Former ATF Official Slams New Rule on Gun Sales

Townhall Media

With the ATF's new rule on who is "engaged in the business" of dealing firearms set to take effect in less than two months, I wanted to get retired ATF deputy assistant director Pete Forcelli's take on the agency's expansive definition of a gun dealer. 


On today's Bearing Arms Cam & Co, Forcelli told me he's "appalled" by the new rule re-defining who is "engaged in the business" of dealing firearms, and he says he's not alone. 

"Last week I was at the 9/11 memorial and museum with a retired ATF deputy director and he and were both somewhat appalled by it, because it's subject to interpretation, it's subject to overreach. Is it one step closer to a registry... is it one step closer to universal background checks," he wondered. 

"Look, I have several firearms of my own. If I decide I don't like one of them or if I came upon hard financial times and had to sell one here and sell one there, I'm not engaged in the business. So there are so many things about this that really bothers me, and it's just one more example of this current ATF director, who I've heard is a nice man, never met him in full disclosure, who is being misguided by folks at the White House who have some very strong opinions against firearms. Not even against criminal conduct, as we've seen around the country, but against the firearm. And it offends me. I don't know how else to describe it."

One of the biggest problems with the ATF's new rule is that it's even more vague than the old rule defining who is "engaged in the business". Forcelli believes that change was forced on the agency by the gun control activists in the White House, and he says the new rule is completely unnecessary. In fact, as he shared with me, he believes the entire rule can and should be scrapped since there's now a federal gun trafficking statute that can be used to prosecute individuals funneling guns to criminals. 


"I never liked that [engaged in the business] statute because it was open to interpretation even back then. That [firearms trafficking statute] should have replaced 'engaged in the business', which was already too open to interpretation. Look, if you're selling guns to gangbangers, cartels, bank robbers, knowing that they're going to go out there and commit violent crimes or you're being shady yourself, then you should be held accountable for your actions," Forcelli said, adding that the occasional private sale shouldn't open up gun owners to federal felony charges. 

The federal firearms trafficking statute is pretty vague as well, to be honest, but it does appear to cover those who are dealing guns to criminals, unlike the "engaged in the business rule", which threatens to turn innocent gun owners into criminals if they offer a firearm for sale in a manner deemed unacceptable by the ATF. 

Unfortunately for all of us, when Republican senators John Cornyn and Thom Tillis were negotiating the details of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, they not only inserted the firearms trafficking statute but changed the "engaged in the business" rule to remove any reference to deriving a "livelihood" from private gun sales. That small modification opened the door for the ATF's new interpretation of who is "engaged in the business", and based on Forcelli's comments, I can't help but wonder why those senators didn't try to simply remove the "engaged in the business" rule and replace it with the firearms trafficking statute instead of adding a new statute and keeping the rule in place. 


As always, Forcelli and I had a fascinating conversation, and I encourage you to check it out in its entirety in the video window below. I'll also make another plug for Pete's account of Operation Fast & Furious and his role blowing the whistle on the gunwalking operation. It's a compelling and infuriating read, and no matter how much you might think you know about the scandalous behavior of the Obama ATF and DOJ, Forcelli offers up plenty of details that I hadn't heard before and will likely be news to you too. 

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