On March 9th, 2023, President Biden put forward his budget proposal for fiscal year 2024, which includes over $1,900,000,000 for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF).[i] That’s a 13.6% increase over the 2023 budget.[ii] ATF’s budget to enforce unconstitutional gun laws was “only” $1,258,600,000 in FY 2017,[iii] when President Trump took office, and $1,400,000,000 in 2020, before President Biden took office.[iv] This means that if Congress passes this budget, the ATF would have grown 35.7% larger during the Biden presidency and 50.9% larger since the Obama Administration. These funds and an expanded ATF will be used to continue President Biden’s war against American gun owners and the firearm industry.
For too long, ATF has abused its authority to persecute otherwise law-abiding gun owners who have committed non-violent offenses—such as having a barrel that is too short. ATF’s abuse of gun rights must stop. Instead of increasing its funding and power to “nearly $2 billion,”[v] Congress should cut ATF funding to pre-Biden Administration levels or lower. Additionally, ATF should be made to exclusively focus on alcohol, tobacco, and explosives crimes and only be allowed to enforce firearms-related laws against violent criminals.
Unconstitutional and Expensive Wait Periods
The Biden Administration plans to use these funds to implement the unconstitutional Cornyn-Murphy Compromise—officially known as the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act. The Biden Budget refers to this as the “first significant piece of [gun control] in three decades. One element of the new law “expands background checks.” Apparently, this also requires taxpayers give a whopping “$51 million to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to support the continued implementation of enhanced background checks required by the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act.”[vi]
Of course, the expensive and “expanded” background checks are, in fact, mandatory wait periods for 18–20-year-old adults. Laws restricting the rights of legal adults are rightly beginning to be struck down as unconstitutional[vii] under the Supreme Court’s “text, history, and tradition” Second Amendment test as affirmed in D.C. v. Heller and NYSRPA v. Bruen.
Unconstitutional Misdemeanor Gun Bans
The budget also includes a reference to “keep[ing] guns out of the hands of… convicted dating partners.” Otherwise known as the “boyfriend loophole” that was “closed” by Cornyn-Murphy—never mind that Democrats are still advocating for closing it[viii]—this is really a ban on firearm ownership for those who have only been convicted of a misdemeanor. Misdemeanor gun bans are also beginning to be struck down as unconstitutional under the Supreme Court’s “text, history, and tradition” Second Amendment test.[ix]
“Red Flag” Funding for States Without Gun Confiscation Laws
GOA analyzed the Biden Administration’s disbursal of “red flag” gun confiscation grants pursuant to the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act and found that the “due process” protections secured by Senators Cornyn and Murphy were worthless. 25 states, 3 territories, and the District of Columbia have already qualified for gun confiscation funding—including all 20 states and the District of Columbia which had pre-existing red flag gun confiscation laws.[x] This means the funding for state “red flag” laws includes more states than have existing gun confiscation laws![xi] Additionally, 12 states received “crisis law” funding that could include gun confiscation.[xii]
There is also strong evidence suggesting that bureaucrats are circumventing anti-lobbying protections, with a Bureau of Justice Assistance senior policy analyst stating that the funding could be used by a grantee for “educating to potentially create [a gun confiscation] law within their state.”[xiii] Therefore, even Republicans who believed Senator Cornyn—when he said his compromise would “force states with red flag laws to adopt strict and comprehensive due process protections”[xiv]—should be strongly opposed to continuing to give Biden “funds [for] crisis intervention, including red-flag laws.”[xv]
Gun Registry Expansion Through ATF’s Zero Tolerance Policy
The Biden Administration also intends to use the increase in funding to “increase regulation of the firearms industry.”[xvi] This is a clear indication that the funding will be used to continue to enforce ATF’s non-statutory “Zero Tolerance” policy[xvii] to persecute and close as many gun stores as possible. Gun Owners of America released ATF’s internal Federal Firearms Administrative Action Policy and Procedures, which details the full Zero Tolerance policy, in an exclusive with Fox News.[xviii]
Rather than targeting those who display clear negligence and disregard for the law, ATF now revokes licenses without warning at the discovery of a first mistake by honest gun dealers. When Federal Firearms Licensees are forced out of business, ATF adds their records to its digital gun registry that has nearly a billion gun and gun owner records.[xix] This is consistent with the FY 2023 omnibus’ $14,400,000[xx]—an increase of “more than 40%”[xxi] —to modernize the National Tracing Center, which is the branch that maintains, accesses, and searches the digital, searchable, gun registries to which ATF has access.[xxii]
$4.4 Billion Anti-Gun Slush Fund and $1 Billion for VAWA Infringements
The budget also includes $4,419,000,000 to “Establish” an undefined “Gun Crime Prevention Strategic Fund” which will be abused for gun control. For example, Virginia has a “Firearm Violence Intervention and Prevention Fund” which is used to fund the state’s “red flag” gun confiscation order program.[xxiii] There is also “$50 million for… Community Violence Intervention programs” which have also been misused by states to enact gun control.[xxiv] Also included is “$1 billion” for VAWA programs which included gun control in its most recent reauthorization including the NICS Denial Notification Act and for ATF to deputize local police to enforce federal gun laws, especially to undermine Second Amendment Protection Act (SAPA) states.[xxv]
[vii] Pratt. “GOA Wins Historic Mini-Victory in Virginia Court Case”. Gun Owners of America. July 15th, 2020. and See also Wolfe and Rose. “Federal judge strikes down Texas ban on 18- to 20-year-olds carrying handguns in public”. CNN. August 26th, 2022.
[x] Gun Owners of America counts Maine’s so-called “Yellow Flag Law” as an unconstitutional Gun Confiscation Order program.
[xi] Madajian. “Cornyn-Murphy Gun Control’s Disastrous Consequences”. Gun Owners of America. 2023.
[xiii] Fox, Palmer, and Brown. “FY 2022 Extreme Risk Protective Order and Firearm Crisis Intervention Training and Technical Assistance Initiative Transcript”. Bureau of Justice Assistance. December 9th, 2022. 6.
[xvi] Ibid. 95.
[xvii] Biden. “Fact Sheet: Biden-Harris Administration Announces Comprehensive Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gun Crime and Ensure Public Safety”. White House. June 23td, 2021.
[xviii] Keene. “Internal ATF docs show ‘zero tolerance’ guidelines for shutting down gun stores”. Fox News. February 10th, 2023.
[xix] Note: GOA is already working with Second Amendment champions like Rep. Michael Cloud on Capitol Hill to address this alarming issue and eliminate this unconstitutional gun registry with the No REGISTRY Rights Act.
[xxi] White House. President Biden’s Budget Invests in Reducing Gun Crime to Make Our Communities Safer. March 28th, 2022.
[xxiv] Johnston. “Community Violence Intervention (CVI) Funding is Gun Control”. Gun Owners of America.
[xxv] Johnston. “In Under 48 Hours, VAWA Gun Control Was Rammed Through Congress”. Gun Owners of America. March 11th, 2022.