Elitism and the Violence Policy Center

February 13th, 2008

Josh Sugarmann, director of the Violence Policy Center (VPC) has a Federal Firearms License (FFL). This is the same guy who raised fees on FFL applications and drove home dealers out of business, claiming

The FFL is a public safety scandal created by the very agency charged with enforcing federal firearms laws. By giving a federal gun-dealing license to virtually anyone who can come up with $30 and isn’t a convicted felon, ATF has put criminals in the business of selling guns.

Yet, according to the BATFE database, Sugarmann has held an FFL for at least a dozen years.

It is registered to the same address as his offices at the VPC:

Josh Sugarmann
Violence Policy Center
1730 Rhode Island Avenue, NW
Suite 1014
Washington, DC 20036

Phone: 202 822 8200

FFL: 1-54-000-01-8C-00725

His FFL is patently illegal. First off, it is not a Curio/Relic license. Those have a "03" in the fourth string. The “01" denotes a license for the holder to buy and sell firearms for profit.

Here’s the catch. According to measures Sugarmann proposed, to acquire a Type 1 FFL, the applicant must be in the active business of trading in arms, must have a physical storefront, and must have posted hours. I wasn’t aware of the VPC selling guns, but that’s exactly what they have to be doing for Sugarmann to hold an FFL.

A dealer is further defined as “a person who devotes time, attention, and labor to dealing in firearms as a regular course of trade or business with the principal objective of livelihood and profit through the repetitive purchase and resale of firearms.” 44 USC § 921(a)(21)(A)

I’d advise everyone reading this to call the VPC offices at the number above and request a transfer. After all, there aren’t many licensed dealers in the District. Otherwise, feel free to call the BATFE D.C. office at (202) 648-8010. I’m currently compiling a FOIA letter requisitioning a copy of his license application and the results of all (if any) BATFE audits of his bound books.

His second sin appears to be tax evasion. The VPC claims 501(c)(3) exemption as a charitable organization, but according to the IRS,

To be tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, an organization must be organized and operated exclusively for exempt purposes set forth in section 501(c)(3), and none of its earnings may inure to any private shareholder or individual. In addition, it may not be an action organization, i.e., it may not attempt to influence legislation as a substantial part of its activities and it may not participate in any campaign activity for or against political candidates.

…which is exactly what the VPC does. Here’s a handy form (pdf) for reporting Mr. Sugarmann’s perfidity directly.

His third violation is one of zoning. The VPC address (pdf) is zoned “residential/limited non-profit,” with no mention of a retail or business license. If anyone has contact information for the DC zoning board, please let me know.

We can hate Sarah Brady all we want, this guy and his organization are the real power behind the anti-gun lobby. They file the briefs (pdf), and they’ve got the money.

Many thanks to David Hardy for bringing this to light, and to Ryan Horsley for raising the zoning issue.

Addendum: The VPC isn’t answering their phones, and voice-mail boxes at all extensions are full. I did reach the mailbox of Marty Langley, and we’ll see if he calls back.

I had a bit more luck with the BATFE. Their DC office transferred me to the national office (866-662-2750), and when I reached them, I asked them about Sugarmann’s FFL. They acknowledged that it was valid, and that it expired on 03/01. I asked when Sugarmann’s records had last been inspected, and she replied, “February 14…2002.” I mentioned that that seemed like alot of time to lapse, and she suggested I speak to her manager, Sharon Brooks. I left a message with Ms. Brooks, and I’ll repost when I hear something.

02/15: Looks like I’ve been quoted in, of all places, the Huffington Post. A user named mike101 has been stirring the pot in Paul Helmke’s (of Brady fame) column. Several posters on THR have also begun writing their legislators about the matter.

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