Biden wants billion dollar boost to ATF budget

A $1.7-billion boost, to be precise.

Joe Biden may have failed in his mission to install a gun control activist as head of the ATF, but that isn’t stopping the White House from moving forward with its plan to weaponize the agency and turn into what amounts to a gun control group with law enforcement powers.

In his newly proposed budget, Biden is calling for more than a billion dollars in new funding for the ATF (and yes, I did double check just to make sure he wasn’t proposing giving that money to the American Federation of Teachers instead); a 13% increase over its current funding levels. In a statement, the White House press office made it clear that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, & Explosives is still the central component of his gun control efforts.

President Biden has made more progress on executive actions to reduce gun violence than any other President during their first year in office. Implementing the President’s comprehensive strategy to reduce gun crime, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is pursuing rulemaking to rein in the proliferation of “ghost guns” – unserialized, privately-made firearms that are increasingly being recovered at crime scenes and can be difficult to trace.

Note that the White House is bragging about Biden issuing more executive orders on gun control than any other president, not that those efforts have actually done anything to lower the country’s crime rate. Some of the executive actions the White House press office didn’t mention in its press release include the ATF’s recent targeting of Forced Reset Triggers and its pending rule on stabilizing braces; both attempts to rewrite the Gun Control Act of 1968 through agency interpretation instead of legislation in Congress.

Biden also wants to boost the number of ATF field agents and inspectors, with an eye towards those “rogue” gun dealers he’s complained about in the past.

  • The President is proposing $1.7 billion – a 13% increase over the FY22 enacted level – for ATF to enforce our commonsense gun laws. This funding will be used to:
    • Hire more than 140 new agents, intel analysts, and other personnel, including personnel to staff the multijurisdictional gun trafficking strike forces the Justice Department launched last year. These strike forces crack down on significant firearms trafficking corridors like the Iron Pipeline – the illegal flow of guns sold in the south, transported up the East Coast, and found at crime scenes in cities from Baltimore to New York City.
    • Hire 160 new investigators to help ensure that Federal Firearms Licensees (FFLs) and manufacturers comply with the law. These investigators will help carry out the Department of Justice’s new policy – announced last year – of zero tolerance, absent extraordinary circumstances, for certain willful violations of the law by federally licensed firearms dealers that put public safety at risk.
    • Adds 16 new positions to provide National Integrated Ballistics Information Network (NIBIN) correlation reviews and training for state and local law enforcement agencies nationwide. The NIBIN database holds millions of digital images of ballistics from crime scenes. A NIBIN search can link seemingly unrelated scenes, thereby making connections and filling in gaps to help law enforcement identify and hold accountable repeat shooters.
    • Increases by more than 40% the funding for the National Tracing Center, which more than 8,400 law enforcement agencies across the United States use to trace firearms found at crime scenes. Funding will be used to upgrade technology and hire additional personnel.

In theory there might not be much objectionable in the paragraphs above, but the devil is in the details. What exactly are those “willful violations” of federal law that Biden wants the ATF to target? According to the Second Amendment Foundation’s Lee Williams, the agency isn’t going after the extraordinarily rare FFL who would sell a gun to someone that failed a background check. They’re targeting minor paperwork errors; anything and everything they could use to try to shut gun shops down.

As the NRA first noted, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has started revoking licenses of gun dealers for the most minor of paperwork errors – errors that never led to license revocations until Biden took office.

The move was intended to bolster Biden’s politically motivated strategem, which he first announced June 23, 2021, that “rogue” gun dealers are responsible for skyrocketing crime rates in large cities that historically have been controlled by Democrats. The “epidemic of gun violence” wasn’t caused by weak prosecutors who refuse to hold criminals accountable, or gangs or underfunded police departments or by any combination thereof, Biden claimed. It was all the fault of “rogue gun dealers.”

Back then, Biden said rogue dealers willfully transfer firearms to prohibited persons, fail to conduct background checks, falsify records and/or refuse to cooperate with an ATF tracing request or inspection.

This week, The Biden-Harris administration added four more criteria to the rogue list – all minor paperwork errors: failure to account for firearms, failure to document a gun buyer’s eligibility, failure to maintain records needed to comply with an ATF tracing request and failure to report multiple handgun sales.

… The Biden-Harris Administration clearly wants to revoke as many FFLs as they can. Their goal is simple and transparent: Fewer gun dealers will result in fewer gun sales. Like most of their anti-gun schemes, they did not take into account that criminals don’t buy their firearms from licensed gun dealers, they steal them or buy them on the black market, so the administration’s plan will only infringe upon law-abiding firearm purchasers.

Biden’s budget would supercharge that effort by adding dozens of employees to the ATF’s roster with the specific task of looking for ways to put gun shops out of business.

Despite polls showing that gun control is not a big priority for midterm voters, while support for the Second Amendment is growing, Biden can’t afford to neglect the gun control lobby that spent tens of millions of dollars in his election bid in 2020. The White House even used the budget announcement to once again impotently push for Congress to pass Biden’s anti-gun agenda.

Congress needs to do its job by passing this Budget and other essential legislation to reduce gun crime, including legislation to require background checks for all gun sales, ensure that no terrorist can buy a weapon in the United States, ban assault weapons and high capacity magazines, repeal gun manufacturers’ protection from liability, and ban ghost guns.

On today’s Cam & Co we discuss why each and every one of those proposals is a non-starter, but the fact that Congress isn’t going to pass any of these bills this year ultimately means that Biden has to use the executive branch as his primary cudgel against gun owners. That, in turn, means the ATF will continue to be weaponized against our Second Amendment rights, even without a gun control lobbyist installed at the agency’s headquarters.