NEWTOWN, Conn. — New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, at a meeting of the Mayors Against Illegal Guns coalition he founded, announced today the Responsible Firearms Retail Partnership program with Wal-Mart. The retailer has agreed to retain records of purchasers of firearms that are later traced by law enforcement for reasons never disclosed to Wal-Mart. The retailer also agreed to run background checks on its employees handling firearms.

Commenting on today’s announcement the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) — the firearms industry’s trade association — said the partnership’s name gives the false impression that federally licensed firearms dealers are somehow irresponsible. “Today’s announcement reflects Mayor Bloomberg’s troubling ignorance and misunderstanding of what can — and cannot — be gleaned from data of guns recovered by law enforcement and traced from the manufacturer to the first retailer purchaser,” said NSSF Senior Vice President and General Counsel Lawrence G. Keane. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) maintain this trace data.

ATF has said repeatedly, “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).

NSSF has never opposed background checks on firearm retailer employees. “We have had a program to assist our members in running background checks on their prospective employees at a discounted rate,” said Keane. “NSSF would consider supporting legislation to allow gun dealers to conduct background checks on prospective employees through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), which is currently prohibited by law.”

“It is stunning that a mayor who claims to be interested in combating the criminal acquisition and misuse of firearms would continue to insult ATF and federal firearms licensees,” continued Keane. He was alluding to Mayor Bloomberg’s March 10, 2008, deposition (Part 1 | Part 2) — part of a lawsuit filed by the City of New York against several out-of-state firearms dealers. During the deposition Bloomberg testified he stood by his earlier statements that ATF is “asleep at the switch,” and added that the agency is “not doing their job” (page 52).

Perhaps the mayor’s insults stems from his self-professed ignorance of our nation’s firearms laws and regulations, business practices of firearms retailers and the duties of the ATF. “I don’t know what the law is and what procedures are,” responded the mayor to a deposition question on illegally purchased firearms (page 35). “I have no knowledge of what appropriate safeguards are for a dealer to comply with the law or what standard practices are in the arms business” (page 74).

In the same deposition Mr. Bloomberg admitted he did not know that ATF conducted inspections of firearms retailers. “I didn’t even know they had inspections,” the bewildered mayor offered (page 58). Mr. Bloomberg also noted that he did not know what a Federal Firearms Transaction Record commonly known as a Form 4473 was (page 75) or a NICS background check (page 79). Of course, before a licensed firearms dealer can sell a firearm the law requires the purchaser to complete, under penalty of perjury, a Form 4473. The form asks detailed questions about the purchaser including any past crimes committed and whether they are the actual buyer of the gun. Once the form is completed, and before the licensed dealer can transfer the firearm, the purchaser must pass a mandatory background check through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System or NICS, which is run by the FBI.

Mr. Bloomberg has rebuffed past firearms industry requests to educate him about industry’s cooperative relations with law enforcement in assisting them in their efforts to reduce criminal access to firearms. For example, the partnership program between NSSF and ATF called Don’t Lie for the Other Guy. In this program NSSF helps ATF to better educate America’s firearms retailers on how to detect would-be straw purchasers and to raise public awareness that it is a serious crime to buy a firearm for a prohibited person. At his deposition, the mayor testified the program was “totally foreign” to him. Ironically, however, at his May 2006 press conference announcing his lawsuit against out-of-state firearms retailers, the ATF-Industry “Don’t Lie” program was featured in a video clip where a firearms retailer “does the right thing” and refuses to sell a firearm to a perceived straw purchaser.

“The mayor’s deposition and past statements make it clear that today’s announcement was nothing but a publicity stunt,” concluded Keane.

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