Illinois and Kansas City, Missouri, are asking a federal court to shutter the successor to a Nevada-based gunmaker that declared bankruptcy as it came under increasing scrutiny for its ties to an interstate trafficking ring. 

The suit, filed on January 15, seeks to force the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to withdraw the federal firearms license granted to J.A. Industries. The head of J.A. Industries, Paul Jimenez, previously operated Jimenez Arms, which filed for bankruptcy last year. The bankruptcy was widely seen as an effort by Paul Jimenez to jettison lawsuits stemming from revelations that Jimenez Arms had supplied pistols to a Kansas City firefighter who pleaded guilty to trafficking charges. At least one of the trafficked weapons was used in a crime in Chicago. 

“It is inexcusable that the regulators we rely on to enforce our federal gun laws have given the green light to continue doing business despite the clear evidence that this manufacturer and its principal contributed to gun trafficking,” Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas said in a conference call with reporters. 

The Trace and The Daily Beast published an investigation in August showing that Paul Jimenez’s repackaging of Jimenez Arms reflected a time-tested strategy for countering litigation and regulatory scrutiny. J.A. Industries is at least the twelfth gunmaking business operated by members and close associates of the same extended family since 1970. Several of those companies closed as they or their executives faced criminal accusations, federal investigation, or lawsuits alleging the handguns their factories produced were prone to spontaneously discharge, explode, or be used in a crime.

Joining Kansas City and Illinois in the suit is Everytown Law, the litigation branch of Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund. (Everytown’s nonpolitical arm provides funding to The Trace. Here is a list of The Trace’s major donors and its policy on editorial independence.)

Paul Jimenez applied for a gun manufacturing license under the name J.A. Industries in March 2020, a little more than a month after filing the initial bankruptcy paperwork on behalf of Jimenez Arms. The bankruptcy automatically halted litigation against Jimenez Arms, and experts have said that it could derail plaintiffs seeking to hold the company accountable for what they claim is a pattern of unscrupulous behavior. 

It is illegal for dealers to sell Jimenez Arms handguns in Illinois because of a 1973 state law aimed at ridding the market of low-quality firearms, according to the complaint filed on Friday. Nevertheless, police recover the company’s weapons at crime scenes at a disportionate rate. Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul told reporters that the license for J.A. Industries should never have been approved. “We are outraged by [Paul] Jimenez’s efforts to avoid accountability by declaring bankruptcy and starting up under a new name to continue making and selling guns,” Raoul said. “We’re also concerned that the ATF’s licensing division had the opportunity to stop him — but didn’t.” 

A spokesperson for ATF said the bureau does not comment on pending litigation. A voicemail left for Paul Jimenez on Friday afternoon was not immediately returned.