Steele v. National Firearms Act Branch, No. 83-5572

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (11th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtBefore KRAVITCH and HATCHETT; KRAVITCH
Citation755 F.2d 1410
PartiesEugene STEELE, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. NATIONAL FIREARMS ACT BRANCH, et al., Defendants-Appellees.
Docket NumberNo. 83-5572
Decision Date22 March 1985

Page 1410

755 F.2d 1410
Eugene STEELE, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
NATIONAL FIREARMS ACT BRANCH, et al., Defendants-Appellees.
No. 83-5572.
United States Court of Appeals,
Eleventh Circuit.
March 22, 1985.

Page 1411

Richard E. Gardiner, Washington, D.C., for plaintiff-appellant.

Pamela A. Hornett, Linda Collins-Hertz, Susan M. Chalker, Asst. U.S. Attys., Miami, Fla., for defendants-appellees.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

Before KRAVITCH and HATCHETT, Circuit Judges, and HANCOCK *, District Judge.

KRAVITCH, Circuit Judge:

The Secretary of the Treasury has promulgated regulations that set forth requirements that must be complied with to obtain Treasury Department approval of transfers of particular firearms. 27 C.F.R. Sec. 179.84-93. Appellant challenges a portion of one of the regulations, 27 C.F.R. Sec. 179.85, and further contends that the individual defendants in this litigation arbitrarily have refused to sign a certificate

Page 1412

that is part of the approval process. The district court held that the regulation was not invalid, and that the decision to sign the certificate was a discretionary matter that could not be compelled. On appeal, the appellees argue for the first time that the appellant lacks standing to litigate this case. Because the record is devoid of the factual development necessary to resolve this question, we remand the case to the district court.

In an effort to regulate the traffic of weapons deemed particularly inimical to public safety, Congress has passed several laws over the past fifty years, which are now codified at 26 U.S.C. Secs. 5801 et seq. This system of regulation requires, among other things, the Secretary of the Treasury to maintain a central registry of firearm ownership. 26 U.S.C. Sec. 5841(a). To facilitate the record keeping, a transferor of any of the listed firearms must apply for approval from the Treasury Department (the Department) prior to the transfer. 26 U.S.C. Secs. 5812, 5841(c). 26 U.S.C. Sec. 5812 empowers the Secretary to prescribe the manner in which the transferor and the weapon must be identified in applications for approval. Pursuant to this authority, the Department has promulgated regulations that impose upon the transferor the duty to submit information about himself and the weapon in a properly executed Form 4. 27 C.F.R. Sec. 179.84. The statute further requires that the transferee's photograph and fingerprints be part of the application, and authorizes the Secretary to specify other information about the transferee that must be part of the application. 26 U.S.C. Sec. 5841(a)(3). Finally, the statute prohibits any transaction if "the transfer, receipt, or possession of the firearm would place the transferee in violation of law." 26 U.S.C. Sec. 5812(a). To enforce Congress's dictates on these matters, the Department has specified that the transferee execute a Form 4539, consisting of his or her photograph and fingerprints. 27 C.F.R. Sec. 179.85. The Form 4539 must be supported by a "certificate of the local chief of police, sheriff of the county, U.S. attorney, U.S. marshal or other person whose certificate may in a particular case be acceptable to the Director." Id. The individual who certifies the form must attest that he or she is satisfied that the fingerprints and photograph are those of the transferee, and that he or she has no information that "receipt or possession of the firearm would place the transferee in violation of State or local law or that the transferee will use the firearm for other than lawful purposes." Id. 1

The appellant, Eugene Steele, is licensed to sell firearms, the transfer of which is controlled by this regulatory scheme. According to exhibits attached to appellant's complaint, the following matter ensued. On December 30, 1981, Steele wrote to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF), the agency charged with firearms-law enforcement. Steele requested the authority to delete the last sentence of the Form 4539, which requires the certifying individual to attest to the following: "I have no information indicating that the transferee will use the firearm or device described on this application for other than lawful purposes." Deron Debbs, Acting Chief of the National Firearms Act Branch (NFAB), advised Steele that he could delete

Page 1413

that portion of the form, because the agency intended to remove it when the form was next revised. Steele then informed the agency that he intended to file suit because the local United States Marshal, Carlos Cruz, refused to sign the certificate. Gary Schaible, the new acting chief of the NFAB, informed Steele that there were other individuals whose signatures would be acceptable on the certificate.

