The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is revisiting its decision to license the successor to Jimenez Arms, a notorious Nevada-based gunmaker. Jimenez Arms declared bankruptcy in 2020 amid mounting legal troubles for its dealings with a now-convicted gun trafficker. 

In a federal court filing, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York said the ATF had agreed to initiate an inspection of JA Industries, a gun manufacturer founded less than three months after Jimenez Arms enlisted bankruptcy protection. The bankruptcy was widely seen as an effort by owner Paul Jimenez to jettison lawsuits regarding Jimenez Arms’ sale of pistols to a Kansas City, Missouri, firefighter who later pleaded guilty to trafficking the guns, at least one of which was used in a murder. 

The Trace and The Daily Beast published an investigation in August 2020 showing that Paul Jimenez’s repackaging of Jimenez Arms reflected a time-tested strategy for countering litigation and regulatory scrutiny. JA 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 that the handguns their factories produced were prone to spontaneously discharge, explode, or be used in a crime.

The ATF’s inspection comes in response to a January lawsuit in which Kansas City, the state of Illinois, and the Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund argue that the agency shouldn’t have licensed JA Industries because Jimenez Arms and Paul Jimenez had repeatedly violated federal law. The inspection began on October 4 and is expected to conclude within the next several weeks, at which time the ATF will decide whether to revoke the company’s firearms manufacturing license, according to court documents. 

“This step by ATF is good news for public safety,” said Alla Lefkowitz, the senior director of affirmative litigation for Everytown Law, the legal branch of the advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety, which is representing plaintiffs in two cases against Jimenez Arms. “Ensuring that members of the gun industry follow the law is an important aspect of keeping guns out of the hands of traffickers and individuals with dangerous histories.” 

(Everytown provides grants to The Trace. Here is our list of major donors and our policy on editorial independence.)

Paul Jimenez and JA Industries did not return messages seeking comment for this story. A spokesperson for the ATF said on November 18 that it would be “inappropriate” to comment on the case because of the ongoing litigation. “The important thing to focus on is that ATF continues to protect the public from crimes involving firearms by regulating the lawful commerce in firearms,” the spokesperson said in an email, adding that the agency “has a standard process for conducting compliance inspections regardless of the licensee involved.”