Gun dealer revocations increase 500% under Biden

AP Photo/Andrew Selsky, File

The Second Amendment Foundation’s (SAF) Investigative Journalism Project has churned out some fantastic work. Colleague Lee “The Gun Writer” Williams, the head of the project, and primary contributor recently unearthed a gargantuan statistic that should make people’s jaw drop. Williams’s piece, SPECIAL REPORT: ATF Federal Firearm License revocations up a staggering 500%, details a porting of the all out war that the Biden-Harris administration has decided to wage on gun dealers. Is there something to this uptick in license revocations?

In the years before the Biden-Harris administration took over the White House, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives usually revoked an average of 40 Federal Firearm Licenses (FFLs) per year. But, in the 11 months since Joe Biden declared war on “rogue gun dealers,” the ATF has revoked 273 FFLs — an increase of more than 500%. However, rather than targeting the true rogues, Biden’s ATF is revoking FFLs for the most minor of paperwork errors, which were never a concern for the ATF until Biden weaponized the agency.

Williams does a great job chronicling and pointing out how these policy changes implemented during the current administration have only caused harm to otherwise law abiding gun dealers. And by “otherwise law abiding gun dealers”, I mean those that have not been ensnared by the ATF’s warping of words and running amuck at creating their own definitions. The ATF’s page dedicated to license revocations (last updated June 23, 2021) puts out there the how and then the who of who becomes a bad actor.

Some regulatory violations of the GCA pose inherent public safety risks and, when willfully committed, will result in ATF taking action to revoke the license of the offending FFL. ATF will also take action to revoke the license of an FFL that knowingly engages in a criminal violation of the federal firearms laws.

We can all agree we don’t want FFLs committing criminal violations. What all gets wrapped up in a violation that warrants revocation? So-called “willful violations” can have an FFL see their license, and thus means of income chopped up. Admittedly, the ATF notes that “willful violation” is not defined in the Gun Control Act.

The GCA does not define “willful.” The federal courts, however, have held that a willful violation of the GCA’s regulations occurs when the FFL commits the violation with an intentional disregard of a known legal duty or with plain indifference to their legal obligations.

The ATF has come up with a handy list to go over to see if one’s action, or in some cases inaction, might fit the bill of an “intentional disregard of a known legal duty or with plain indifference” of the same.

Absent extraordinary circumstances, ATF will issue a notice of revocation whenever it determines an FFL has willfully committed the following violations:

1. Transferring a firearm to a prohibited person

2. Failing to conduct a required background check

3. Falsifying records, such as a firearms transaction form

4. Failing to respond to a trace request

5. Refusing to permit ATF to conduct an inspection

Some of those items are worthy of a revocation. Knowingly transferring to a prohibited person is something that should not occur. Purposefully not running a background check on a buyer is also fairly egregious concerning the law as written (we’re not getting into a debate about if a background check should be done in the first place or who should be a prohibited person – so, stand down “shall not be infringed” crowd). The ATF’s view on infractions is noted:

While relatively few FFLs engage in such conduct, the negative effect that willful violations have on public safety can be immense. Consequently, the courts have also held that a single willful violation of a GCA regulation is a sufficient basis for ATF to revoke an FFL’s license.

What else does the ATF consider conduct that will have an “immense” effect on “public safety”? Brace yourself, here are the violations that’ll also get a license yanked:

Other willful violations that may result in the issuance of a notice of revocation include failure to:

1. Account for firearms

2. Verify and document buyer eligibility

3. Maintain records needed for successful firearms tracing

4. Report multiple sales of handguns

That list of pretty much what amounts to clerical errors, paired with the “falsifying records”, is what the Biden-Harris jackbooted ATF is using to wage war on the Second Amendment. The “falsifying of records” could be a simple punctuation error or other transcription mistake. These mistakes, which are costly, recently came up in a story I covered about the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) offering a free webinar on avoiding getting caught up in these traps.

In doing research for his report, Williams turned to John Clark and his business partner John Bocker of FFL Consultants.  FFL Consultants specializes in dealing with helping FFLs that find themselves looking up from, after falling into these pitfalls. These violations in reality amount to mopery. The services of FFL Consultants are free of charge to current members of the NSSF. Williams pointed to how the distortion of the law by the Biden-Harris ATF allows for this abuse of power to proliferate:

Key to the massive increase in revocations is Biden’s zero-tolerance for willful violations policy, which Clark said relies upon a new definition of willful. If a dealer makes a simple mistake, they can now lose their license, because the new definition of willful states that the dealer knew the law, but willfully chose to violate it anyway – regardless of whether it was an oversight, an error by an employee or a simple paperwork mistake. 

“They have twisted negligence into willful,” Clark said. “These are not uncommon errors that we’re seeing. Things happen.”

However, Clark and Bocker are seeing these rules pushed far beyond the realm of common sense or fairness, and local gun dealers are paying the price.

For example, the transaction number for a NICS background check requires nine digits. If a gun dealer mistakenly omits a number, their license can be revoked for failing to run a background check. Under the Biden-Harris administration, there is no longer any room for human error.

We’re looking at the progressive anti-freedom caucus machine attempting to bury the Second Amendment in any and every manner via death by a thousand cuts. When we talk about how important it is to get the paperwork right, in the past, present, and future, it’s always a matter revolving around avoiding getting a spanking from the ATF. A paperwork violation is not going to contribute to the so-called scourge of “gun violence”. Putting the wrong ZIP code on a 4473 is not going to result in the death of another individual.

The work that Williams does at the SAF Investigative Journalism Project, and the work being done by many other Second Amendment writers is so important. It’s with deep dives like these that the corruption and hypocrisy of dangerous progressive gun grabbing policies can be pointed out. I’m grateful that we have such great journalists on our side that are willing to share what they learn so others can also report on and expand on their findings. While it may seem like this is all for naught, being disseminated within our respective echo chamber, the uncovering of and reporting on such findings does have an effect.