Post Investigation: Gun stores with troubled pasts with Lawrence Keane from NSSF

Dec 15, 2010

Even when the ATF revokes a gun store's license for public safety violations, some remain open under different names. Lawrence Keane, senior vice president, assistant secretary and general counsel to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, Inc., will be online to talk about the latest Post Investigation, including Wednesday's story on the gun lobby's powerful influence over the ATF and U.S. politics..

I am the SVP and General Counsel to the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), which is the firearms, ammunition, hunting and shooting sports industry's trade association. I welcome the opportunity to participate in this chat

Lawrence, I'm a Federally licensed firearms dealer (and, BTW, also a long time member of the NSSF) and as one would expect under go inspections periodically by BATF but have never had serious violations. The last inspection found one 4473 where I signed the 4473 prior to actually transferring the firearm (it was transferred the next day) and therefore was 'technically' in violation. The inspector said it was a common mistake but still wrote me up, which I didn't have a problem with, as I indeed made one error out of more than a 1000 records reviewed. While the Post took a year to review BATF records of revoked licenses the article did not disclose the number and types of violations that the BATF sees during all inspections. Can you provide some information along these lines so one can tell just how many clerical errors there are (like mine) vs. deliberate attempts to get around regulations?

One issue we see often is that the same mistake on a form repeated each time, like "Y" instead of "Yes" or an abbreviation of a county, gets misrepresented as "hundreds of violations" by anti-gun interest groups.  ATF says they have to note each one of the violations.  So the "number of violations" a dealer might have can be very misleading. 

What would happen to the ATF if the NRA appointed their choice for Director? Is that not what they are trying to do?

I don't agree with the premise of your question and obviously a private entity can't appoint a director.

What do you think will be the biggest issue the NSSF will face in the coming year?

There are several pressing issues including seeking a federal study of  "microstamping."  Microstamping is a  patented sole-source concept that independent peer reviewed studies have shown is unreliable and easily defeated in mere seconds using common household tools.  It is being pushed by gun control groups as a panacea for gun crime but in truth it  does not work and would add at least $200 to the price of  a firearm.  We are urging congress to fund a comprehensive study by the National Academies of Science

What are some of the most important lessons that can be taught about gun safety?

NSSF publishes a lot of firearm safety material, as does the NRA.  I would urge you to visit nssf.org and click on "safety."  There are 10 basic rules and you can find them on our site, in any NRA course and in the manual that comes with newly manufactured firearms. 

Are there similar organizations like yours and the NRA in other countries? Are any as influencial as the ones in the U.S.?

Yes. I don't have a list handy but there are industry groups in places like Italy and Germany where there is a sizable industry presence. There are also groups of gun owners, hunters and shooters that advocate for gun ownership, etc. 

Do you believe the NRA and similar lobbyists have too much power as today's story seems to suggest?

No.  We live in a democracy.   They have no more or less power than any other group.  If they are "powerful" it is because they represent the will of most Americans and the polling data confirms that fact.

Would the NSSF consider funding a study of microstamping?

I doubt it.   If the industry funded a study and it showed, as have the other studies, that it is a flawed and unreliable concept, then the Brady Center and MAIG, etc would attack the results as biased and "paid for by the industry"   It seems that an objective study funded by congress, like the NAS study of  "ballistics imaging" (another panacea), would be preferable.    

I have heard of the "Don't Lie for the Other Guy" and see such signs at gun stores, but it does not seem to stop straw buyers. This newspaper reports that many times straw buyers are not prosecuted. Has NSSF come up with model legislation that would make it easier to prosecute straw buyers while still preserving our civil rights? Seems to me prosecutors should be prosecuting straw buyers instead of gun stores.

NSSF's position is that illegal straw purchasers should be subject to a mandatory minimum sentence with no parole.  Don't Lie for the Other Guy is a decade long joint effort between industry, thru NSSF, and ATF. You can learn more about the program by visiting don'tlie.org.  It is difficult to place a metric on the program -- how do you measure the event that never happened (the would be straw purchaser who heard the Don't Lie PSA and decided not to go into a gun store to straw purchase the firearm). Like efforts to reduce drunk driving, you are trying to reduce it but I don't think MADD, for example, thinks that their efforts will completely stop it.

