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Gun Group Loses Challenge to ATF Tracking Near Mexico

A firearms group based three miles from the Connecticut school where 20 first-graders were massacred lost its bid to block U.S. efforts to track sales of military-style assault weapons in states bordering Mexico.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington today rejected arguments from the National Shooting Sports Foundation Inc. and two gun dealers that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ requirement that dealers in four states report multiple sales of semi-automatic rifles violates a ban on creating a national firearm registry.

The ATF’s reporting demand from about 8,500 dealers in Texas, California, New Mexico and Arizona “required information on only a small number of transactions” and “does not come close to creating a ‘national firearms registry,’” U.S. Circuit Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson wrote in the 30-page opinion.

The new sales reporting requirement took effect in August 2011. The ATF sent a letter a month earlier to dealers in the four states requiring them to report to the agency sales of multiple weapons to an unlicensed buyer, including sales of more than one such rifle to the same buyer within five business days. The ATF argued that such information was needed to help trace guns used by Mexican drug gangs.

‘Criminal Investigation’

The gun group and two Arizona dealers who sued the ATF last year said the government hasn’t shown that the information it wants is part of a “bona fide criminal investigation,” as required by U.S. law.

Mike Bazinet, a spokesman for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail message seeking comment on the ruling.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation, which is based in Newtown, Connecticut, has a membership of more than 7,000 gun makers, distributors and retailers, shooting ranges, sportsmen’s organizations and publishers, according to its website. The manufacturers include Smith & Wesson Holding Corp. (SWHC) and Cerberus Capital Management LP’s Freedom Group Inc., the largest U.S. gun maker.

Adam Lanza fatally shot his mother with a .22-caliber rifle in her bed on the morning of Dec. 14 before going to Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown and killing 20 children and six adults while carrying weapons including a Bushmaster .223-caliber XM15 rifle, Connecticut State’s Attorney Stephen J. Sedensky III said in March.

The case is National Shooting Sports Foundation Inc. v. Jones, 12-5009, U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia (Washington).

To contact the reporter on this story: Tom Schoenberg in Washington at tschoenberg@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net

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