U.S.A. — The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is not regulating the firearms industry as required by statute. The ATF is choking the life out of it – tearing it down, one gun dealer at a time.
Before Joe Biden declared war on gun dealers, ATF inspectors used a five-percent rule. If less than five percent of a gun dealer’s paperwork contained errors, the ATF would take minor corrective action, usually a warning letter or a warning conference. If more than five percent of the transactions contained errors, sanctions could be more severe. But after Biden weaponized the agency, anything goes. Even a minor clerical error is now viewed as a “willful” violation of ATF rules, and the dealer’s Federal Firearm License is in jeopardy.
Today, the ATF is clearly on the hunt. The more FFL revocations they can gin up, the better. The more dealers they can intimidate into surrendering their FFL, the happier the White House will be. After all, Biden has ranted publicly about “rogue” gun dealers, so now it’s up to the ATF to deliver revoked licenses by any means necessary.
ATF knows that high-volume gun dealers can afford to fight a revocation. They have compliance officers, attorneys and money. But an FFL is an FFL, so ATF is targeting homebased dealers. They’re easier, and they don’t have an extra $50,000-$100,000 to defend their FFL from revocation. The ATF knows this too, and they’re abusing the hell out of it.
Lately, the ATF doesn’t even bother to start a formal revocation process for homebased dealers. Instead, they cook up some violations and then threaten and bully the dealer, hoping to scare them into “voluntarily” surrendering their FFL. This abusive tactic worked with a home-based dealer in Oklahoma after ATF hit his home with a SWAT team, but it backfired when tried on a savvy Texas gun dealer.
The ATF is also employing new tactics which violate its own policies. Before Biden took office, the ATF did not use gun shop inspections to further a criminal investigation. Now, that’s all changed. ATF inspectors are teaming up with criminal investigators – special agents. This unholy combo creates yet another mechanism to ensnare the unlucky dealer who has been targeted for revocation based on some agent’s whim.
One thing has become abundantly clear: ATF’s recent revocation spree has resulted in a pattern and practice of civil rights violations. Those are important words. They’re the bedrock of civil rights litigation – civil or criminal. Today’s rogue ATF agents may believe they’re immune from internal sanctions because they’re only following orders, but they can still be criminally prosecuted or found liable for violating someone’s civil rights. And to be clear, they’re violating someone’s civil rights on a regular basis.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone familiar with ATF’s history that one of their core missions has been shelved because they’re preoccupied with revoking licenses for The Big Guy. The ATF is doing nothing to keep guns out of the hands of criminals because they’re too busy turning law-abiding Americans into criminals. Shaking down honest, hard-working gun dealers does nothing to deter or prevent crime. It’s nothing but an obvious attempt to curry favor with the resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, and it’s morally wrong.
I sometimes wonder whether there’s even a single honorable employee left at ATF. If there is, I’d love to hear from them. It can’t be easy working at such a hyper-political agency, surrounded by nothing but oath-breakers.
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About Lee Williams
Lee Williams, who is also known as “The Gun Writer,” is the chief editor of the Second Amendment Foundation’s Investigative Journalism Project. Until recently, he was also an editor for a daily newspaper in Florida. Before becoming an editor, Lee was an investigative reporter at newspapers in three states and a U.S. Territory. Before becoming a journalist, he worked as a police officer. Before becoming a cop, Lee served in the Army. He’s earned more than a dozen national journalism awards as a reporter, and three medals of valor as a cop. Lee is an avid tactical shooter.