The Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, the gun control group founded by former Arizona Representative Gabrielle Giffords, this week filed a lawsuit against the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) for failing to comply with Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to turn over documents that could show the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) influence over President Donald Trump’s gun policies.
The Huffington Post obtained the lawsuit (you can read it HERE), which cites two instances of the ATF failing to respond to FOIA requests, including:
whether officials from ATF spoke to, or were otherwise influenced by, individuals affiliated with the Washington gun lobby in the period immediately following the mass shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada on October 1, 2017
the extent to which the Washington gun lobby’s influence has caused ATF to pursue dangerous policies and to oppose common sense gun-violence prevention measures.
The lawsuit goes on to note (among other things) that:
- "On January 20, 2017, President Trump’s inauguration day, ATF’s then-Associate
Deputy Director Ronald Turk authored an ATF 'White Paper' (the 'Turk Memo') advocating
for a number of policies that were heavily favored and pushed for by members of the
Washington gun lobby, including by the National Rifle Association (the 'NRA')."
- "Among other things, the Turk Memo advocated for rolling back restrictions on
purchasing gun silencers, taking steps toward ending a longstanding ban on assault weapon
imports, and raising the threshold number of guns used in crime that must be traced to a
particular gun dealer before the federal government may require additional information from the
dealer. After the Turk Memo was made public, the executive director of the NRA’s lobbying
arm stated that the NRA 'look[ed] forward to working with the new attorney general. . . . After
eight years of overreach by the Obama administration, it’s time to roll back regulations that serve
no legitimate law enforcement purpose.'”
- The Trump Administration "has also appeared to move in lockstep with the
Washington gun lobby in terms of its public comments on gun regulation and gun violence,
particularly in the wake of mass shootings. This alignment was readily apparent in the wake of
the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history on October 1, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada and, more recently, after the November 5, 2017 mass shooting in Sutherland Springs,
Texas that claimed the lives of more than two dozen parishioners in a small-town church."
- While the NRA "issued no public statement in the immediate aftermath of the Las
Vegas shooting, Dana Loesch, a spokeswoman affiliated with the lobbyist group, called for
“prayer” and a tempering of calls for a policy response. The NRA’s official response to the Las
Vegas tragedy, issued on October 5, 2017 likewise rejected calls for discussion of policy
solutions that could reduce gun violence, and instead urged Congress to pass dangerous
concealed carry “reciprocity” legislation that would put law enforcement at risk and allow
dangerous people to carry guns nationwide without regard for the laws of the states they are in."
Robyn Thomas, executive director of the Giffords Law Center, issued the following statement: “The Trump administration appears willing to let the National Rifle Association dictate its federal gun safety policy, which includes remaining silent on how to stem our nation’s gun violence epidemic. Protecting the safety of Americans should be the top priority of any president. Unfortunately, gun lobby profits seem to be more important to President Trump.”
The ATF could not be reached for comment.
Giffords has been at the forefront of the movement to curb gun violence since she survived an assassination attempt in January 2011. Giffords was shot in the head by Jared Lee Loughner during an event outside a Tuscon grocery store. Six others were killed and an additional 12 were injured during the attack.
Earlier this week, Giffords commented on the shooting in Sutherland Springs, which began after shooter Devin Patrick Kelley walked into the First Baptist Church and began shooting, killing more than 25 people and wounding many others.
"I am heartbroken to hear that once again a place for peace and prayer became a scene of horror and fear," Giffords said.
She continued: "The alarming frequency with which we watch terrifying scenes unfold in our communities is devastating – and it’s not normal. I am praying that our lawmakers find the courage to face our nation’s gun violence problem. This must stop."
In the wake of Tuesday's election, which yielded significant victories for Democrats nationwide, Giffords also congratulated Danica Roem after became the first openly transgender lawmaker to be elected in the state after she defeated incumbent delegate Bob Marshall, who had been elected 13 times over 26 years, for a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates. Giffords noted that Marshall was beholden to the gun lobby.
Others, like Democrat Ralph Northam, who defeated Republican Ed Gillespie in Virginia's gubernatorial race also received Giffords' congratulations.