The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms has made news in recent weeks.
Last month a federal judge denied an ATF agent’s motion for summary judgment in a First Amendment retaliation case out of Pensacola, Florida. (HT: ACLU of Florida.) The plaintiff, Ms. Karen Kilpatrick, claims that the ATF agent (and others) violated her First and Fourth Amendment rights by stopping and then searching her van. As you probably guessed, there’s more to the story. The van, for instance, had the words “Remember the Children of Waco” and “Boo ATF” written on some of the windows. And the van was seen in the parking lot of a building housing FBI and ATF offices earlier that day, April 19, the date on which the FBI and ATF “conducted a siege of the Branch Davidian Church in Waco, Texas, which resulted in the deaths of numerous church members, including children and church leader David Koresh.”
The ATF fared better in a case decided yesterday. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Vineland Fireworks, which was appealing from the ATF’s decision “to revoke its license to manufacture fireworks and to deny its application for the renewal of its license to import fireworks.” The ATF found that Vineland’s failure to keep records of its daily summary of magazine transactions on 36 occasions over the course of many months constituted a “willful” violation of 18 U.S.C. § 842(f) and 27 C.F.R. § 555.127. (You gotta keep records!) This decision is a good read for administrative-law junkies because it discusses the standards of review for both administrative and judicial proceedings. The standard of review, as everyone knows, often carries the day.
I’m too distracted today (college football) to pinpoint the collective irony in these decisions. But I think it has something to do with Independence Day, free speech and wackiness.
Feel free to mesh.