A gun-control group led by former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords has sued the Trump administration, alleging it has failed to turn over documents that could show how the gun lobby is influencing the administration’s firearms policy.
The lawsuit, filed by the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, accuses the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives of failing to produce public records that might reveal whether ATF officials “spoke to or were otherwise influenced by individuals affiliated with the Washington gun lobby” in the aftermath of a shooting at a Las Vegas music festival that killed 58 people.
The lawsuit also alleges that the documents could shed light on the extent of the gun lobby’s influence on the administration’s policy positions.
“The policy choices made by the Trump Administration, as well as its public response to prominent instances of gun violence, mirrors closely, if not exactly, the views and communications strategies preferred and employed by the Washington gun lobby,” the lawsuit says. “It appears that the administration is coordinating with, or taking direction from, the Washington gun lobby in responding to mass shootings.”
The ATF public affairs office said Friday that no one was available to comment; the federal government was closed in observance of the Veterans Day holiday. The White House declined to comment.
The lawsuit also alleges that the language used by the administration in the aftermath of the Las Vegas shooting closely mirrored that of the National Rifle Association. The lawsuit states that both the NRA and the administration rejected calls for policy discussions about guns after the Oct. 1 mass shooting; it alleges the White House said it was open to the ATF reviewing bump stocks — which Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock affixed to some of the guns to have them mimic the firing action of automatic rifles — after the NRA similarly called for a review of them.
The mass shooting at a Texas church on Sunday also arises in the lawsuit, which alleges that Trump administration statements after the massacre in Sutherland Springs, Tex., closely mirrored NRA statements. Trump said the situation would have been “much worse” had a man with a gun not intervened; 26 people were killed, including an unborn child. The suit alleges the administration’s position was similar to the sentiment of an NRA spokesman, who said the man who used his NRA training to stop a bad guy with a gun was a hero.
The lawsuit also said the organization is seeking records pertaining to communication between the ATF and officials from Gun Owners of America — which did not return a request for comment — and the National Shooting Sports Foundation.
“NSSF is not going to comment on the Giffords lawsuit against ATF other than to say that we do not read any political motive into ATF’s delay in responding to their FOIA request,” Lawrence G. Keane, senior vice president and general counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, said in a statement. “In the past, NSSF had to file a lawsuit against ATF in order to receive records that were the subject of a FOIA request we had served on ATF. Not all things are politically motivated, sometimes it is just government bureaucracy.”
The Trump administration has eased some gun regulations, including undoing an Obama-era effort to expand background checks. In February, Trump blocked the Social Security Administration from reporting mentally impaired recipients to a national background-check database.