While Steele corresponded with the NFAB, United States Attorney Atlee Wampler and State's Attorney Janet Reno informed Steele that he would have to look elsewhere to obtain a signature for the certificate. Wampler wrote that it was inconsistent with his office's duties for him to sign the certificate, and that his office lacks the resources necessary to conduct a proper investigation of transferees. Reno simply referred Steele to the Metro Dade Police Department. During this same period, Sidney Shapiro, North Miami Beach City Attorney, advised Steele that he would not order the North Miami Beach Chief of Police to sign the certificate. Steele contacted the NFAB again, requesting that he, an attorney, be permitted to sign the certificate. Schaible responded that the NFAB would probably not accept a certificate with his attestation, but that there may be other state and local officials whose signatures would be acceptable. In June, 1982, Dorothy Lee, the new acting bureau chief, informed Steele that the NFAB had reversed its previous position, and would not permit him to delete the last sentence from the form.

Steele brought this lawsuit in September, 1982, naming...

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29 practice notes
  • Greensboro Lumber Co. v. Georgia Power Co., Civ. A. No. C84-2022A.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Northern District of Georgia
    • August 29, 1986
    ...this Court to challenge the sales provisions of the MEAG Group's Interconnection Policy. See Steele v. National Firearms Act Branch, 755 F.2d 1410, 1414 (11th Cir.1985) (Article III standing requires that a plaintiff show that his alleged injury is "likely to be redressed by the requested r......
  • Lyttle v. United States, CASE NO. 4:11-CV-152 (CDL)
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Middle District of Georgia
    • March 31, 2012
    ...1340 (11th Cir. 2000). Standing requirements must be pleaded with a "fair degree of specificity." Steele v. Nat'l Firearms Act Branch, 755 F.2d 1410, 1414 (11th Cir. 1985).Page 76 Under these standards, Lyttle's allegations are insufficient. Lyttle has failed to show a substantial likelihoo......
  • Linnemeier v. Indiana University-Purdue University, No. 1:01-CV-0266.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Indiana
    • July 20, 2001
    ...disputed factual issues. See Martin v. Morgan Drive Away, Inc., 665 F.2d 598 (5th Cir.1982); Steele v. National Firearms Act Branch, 755 F.2d 1410 (11th Cir.1985); Munoz-Mendoza v. Pierce, 711 F.2d 421 (1st Cir.1983). That is what occurred in this case and thus, the court considers the evid......
  • Havana Docks Corp. v. MSC Cruises SA Co., Case No. 19-cv-23588-BLOOM/Louis
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of Florida
    • September 7, 2020
    ...ascertain from the record whether the relief requested is likely to redress the alleged injury," [ Steele v. Nat'l Firearms Act Branch , 755 F.2d 1410, 1415 (11th Cir. 1985) ] .... See [ DiMaio v. Democratic Nat'l Comm. , 520 F.3d 1299, 1303 (11th Cir. 2008) ] (dismissing complaint for lack......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
29 cases
  • Greensboro Lumber Co. v. Georgia Power Co., Civ. A. No. C84-2022A.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Northern District of Georgia
    • August 29, 1986
    ...this Court to challenge the sales provisions of the MEAG Group's Interconnection Policy. See Steele v. National Firearms Act Branch, 755 F.2d 1410, 1414 (11th Cir.1985) (Article III standing requires that a plaintiff show that his alleged injury is "likely to be redressed by the requested r......
  • Lyttle v. United States, CASE NO. 4:11-CV-152 (CDL)
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Middle District of Georgia
    • March 31, 2012
    ...1340 (11th Cir. 2000). Standing requirements must be pleaded with a "fair degree of specificity." Steele v. Nat'l Firearms Act Branch, 755 F.2d 1410, 1414 (11th Cir. 1985).Page 76 Under these standards, Lyttle's allegations are insufficient. Lyttle has failed to show a substantial likelihoo......
  • Linnemeier v. Indiana University-Purdue University, No. 1:01-CV-0266.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Indiana
    • July 20, 2001
    ...disputed factual issues. See Martin v. Morgan Drive Away, Inc., 665 F.2d 598 (5th Cir.1982); Steele v. National Firearms Act Branch, 755 F.2d 1410 (11th Cir.1985); Munoz-Mendoza v. Pierce, 711 F.2d 421 (1st Cir.1983). That is what occurred in this case and thus, the court considers the evid......
  • Havana Docks Corp. v. MSC Cruises SA Co., Case No. 19-cv-23588-BLOOM/Louis
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of Florida
    • September 7, 2020
    ...ascertain from the record whether the relief requested is likely to redress the alleged injury," [ Steele v. Nat'l Firearms Act Branch , 755 F.2d 1410, 1415 (11th Cir. 1985) ] .... See [ DiMaio v. Democratic Nat'l Comm. , 520 F.3d 1299, 1303 (11th Cir. 2008) ] (dismissing complaint for lack......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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