New Mexico’s Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham kicked the hornet’s nest when she published her emergency public health order that attempts to neuter the Second Amendment and force standardless firearm retailer “inspections.” The order is Constitutionally baseless and there are no laws or regulations giving the state’s Regulation and Licensing Department authority to inspect federally licensed firearm retailers. That’s not all the order is attempting to do, however.
Gov. Grisham’s order, which is facing mounting legal challenges, also seeks to name-and-shame firearm manufacturers for the crimes committed by those who have no respect for the law. The governor admitted that criminals won’t abide by her unconstitutional order. Yet, she’s attempting to use the state’s authority to build a list of firearms recovered at crime scenes to create a false narrative that the lawful firearm industry is somehow to blame for the crime.
The order contains a provision that requires the state’s Health Department to compile a report of gunshot victims including demographic data as well as the “brand and caliber” of the firearm used but nothing on how the firearm was obtained before being illegally and criminally misused. That would be like saying Ford is responsible for drunk driving accidents because drunks illegally drove Ford vehicles while intoxicated. Or, that Toyota is responsible for car thefts because a lot of stolen cars are Toyotas. It’s because there are a lot of Toyotas on the road, just like there are a lot of Ford cars on the road.
Will anyone be surprised when Gov. Grisham’s list includes well-known firearm brands in popular calibers? It will be a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing, but the media will report it as if it means something.
This is part of gun control’s “name-and-shame” publicity stunt to somehow assign the blame for crimes to firearm manufacturers and not the criminals that prey on innocent victims. It’s a ruse. It’s shameful but Gov. Grisham proved to the nation that she has no shame when it comes to pushing her antigun agenda.
“Name-and-shame” is a scheme by which gun control politicians and their fawning supporters attempt to blame firearm manufacturers and retailers for the crimes committed by others that have no relationship to the businesses. That’s because criminals aren’t buying guns legally to commit illegal acts.
Every firearm sold by a retailer must be accompanied by a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Form 4473, attesting that the individual purchasing or receiving the firearm is not a prohibited individual and is the intended recipient. That’s followed by a verification from the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), except in states that run their own background checks through the state police. This isn’t how criminals obtain firearms. They get their hands on them through theft or the black market.
In fact, studies by the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Bureau of Justice Statistics show that criminals convicted of crimes involving a firearm admitted over 90 percent of the time that the firearm they criminally misused was obtained illegally.
That doesn’t satisfy gun control groups and antigun politicians like Gov. Grisham. Instead these groups and elected officials attempt to skirt the Tiahrt Amendment that prevents the release of trace data that is used by law enforcement in potential criminal investigations.
When a firearm is recovered at a crime scene or criminal arrest, a police department may forward information to the ATF to track the chain of custody of a firearm through the licensed distribution system to the original retail purchaser. The ATF then sends back the information to the requesting agency so they can use the information in a criminal case, if warranted.
Public release of gun trace data outside law enforcement would jeopardize ongoing criminal investigations, putting the lives of law enforcement, witnesses, retailers and others at risk. That is why Congress, the ATF and law enforcement, including the nation’s largest police organization, the Fraternal Order of Police, agree on the importance of securing this sensitive data. Access to gun trace data should only be available to law enforcement taking part in a bona-fide investigation, and law enforcement already has the access it needs for this purpose. No law enforcement agency has ever been denied access to trace data as part of a criminal investigation.
Yet, gun control advocates want to abuse the data for political means. Then-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg did just that and put the lives of ATF special agents and other law enforcement at risk. He sent investigators out of state, without coordination with ATF or even his own police commissioner, to conduct sting operations. His folly forced ATF to pull agents out of the field for their own safety and interfered with as many as 18 ongoing criminal investigations.
Gun control groups try to use these data to argue a trace is a signal that a law-abiding firearm retailer did something wrong if a firearm they legally sold after a background check ended up being traced for any reason. That is simply not the case. As the ATF has repeatedly stated, “The appearance of [a licensed dealer] or a first unlicensed purchaser of record in association with a crime gun or in association with multiple crime guns in no way suggests that either the federal firearms licensed dealer (FFL) or the first purchaser has committed criminal acts. Rather, such information may provide a starting point for further and more detailed investigation,” (Crime Gun Trace Analysis Reports, ATF, 1998).
Gun Control Bandwagon
Gov. Grisham’s not alone on this data-driven slight-of-hand. President Joe Biden’s “zero-tolerance” policy being carried by the ATF has a “name-and-shame” component. The White House published an Executive Order earlier this year that aims to “publicly release, to the fullest extent permissible by law, inspection reports of [federal firearms licensee] dealers cited for violations of the law.” Except, that “zero-tolerance” policy is revoking licenses for minor clerical errors. Those are not willful violations of the law. NSSF has heard from firearm retailers that ATF has reopened closed cases and subsequently moved to revoke licenses for minor administrative and clerical errors that were resolved, even after the ATF agreed they were fixed.
The administration, and Gov. Grisham, didn’t come up with this “name-and-shame” concept on their own. New Jersey’s Gov. Phil Murphy openly embraced the idea in 2019. The New York Times seized on a report from the gun control group Brady United to attempt to “name-and-shame” Philadelphia-area firearm retailers for the crime spike in that city. The “Old Gray Lady,” though, made no mention of the soft-on-crime policies of District Attorney Larry Krasner, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney or Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro.
Gun control groups have been pushing for law enforcement trace data to be weaponized against the firearm industry. Bloomberg’s gun control group – and their media megaphone The Trace – sent out a “name-and-shame” email, listing 13 specific firearm personalities with large social media followings asking if they ever reevaluated or reconsidered their relationships based on what they called “political content.”
That is corporate intimidation. It’s vilifying innocent parties by smearing them with the same accusations used against those who actually committed criminal acts. That’s exactly what Gov. Grisham and the rest of the gun control politicians crowding the bandwagon are attempting to do.
Larry Keane is SVP for Government and Public Affairs, Assistant Secretary and General Counsel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation.