Concerns are mounting over the obvious abuse of power by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), particularly in the agency's assault on Federal Firearm License (FFL) holders. Since Joe Biden took office, the agency has revoked an unprecedented number of FFL licenses and the media remains mostly silent. The ATF's abuse has a major impact on FFL holders, and broader implications for firearm enthusiasts and businesses as well.
Federal Firearm License (FFL) Dealers-
Any person or business who sells, manufacturers, transfers or builds firearms must have a license issued by the ATF. There are different FFL licence types depending on the activity and the type of firearms you work with. The ATF performs compliance inspections on any FFL holder to ensure their processes and procedures are following the law. Violations can earn the FFL holder a warning, up to arrest.
Gun control advocates like Joe Biden desire to make it difficult for the law-abiding citizen to purchase a firearm. The ATF has increasingly taken a quasi-legislative role in gun control by reinventing and interpreting definitions and classifications of what a firearm is in order to outlaw whole swaths of guns without congresses approval.
- ATF Decides Rare Breed's Forced Reset Trigger is a Machine Gun; How does it Affect Owners?
- White House: Biden Executive Order Brings U.S. “As Close to Universal Background Checks as Possible“
- Does The Bump Stock Ban Test The Waters For Confiscation?
- Biden's Transition Team Spoke To ATF About Pistol Braces and Receivers
- Why I Think The ATF is Coming For Pistol Braces
One big goal of gun control advocates is to restrict gun ownership by requiring universal background checks, and ultimately a national gun registry. This is the only way they can know who has the guns they plan to take away. It's clear that forcing everyone to go through an FFL to purchase a firearm is only part of the plan. Along with that, is reducing the number of FFLs.
By limiting the places someone can go to makes it harder to purchase a gun, and drives up the cost of firearms. Not only that, but running small FFLs out of business dis-incentivizes people to invest in gun-related business. The government wants to end the small FFL businesses they didn't destroy through the COVID lockdowns by abusing the powers of the ATF through intimidation and overzealous prosecutions.
How ATF Abuses Gun Dealers-
- As mentioned, the ATF conducts regular inspections of FFL holders. However, it seems more and more, these inspections are increasingly intrusive and exceed the boundaries of legality. One example is this incident where an ATF inspector took photographs of an FFL's forms in violation of law. Or this story of ATF agents conducting a warrantless search of an FFL holder's home.
- The ATF's regulations are ambiguous, leaving FFL holders in a precarious position. This lack of clarity can lead to unintentional violations. An FFL is required to keep meticulous records pertaining to things like Bound Book entries, Acquisition and Disposition, Inventory Reconciliation, Multiple Transactions, Electronic records, and Obsolete or Discontinued firearms. Someone could make an honest minor clerical error resulting in major violations. The 2014 case Abramski v. United States dealt with the ambiguity of who the “purchaser” of a firearm is.
- Some FFL holders have reported instances of retroactive enforcement, where previously acceptable practices suddenly become grounds for license revocation. Some areas where this can happen include: Changes in Interpretation of Regulations, Treatment of Specific Firearms Features, Record-keeping practices, or Changes in Local or State Regulations.
The Impact on FFL Holders
The ATF says that their 2022 count is 136,563 active FFLs. The overwhelming majority of these are small businesses and individuals performing transfers of firearms from their home. Not only has the ATF ramped up the frequency of FFL inspections, but the agency has punished, fined and threatened FFLs for the most minor infractions.
It's quite similar to how the IRS crushed conservative small businesses through audits and minor accounting errors. Most small businesses and individuals don't have the funds to fight a legal battle against the IRS or ATF, so even if the agency is wrong, the individual gives up under the weight of an oppressive government and fear of criminal prosecution.
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I've talked with several FFLs personally about the ATFs actions. These are FFLs who have held their license for decads, and have said they can no longer keep their license. Three of them said they are fearful of the overt intent to punish FFLs. Two FFLs I spoke to told me how their licenses were suspended over a minor book keeping error dealing with the inputting the state abbreviation on the ID of the purchaser. They explained in the past, the inspector simply pointed out the error during the inspection and the FFL could correct it. Now, the agency is threatening suspension and these men don't have the funds to fight, and fear losing their homes and livelihood.
The ATF is using these threats to reduce the number of FFLS.
- For many FFL holders, their business is not just a livelihood but a passion. Revoking an FFL can have severe economic consequences, potentially leading to closures and job losses.
- Fighting against an ATF decision to revoke an FFL can be a long and costly legal battle. This places an immense burden on small businesses and individuals.
Deterrent for New Entrepreneurs:
- The fear of ATF scrutiny and potential license revocation can deter new entrepreneurs from entering the firearms industry, stifling innovation, and growth.
The Government has shown a willingness to use unelected bureaucrats to sidestep the constitution, bypass congress and punish Americans into submission. Even for those who are not fans of firearms, this should cause Americans to reflect on the direction of our republic.
Chilling Effect on Second Amendment Rights:
- The abuse of power by the ATF is impacting Second Amendment rights, and created a climate of fear and reluctance among law-abiding citizens to engage in legal firearm-related activities. This is extending to other rights protected by our constitution.
Dividing the American People:
- The campaign to malign gun owners in every way possible is dividing people and creating extremism. This is not an unintended result of the vilification of gun owners in America.
FFLs are still an important in Americans' ability to purchase firearms and exercise their Second Amendment rights. IF you're interested in getting your FFL, or just want to know the process, here is an article explaining some steps and misconceptions about getting your FFL. Or if you like podcasts, check out this episode of the Concealed Carry Podcast where we talk to Attorney Ryan Cleckner about his program to help people get their FFL and keep it.
The abuse of power by the ATF in the context of revoking FFL licenses is a critical issue that demands attention. It's my opinion we need to abolish the ATF in its current form. The agency has far too great of power.
Others take a softer approach and would rather reform the organization. They emphasize the importance of increased transparency and accountability within the ATF to prevent future abuses of power. These organizations are so institutionally corrupt that I'm not convinced they can be reformed, nor do I trust congresses oversight.
What do you think? Let us know below.