Is This Another Example of the Weaponization of Government Agencies?

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posted on June 8, 2023
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Two prominent firearms-related internet companies are crying foul over Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s (D) outrageous and expensive demands to turn over numerous documents in an investigation that both say has nothing to do with their business or business practices.

Davidson’s, Inc., an Arizona corporation that is a federally licensed firearms dealer engaged in the business of the wholesale distribution of firearms and associated products to properly licensed firearms dealers, and RSR Group, a Delaware-based wholesaler that sells firearm and accessories through FFLs, have filed suit against Ferguson in the matter. At issue is the March 28 order issued by the attorney general’s office declaring a Civil Investigative Demand for Answers to Interrogatories and Requests for Production of Documents (CID).

According to court documents, Ferguson’s office is investigating illegal sales of so-called “large-capacity” magazines (LCMs) to individuals in Washington since a new law took effect last July prohibiting the manufacture, import, distribution and sale of magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition. During the investigation, Ferguson decided to put Davidson’s and RSR Group on the spot and include them in the investigation.

There are, however, a couple of problems with the attorney general’s demand, which the two companies pointed out in their lawsuits.

“Davidson’s does not sell firearms, LCMs or any other products to individual consumers in the State of Washington, or elsewhere, and as such the Attorney General lacks authority to compel Davidson’s to respond to the exceedingly broad and unduly burdensome demands asserted in the CID,” the lawsuit states.

The Davidson’s filing also details how the company has an “exemplary reputation of working cooperatively with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF), state agencies and local law enforcement to investigate and prevent the criminal misuse of firearms and firearm related products.”

“The Attorney General has no authority to regulate Davidson’s, Inc.’s conduct outside the State of Washington, and the Attorney General has no colorable claim that any wholesale sales or transfers of so-called ‘Large Capacity Magazines’ to licensed firearms dealers located in the State of Washington could somehow be an ‘unfair or deceptive act or practice’ under the Washington Consumer Protection Act,” the Davidson’s lawsuit further states. “The CID violates Davidson’s Fourth Amendment rights to be free from unreasonable search and seizure because it is vastly overbroad, demands information and documents about lawful conduct and which are beyond the Attorney General’s authority, is not reasonably related to any legitimate investigative purpose, and is overly burdensome and expensive.”

Ferguson’s demands on RSR Group are equally unfair and non-applicable, according to court papers filed by that organization, as RSR Group also does not sell products to individuals. Those papers also detail how, just a few days before the CID’s response and objection deadline for both companies, the attorney general notified them that it would grant a limited two-week extension of time to respond to the Interrogatories only on “condition” that their “answers are full and complete.”

“The Attorney General’s unyielding insistence and escalation in asserting its demands on RSR Group is problematic, overly burdensome, intrusive and beyond the scope of the Attorney General’s authority to issue civil investigative demands,” RSR Group’s lawsuit states. “Furthermore, RSR Group estimates that it would be forced to incur extraordinary costs and expenses totaling in excess of $2.65 million to comply with the CID.

“The Attorney General’s actions surrounding the issuance of the CID and the scope of his purported investigation into in-state consumer sales of LCMs are forcing RSR Group to expend substantial financial resources, and are threatening to cause irreparable damage to RSR Group’s business and create reputational harm.”

Among other things, both companies are asking the court to “issue an injunction prohibiting the Attorney General from seeking information or documents” relative to the attorney general’s purported investigation into sales of so-called “large-capacity magazines.” They say such an injunction will “terminate the controversy and remove uncertainty as to the Attorney General’s authority to issue the CID and/or the validity of the CID itself.”

The companies are also asking that the court award the companies’ costs spent so far for compliance, along with applicable attorneys’ fees. Both lawsuits have been filed in the Superior Court of the State of Washington for Thurston County.

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