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More objectionable was the use of demand letters, beginning during the Clinton administration, to get certain dealers to report all used gun transactions for use in future traces. NRA strongly objected to that program and funded litigation against it. Unfortunately, the government won those cases, but even the court decisions stressed how limited the program was. As the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit put it, the demand letter statute “is not a limitless delegation of authority” and “cannot be construed in an open-ended fashion.”

The courts also stressed that the demand letters were only issued to dealers who had supposedly failed to respond quickly to trace requests, or who had high numbers of guns traced quickly to crimes. As flawed as those reasons were, the letters still only went to a few hundred dealers—less than 0.1 percent of the licensees in the United States at the time.

Compare that to the number of dealers slated to receive the new multiple sales letters. The BATFE estimates that nearly 8,500 dealers will receive those letters; that’s nearly one out of every seven firearm retailers in the United States today, including many who are hundreds of miles from the Mexican border. That’s obviously casting way too big of a net, and could lay the groundwork for even broader demands that would truly amount to a gun registration scheme.

That makes this fight a top priority for NRA. Right now, we’re filing comments with the Office of Management and Budget, asking them to deny the proposed “information collection.” But we’ve also begun planning our next move, which will be legislative proposals to limit the “demand letter” authority.

Fortunately, our allies in Congress are already rallying across party lines on this issue. For example, the entire Montana congressional delegation has already weighed in, with Democratic Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester calling the proposal “unnecessarily burdensome” and arguing that any further reporting requirement “must be done by Congress through the transparent legislative process.”

Likewise, Montana’s Republican U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg, joined by 35 House colleagues, including incoming Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, blasted the “new, onerous requirements that would inevitably track and catalogue the purchases of law-abiding gun owners,” also denouncing the proposal as an “end run around Congress.”

NRA will make sure all of these arguments are heard on Capitol Hill—and in the courts, if necessary—as this fight goes on.

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