December 5, 2022
Journalist and activist John Lindsay-Poland filed a legal complaint today against the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) for its refusal to disclose government data on U.S.-sourced weapons recovered in Mexico and Central America, which Lindsay-Poland requested as public records under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence and the law firm Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton represent Lindsay-Poland in the legal complaint.
The DOJ’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) between 2016 and 2020 traced more than 85,000 U.S.-sourced firearms recovered from crime scenes in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. U.S.-sourced firearms in all four countries have contributed to spiraling violence, including homicides and forced disappearances, and the flight of hundreds of thousands of migrants from communities plagued by gun violence.
Lindsay-Poland requested copies in March 2021 of ATF’s aggregate data on the number of firearms traced from Mexico and Central America since 2014, by type, caliber and make of firearm and by zip codes where they were purchased.
ATF denied the data solely based on the Tiahrt Amendment of 2012, federal legislation that limits the government’s publication of information on individual firearms purchases but makes no reference to FOIA. Congress specifically exempted “statistical aggregate data regarding firearms traffickers and trafficking channels” from the Tiahrt limitations. Lindsay-Poland filed an administrative appeal, which ATF denied on October 7, 2022.
“The ATF is withholding crucial information from the public that will facilitate understanding of trafficking routes and impacts of firearms legislation and are critical for policy development, violence prevention initiatives, and enforcement strategies in the United States, Mexico and Central America,” Lindsay-Poland said.
Lindsay-Poland coordinates the Stop US Arms to Mexico project of the San Francisco organization Global Exchange, and has co-authored several reports on the gun trade to Mexico.
“The public records sought in this lawsuit are of immense public concern,” said Elizabeth Vicens of Cleary Gottlieb. “Cleary Gottlieb is proud to partner with the Giffords Center to help shed light on the severity of the problem illegal guns pose to the people of Mexico and Central America.”