Oversight Committee hearing on ATF disrupted by anti-gun activists

The House Oversight Committee’s hearing on ATF abuses went off the rails on Thursday as anti-gun activists disrupted the proceedings, causing Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Energy Policy, and Regulatory Affairs chairman Rep. Pat Fallon to call for five-minute recess as the Capitol Police removed the protesters.


It was impossible to hear what exactly the activists were yelling about while listening to the live stream of the joint subcommittee hearing by the Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Energy Policy, and Regulatory Affairs and the Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Crime and Federal Government Surveillance Chairman, but Fallon first tried to get Capitol Police officers to step in and remove gun control activists Manuel and Patricia Oliver, whose son Joaquin was murdered in the Parkland shootings in 2018, before he eventually gaveled the hearing in recess for five minutes after Manuel Oliver apparently attempted to regain entry to the hearing room.

“You took my son away from me,” Oliver’s wife, Patricia Oliver, said while Rep. Pat Fallon, R-Texas, addressed the committee.
Fallon ordered them to be removed due to being disruptive, after which Oliver shouted something at Fallon.
As Manuel Oliver and his wife, Patricia Oliver, were removed, Manuel Oliver then was detained by police.

ABC News reporter Will Steakin captured video of Oliver’s arrest.


When the hearing resumed a short time later Fallon chided his Democratic colleagues for applauding the Olivers’ disruption before turning back to question the panel of witnesses on the ATF’s overreach in issuing new rules on unfinished frames and receivers and pistol stabilizing braces.


SB Tactical’s Alex Bosco testified to the ATF’s sudden reversal on a decade’s worth of rule making that attaching a stabilizing brace to a pistol “would not alter” the classification of a pistol or other firearm, and told lawmakers that the agency’s new rule puts millions of gun owners at risk of becoming felons if they don’t register their brace-equipped pistols under the National Firearms Act by the ATF’s May deadline.

Boscot said that while he has no issue with the ATF properly exercising its statutory authority, that’s not what’s happening here. Instead, as he argued, the agency is creating new law complete with a potential ten-year prison sentence for non-compliance; a power that is rightfully reserved to Congress.

It wasn’t just the ATF’s rules on “ghost guns” and stabilizing braces that were scrutinized in today’s hearing. Attorney Matthew Larosiere shared personal testimony about how the ATF’s rulemaking has left “lives shattered” and jobs lost because the ATF used minor and accidental paperwork errors to revoke their federal firearms license.


The Heritage Foundation’s Amy Swearer also testified about the ATF’s abuse of its authority, and pushed back on “mansplaining” by Swalwell and others that gun control is somehow pro-woman.


Democrats, meanwhile, largely stuck to their talking points that there’s nothing wrong with the ATF’s new rules (despite what the federal courts have said to the contrary) while wallowing in their own ignorance around firearms, with Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas declaring that stabilizing braces turn “everyday firearms into killing machines.” Who knew it was the stabilizing brace that turned a gun into a deadly weapon? Does Jackson Lee think that “every day firearms” aren’t capable of lethal force?


Democrats like Lee and Swalwell also accused Republicans of being intent on defunding the ATF and other federal law enforcement agencies; an attempt blunt the Democrats’s embrace of “defund the police” over the past few years and to claim that it’s really Republicans who want to take away funding from public safety budgets. Larosiere was criticized by Illinois congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, for instance, for a tweet he sent out in response to the death of Tyre Nichols at the hands of several Memphis police officers that said “F*ck police” , though Krishnamoorthi and his colleagues like Eric Swalwell chose not to question Everytown Senior Director of Policy Rob Wilcox about the group’s 2021 declaration that “police violence is gun violence” and demanding “fundamental changes to a racist system that perpetuates police violence against Black people.”


The “Republicans want to defund the police” narrative is coming from the White House as well as Democrats on Capitol Hill, as Axios reported on Thursday morning.

The White House plans to claim the recently released House Freedom Caucus budget plan would “make communities less safe” by cutting funding for 11,000 FBI personnel, freezing hiring at the ATF and otherwise slashing money for law enforcement positions and related grants.

  • Some GOP hardliners have been vocal about their desire to slash funding to agencies they view as weaponized against conservatives. Rep. Matt Gaetz has even suggested abolishing several federal agencies, including the FBI and ATF.
  • “These same House Republicans who opposed the President’s bipartisan reforms and are now threatening to defund or abolish law enforcement agencies,” Ian Sams, White House spokesperson for oversight, said in a statement first shared with Axios.

What were we told when Democrats were calling for defunding the police back in 2020 and 2021? It shouldn’t be taken literally, right? It was more of a call to action to “reimagine policing” in order to curb abuses by law enforcement agencies. Maybe that’s how the left should view the House Freedom Caucus’s budget plans; as a re-imagining of the ATF as an agency that sticks to its congressionally-mandated powers without crafting new gun control laws under the guise of rules and regulations.

There was one notable absence from today’s hearing on ATF abuses; the ATF itself. Director Steve Dettelbach wasn’t in attendance, nor was any other representative from the agency available to answer lawmakers questions. Everytown’s Wilcox ended up serving as the de-facto spokesperson and defender of the ATF, but it would have been good to hear from Dettelbach himself about the agency’s license revocations for minor paperwork errors as well as the ATF’s attempts to impose new gun control laws through regulation.

We’ll hopefully get that chance next month. Rep. Jim Jordan and Rep. Thomas Massie have requested that Dettelbach appear before a Judiciary Committee hearing on April 26th to “address the agency’s efforts to regulate firearms through the rulemaking process” so the House GOP isn’t finished with this issue after today’s hearing… though just how open and transparent Dettelbach will be when it’s his turn for a grilling remains an open question.




Join the conversation as a VIP Member