violated through retaliatory prosecution. They further assert that the ATF is impeding the plaintiffs' First Amendment rights by interfering with their right to sue the government.
Morehouse II shows the dangers of a zero-tolerance policy and the ATF’s willingness to exact revenge on Americans that dare to stand up to their bullying tactics.