NH joins lawsuit challenging ATF gun rules

May 1—New Hampshire is joining a lawsuit with 20 other states against a recent ATF rule change intended to close what some have labeled a loophole in gun sale rules

Attorney General John Formella said Wednesday that he is joining attorneys general of 19 other states in filing a lawsuit against the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The suit claims the recently changed rule regarding licensing for firearms sellers is illegal and unconstitutional.

"This new rule represents an illegal overreach by unelected federal officials and the unlawful suppression of the private transfer of firearms by law abiding citizens," Formella said in a statement. "The U.S. Congress has clearly defined what it means to sell firearms in our nation and the ATF has no legal authority to change that definition.

"The rule is also a blatant violation of our constitutionally protected liberties, as Second Amendment protections have long included the rights of Americans to both acquire and sell firearms to one another in a private capacity."

The rule, finalized on April 11, requires anyone who sells firearms predominantly to earn a profit to become federally licensed and conduct background checks, including those selling at gun shows.

The licensing requirement had focused more on sellers with an established retail operation rather than those without a business license who sold firearms at shows.

The lawsuit was filed in the Eastern District of Arkansas federal court and maintains that the rule change is wrong by changing a long-standing precedent, not going through Congress and is too far-reaching in its impact. It asks the court to declare the new rule unlawful.

Formella said the rule change could make a felon out of a gun hobbyist who sells a firearm to another family member or a hunter who trades a firearm with a hunting partner.

"Until now, those who repetitively purchased and sold firearms as a regular course of business had to become a licensee... This rule would put innocent firearm sales between law-abiding friends and family members within reach of federal regulation," the court filing reads. "Such innocent sales between friends and family would constitute a felony if the seller did not in fact obtain a federal firearms license and perform a background check."

The lawsuit states the loophole is a matter of supporting the Second Amendment of the Constitution.

Along with Arkansas and New Hampshire, other states listed as plaintiffs are Iowa, Montana, Alabama, Alaska, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming.