Senate Republicans Blast Proposed ATF Rules, Warn They Could Lead To Gun Registry

Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool via AP

Four GOP Senators weighed in on Monday on the ATF’s proposed rules on pistol braces and frames and receivers , warning that the proposal could eventually lead to a nationwide gun registration requirement. In a letter to acting ATF head Marvin Richardson, Sens. Josh Hawley (R-MO), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Tom Cotton (R-AR) expressed their concerns with both of the ATF’s proposals, which are currently up for public comment and review.

Regarding the ATF’s proposal to redefine frames and receivers, the senators warn that the rule, if put in place, “would take a significant step toward a national gun registry by requiring FFL dealers to maintain personal gun owner information and records of transactions involving firearms, including their makes, models, and serial numbers—forever.”

That’s not the only issue the Republicans have with the proposals, however.

On June 10, ATF issued Proposed Rule 2021R–08, Factoring Criteria for Firearms With Attached “Stabilizing Braces.” This proposed rule would reverse years of interpretive guidance and recategorize millions of pistols and AR-15-style firearms as “short-barreled rifles,” placing them under the strict regulatory scheme of the National Firearms Act and making it a federal felony to otherwise possess them. Indeed, the Proposed Rule states that it “may affect upwards of 1.4 million individuals.”

These measures are concerning enough on their face. But more alarming is ATF’s apparent willingness to unilaterally make important firearms policy determinations wholly apart from Congress. Americans’ rights to keep and bear firearms are safeguarded by the Second Amendment, and the responsibility for implementing those constitutional protections rests with elected lawmakers—not unelected federal bureaucrats.

Hawley and his colleagues then posed five questions to Richardson, asking that the ATF respond in writing by the end of the week.

1. In the past, firearms product manufacturers have been repeatedly informed that many of the products they sell, including “receiver blanks” that have not yet been fully machined, are not considered “firearms” by ATF. Accordingly, significant reliance interests have vested. Will ATF continue to honor those prior determinations, including those pertaining to products currently on the market?

2. What steps does ATF intend to take to ensure that any new information that would be retained by FFL dealers pursuant to Proposed Rule 2021R–05 is not subsequently used for the targeting of lawful gun owners by federal authorities or other politically-motivated purposes?

3. What, if any, new measures does ATF anticipate taking to enforce the terms of Proposed Rule 2021R–08 against private gun owners?

4. Proposed Rule 2021R–08 states that it “will not have substantial direct effects on the States, the relationship between the Federal Government and the States, or the distribution of power and responsibilities among the various levels of government.” This claim stands in tension with the fact that numerous states and other jurisdictions have passed Second Amendment sanctuary laws in response to perceived federal overreach. Why were these many laws not considered relevant to a federalism analysis in the course of developing Proposed Rule 2021R–08?

5. What measures, if any, does ATF intend to take to attempt to enforce the terms of Proposed Rule 2021R–08 in jurisdictions subject to Second Amendment sanctuary laws?

They’re all good questions, but the last one is easy enough to answer. Of course the ATF will attempt enforce these proposed rules, even in states or localities that have adopted Second Amendment Sanctuary laws. In fact, as far as the ATF is concerned the only thing different about enforcing these proposals in states like Texas or Missouri as opposed to New York or California is that the ATF can’t depend or rely on local law enforcement in 2A Sanctuaries to help them.

The senators aren’t the only ones expressing alarm over the ATF’s proposed rules. So far more than 70,000 public comments have been submitted regarding the ATF’s attempt to redefine frames and receivers, and the number of comments on the proposed rule for pistol braces is even higher, with nearly 100,000 members of the public weighing in. If you haven’t yet submitted your own comment, you can do so in the previous links, and I’d encourage you to do so. I have no idea if Marvin Richardson will even reply to the senators’ questions, but Second Amendment supporters should most certainly sound off on the attempt by the Biden administration to impose backdoor gun bans and registration schemes without a vote in Congress.