The ATF has a long and storied history of not respecting the Second Amendment rights of ordinary Americans. Unfortunately, we’ve kind of been stuck with them. After all, they’re the agency charged with regulating the firearm industry, and they do seem to enjoy their regulations.
For a few years, things were relatively quiet at the ATF. They did their thing–including good work like trying to track down gun thieves–and generally left most people alone. That went out the window, though, when the Trump administration directed the ATF to reclassify bump stocks.
Now, Pandora’s Box is open, and anti-gunners are looking to the ATF as their salvation.
Almost everyone agrees that the ATF is in trouble. But this obscure federal agency may be President-elect Joe Biden’s best chance at having a real impact on gun policy—if he takes the opportunity to restore the beleaguered agency’s reputation and revive its mission. In fact, experts told The New Republic that the ATF may be Biden’s best bet at leaving a mark on federal gun policy without having to rely on an intransigent Congress. All agreed that the bureau has faced significant problems over the years, but they outlined a series of proposals they said Biden could push to breathe new life into the bureau and address gun violence.
Meanwhile, representatives of the firearms industry said they worry that the incoming administration may use the ATF to punish what they say are law-abiding businesses.
The debate about gun violence has fixated on new legislation to close what advocates see as loopholes in federal law, from an assault weapons ban to universal background checks. Biden’s own plan for tackling gun violence says “legislation” 19 times and “ATF” four. While those plans meet the harsh reality of a broken and ineffective Congress, some experts say there is critical work that can still happen at the agency level.
In other words, they want Biden to legislate by decree.
Sure. Times are tense, tenser than potentially at any point in the last half-century or so, but antagonizing a group of people (gun owners) who already have concerns about federal overreach by further regulating away their rights without any congressional actions is probably not going to settle things down by any stretch of the imagination.
In the minds of these anti-gunners, the moment the Biden administration declares something illegal, we’ll all just traipse to the nearest police station and hand all our stuff in.
Well, some will because they’re interested in remaining law-abiding citizens so much that they’ll take just about any infringement on their Second Amendment rights. They’ll fight, but their battlegrounds will be courtrooms and legislatures.
The thing is, there will be others who aren’t going to be interested in going that route. For all the saber-rattling about the threat presented by militias, the anti-gunners sure do seem to enjoy the idea of antagonizing them. After all, they’re pushing for Biden to do something that will take the fears and concerns of these people and turn it up to 11.
There are things that Biden can likely get away with, but if he or his ATF take things just a bit too far, you’re likely to see all kinds of bad things happen. That’s a road people may think they want to go down, but they don’t. Not really.