NRA to sue over new gun-sale reporting rules

The National Rifle Association is suing the Obama administration over a new rule that requires U.S. gun dealers in the Southwest to report multiple rifle sales to a single person, according to a draft copy of a complaint.

The lawsuit — a copy of which was made available to The New York Times — is filed on behalf of two gun dealers in Arizona, where the reporting requirements are expected to go into effect later this month along with Texas, California and New Mexico. An estimated 8,500 gun dealers will be affected.

A lawyer involved with the case confirmed to The Hill that the lawsuit was being funded by the NRA and has been filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for D.C.

Kenneth Melson, acting director of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, is named as the complaint’s defendant.

President Obama authorized Melson to issue the changed requirement for the border states last month in connection with his overall push to tighten security along the U.S.-Mexico border. The lawsuit states that Melson exceeded his authority in issuing the new reporting rules.

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Lawyers for the gun dealers allege in their complaint that the new mandates infringe on the privacy rights of both the licensed dealers and their customers by turning over the personal information and financial transaction histories to the Justice Department’s tracing database.

The lawsuit also states that the dealers will suffer an “economic loss” for the time it takes their employees to file with the DOJ the purchase records of people who buy more than five rifles within a five-day period.

A nearly identical reporting requirement has been enforced for multiple handgun purchases for decades.

The issue came to the forefront last month when Republican Rep. Denny Rehberg (Mont.) successfully attached an amendment to the fiscal 2012 Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies appropriations bill, which would prohibit any federal funding of the new rule. The appropriations measure passed the House with the amendment intact.

Gun rights and the ATF have also received an increasing amount of attention recently because of a congressional investigation into a controversial gun-tracking operation established by the agency. Operation Fast and Furious authorized the sale of thousands of weapons in the border region to known and suspected straw purchasers for Mexican drug cartels. But officials did not adequately supervise the weapons or their purchasers, allowing hundreds of firearms to end up in the hands of criminals, according to ATF agents’ testimony before Congress. 

Requests for comment to the DOJ and the NRA were not immediately returned.