How can a dealer get a license after it has been revoked? Is the same dealer really "staying in business" or is it someone new?

The dealer can't get a new license. It is not accurate to say the dealer is getting "relicensed." 

Thank you to the Post for having a NSSF participant. It seems the Post has been beating this gun store non-issue like a dead horse for months now. Given the anti-gun history of the newspaper and lack of firearm and gun store knowledge of many (most?) Post readers, I'm very glad to see you answering today's chat. The NSSF is a fantastic organization that supports the second amendment and other gun rights. My question: why do so many people (and groups such as the ACLU) who support constitutional protections for private citizens (such as the 1st, 4th and 5th amendments) find it so easy to ignore, or worse yet, assail the protections contained in the 2nd amendment? It's so obviously inconsistent and illogical to me. Regarding gun stores, I can think of no other retailers who have to keep such detailed records, nor comply with such stringent federal, state and local regulations.

Thank you for your comments regarding NSSF.  The industry is obviously heavily regulated and the record keeping requirements are extensive.  The only other industry I can think of that is like our industry in terms of retail sales is pharmacies.   

I see you are on the Defense Trade Advisory Group with the Department of State. What's the deal with the Republic of Korea's request to sell surplus M-1 Garands (Korean War-era semi-auto rifles which fire one bullet with one pull of the trigger) which was approved then subsequently denied by State? They also want to sell M-1 Carbines. Any chance us gun collectors will be able to buy these Korean War-era "relics and curio" class firearms? ROK sure could use the money raised to buy more modern genuine assault rifles.

I don't think we know for sure.  We are concerned about the memo from ATF on the subject because the same flawed logic underlies the call for reinstating the failed ban on so-called "assault weapons" (semi-automatic rifles).  It could also be applied to ban the export of such firearms.  We have called for a congressional investigation of the matter.

The Post seems to say that most dealers that have their licenses revoked are re-licensed but in their article they say that only 7% are re-licensed. Which is it? 7% or most?

First, no one is "relicensed."   According to the Post's story 7% of the licensees that were revoked were "relicensed"  (60 out of about 800 since 2003).  

Sir, For a while I was following the saga of Red's Trading Post in Twin Falls, ID when ATF moved to revoke their license in 2007. Then an injunction was granted allowing them to remain open. Red's said they had a 99.6% success rate in a 2005 audit and that ATF "double counted" some violations. Is that case closed? Red's is still operating. Did the NSSF assist in his case?

I believe the case was settled and Red's is still operating under the same license.   NSSF did have discussions with Red's and their lawyers did contact us for information, e.g. Don't Lie materials, etc. 

I would like to thank the Post for this opportunity to chat with its readers.  I hope that I was able to contribute to the discussion and provide some industry insight into the topics raised.  The National Shooting Sports Foundation is the trade association for the firearms, ammunition, hunting and shooting sports industry.  To learn more visit www.nssf.org.  Thanks again.

In This Chat
Lawrence G. Keane
Lawrence G. Keane is senior vice president, assistant secretary and general counsel to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, Inc. With more than 20 years of legal experience, including over 15 years representing members of the industry, Larry is responsible for all of NSSF's legal, government relations and risk management functions. He serves as the firearms industry's chief spokesperson for legal, legislative and regulatory matters. He has been appointed to the Defense Trade Advisory Group (DTAG) which advises the U.S. State Department on export policies. He is also a member of the policy steering committee of the National Assembly of Sportsmen's Caucus (NASC). He also serves as the general counsel and corporate secretary to the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers' Institute (SAAMI), where he is also the chairman of its Legislative and Legal Affairs Committee. Larry is a graduate of the Fordham University School of Law. He obtained his undergraduate degree from Fordham University.
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