* Rule tells retailers to report multiple rifle sales
* Court doubts their claim that measure is burdensome
By David Ingram
WASHINGTON, Jan 9 A federal appeals court
signaled on Wednesday it was prepared to uphold a regulation
designed to detect the sale of semi-automatic rifles to Mexican
drug cartels, one of the few gun control measures put forward so
far by the Obama administration.
Gun retailers and manufacturers, including a trade group
based in Newtown, Connecticut, scene of the Dec. 14 school
massacre, say the rule is burdensome and violates federal law.
It requires stores in the four U.S. states bordering Mexico
to send a notice to federal law enforcement whenever someone
buys two or more of rifles during any five-day period.
The measure applies only to high-caliber, semi-automatic
rifles that can use a detachable magazine.
The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
(ATF), which regulates gun sales, adopted the rule in 2011 amid
rising cartel violence and at the urging of gun control groups
for President Barack Obama to act.
Thousands of firearms are thought to cross the border
illegally into Mexico each year, and semi-automatic rifles with
detachable magazines are a favorite of drug traffickers, the ATF
said in a report last year.
Mexican authorities recovered more than 68,000 U.S.-sourced
guns from 2007 to 2011, the ATF said.
The rule applies to retailers in Arizona, California, New
Mexico and Texas who, perhaps without realizing it, could be
sources for those firearms.
Gun stores "have to create a new system to keep track of
that," Richard Gardiner, a lawyer for retailers Foothills
Firearms LLC and J&G Sales Ltd, told the U.S. Court of Appeals
for the District of Columbia Circuit.
Federal law does not allow law enforcement to require that
system, he said, calling it burdensome because store workers do
not always know which of the guns they sell are covered.
COURT DOUBTS BURDEN
The court's three judges, though, repeatedly doubted whether
the rule creates much additional work.
"I don't remember the record containing any evidence of
confusion," said Judge Harry Edwards.
ATF has a special phone number for retailers to call if they
have questions, such as whether the rule covers a particular
rifle, but few people have called, government lawyer Michael
Raab told the court.
"Any dealer worth his salt" should know whether most guns he
sells fit the criteria, Raab said, echoing the wording of a
lower court judge.
Gardiner responded that evidence of the rule's burden is
unnecessary because it is a government overreach.
The court is expected to decide within the next few months.
Gun rights advocates have also argued that the ATF measure
could lead to a federal database of guns, which they fear would
infringe on their rights. Republicans in the U.S. House of
Representatives have tried to cut off money to enforce the
The National Shooting Sports Foundation, a trade group for
gunmakers and a plaintiff in the lawsuit, is based in Newtown,
where gunman Adam Lanza killed his mother, 20 children and six
school employees before shooting himself in one of the worst
U.S. school shootings.
Lower court judges in Texas and Washington have upheld the
ATF rule, which is an example of steps Obama can take outside
the proposed gun control laws he is expected to send to Congress
The case is National Shooting Sports Foundation Inc, et al,
v. B. Todd Jones, U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit,