- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 5, 2001

NORFOLK (AP) A downtown gun shop owner is suing to prevent the federal government from requiring him to turn over records of his store's used-gun sales.
Robert Marcus contends the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) is trying to compile a database of gun owners, something Congress has forbidden. He filed the lawsuit Nov. 23 in U.S. District Court.
The case hinges on the privacy of gun owners and the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.
"While no one has accused me of committing a crime, they're going on a fishing expedition, and I'm not going fishing with them," said Mr. Marcus, who owns Bob's Gun & Tackle Shop.
The bureau says it is trying only to stop handgun violence and the illegal trafficking of firearms.
ATF officials cited a federal law that allows the agency to collect gun-sales data as long as they do not create a prohibited database that includes names and addresses.
"We have to encourage some responsibility, and we feel we're within our rights, and the courts have agreed with us," said Jim Crandall, an ATF spokesman in Washington. "It's not a condemnation of the manner or the way they conduct business."
In February 2000, the ATF's National Tracing Center sent Bob's a letter demanding that the shop turn over the make, model, caliber and serial number of each used gun it bought and sold in 1999. For the first time, the federal government was collecting data on gun sales.
Bob's was among 430 firearms dealers out of 80,000 nationwide to receive the letter. The dealers were singled out because they had sold 10 or more guns that had been used in a crime within three years of purchase, according to ATF.
ATF said the average "time-to-crime" from when a gun leaves a retailer is six years. In the letter, the ATF did not give the number of weapons traced to Bob's or say what crimes they had been used in.
Records obtained by the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot show that the ATF traced 114 firearms to Bob's between 1990 and 1995, and that 19 were tied to violent crimes, including seven slayings. The records do not show whether the guns belonged to a victim or a suspect, or whether the trace led to criminal charges.
Licensed firearms dealers conduct instant criminal background checks on all gun buyers through a national computer system. Felons are prohibited from buying or possessing guns.
The ATF letter to Mr. Marcus said the gun shop would face administrative or criminal sanctions, including the revocation of his dealer license, if he did not comply.
After a U.S.4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in a Baltimore case in June, ATF officials sent more letters to Bob's gun shop demanding it turn over the information. Mr. Marcus took the agency to court instead.

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