Federal authorities were correct to revoke the license of an Aurora gun dealer who willfully committed “literally hundreds” of violations, including selling to felons without a background check, a judge ruled last week.
U.S. District Court Judge R. Brooke Jackson blasted Timothy Taconi, the owner of A-TAC Gear Guns Uniforms, LLC and ATAC Arms, for thumbing his nose at the law, finding Taconi "knew the rules and made the express choice not to follow them. It would be difficult to find clearer evidence of willfulness than this.”
Taconi told Colorado Politics that he simply does not believe in some of the federal rules he was obligated to follow, in particular the general prohibition on selling to out-of-state purchasers.
“It’s a federal firearms license, not a state firearms license. Not to mention the rules are vague,” he said. “There’s no reason I feel that any federal firearms-licensed person should not be able to run a background check no matter where it is.” (Thirteen states, including Colorado, conduct background checks for gun sales themselves.)
According to ATF data, there were 2,175 federal firearm licenses to Colorado entities as of January 2021. Nationwide, the agency revokes less than one-half of one percent of licenses annually. In large part, Politifact reports, it is rare for weapons vendors to exhibit willful disregard for the law, which is the standard for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Taconi, a former casino slot technician and sign company owner, applied to be a federal firearms licensee in 2015. The ATF granted the license, after providing Taconi with a regulation reference book, an in-person briefing and an acknowledgement form, which he signed.
Three years later, an ATF special agent learned Taconi was selling weapons at a gun show in Wisconsin. The informant told Taconi he had “some run-ins” with the law, but Taconi offered to sell the firearm without paperwork. ATF officials subsequently spoke to Taconi at a second Wisconsin gun show, warning him that selling to out-of-state residents was illegal.
Then in December 2018, another ATF investigator visited the A-TAC store, which Taconi runs out of his home, to check inventory and other records. The investigator found more than 600 violations in 16 categories. Among the illegal activity, Taconi sold 56 firearms through out-of-state gun shows, including after ATF personnel gave him a warning in Wisconsin. He failed to conduct a background check on 110 purchases. A-TAC also violated the prohibition against sale or delivery of handguns to out-of-state residents, the requirement to fill out paperwork on all firearm transactions and — on three occasions — transferred a gun to a convicted felon.
“Given that Mr. Taconi as the licensee was already informed they cannot do what they were doing — or what he was doing — yet continued to do it as discovered during my inspection, that, in my opinion, established willfulness,” the investigator testified at Taconi’s administrative hearing.
ATF’s Denver division notified Taconi in April 2019 that it would revoke his license and impose a fine. According to the transcript from the administrative hearing, Taconi defended himself by saying he was unsure if the ATF agents were “real” when they approached him at the Wisconsin gun show. He also blamed his wife, who is an immigrant, for pushing him to skirt the law and for misplacing paperwork, saying she “doesn't really know the way things are here.”
The director of the Denver division subsequently revoked Taconi’s license and decided to institute a fine of over $24,000. Taconi filed suit in October 2019, but Jackson found that even a single willful violation of gun laws would be sufficient to uphold such a decision. In Taconi’s case, he went well beyond that.
“Taking his hearing testimony at face value, it appears that he knew he was making mistakes and running afoul of the regulations, but in some instances he did it to avoid strife with his wife, and in others he believed it was simply the way most dealers were operating. Unfortunately, neither of these explanations excuse his violations,” the judge wrote in a March 31 order.
Taconi’s blame-shifting and substantial violations, the judge added, constituted “circumstantial evidence showing that A-TAC was plainly indifferent to the statute’s requirements. A-TAC committed literally hundreds of violations of different rules under the Act.”
In a statement, the U.S. Attorney's Office for Colorado said the government was pleased with the court's "well-reasoned decision." Taconi's attorney did not immediately respond to questions about the judge's decision, or if his client would continue evading the law if he were to regain his license.
The case is A-TAC v. U.S. Department of Justice et al.