GOP Lawmakers Ask If ATF Is Setting Up Gun Registry

AP Photo/Morry Gash

The ATF isn’t exactly the favorite agency of the United States government when it comes to gun owners. The guys who can decide with a stroke of a pen to ban an accessory you may have owned for years are never going to be popular with people who believe the right to keep and bear arms is sacred.

Yet the agency is also limited by rules. There are things they simply can’t do, and that’s good for our rights.

That doesn’t mean they won’t try to get around them, which means we need lawmakers to hold them accountable. Now, 52 Republican legislators are trying to do just that.

A group of House Republicans wrote a letter Monday demanding information from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) that they feel could prove the agency is creating an unlawful federal gun registry.

‘It is critical that the [ATF] does not use its power to encroach on the privacy of gun owners and restrict their Second Amendment rights,’ the letter reads.

It comes after a report earlier this month found that the Biden administration has been compiling records of 54 million gun owners to possibly create a database of Americans who possess a firearm.

The letter from 52 Republicans, led by Texas Representative Michael Cloud, requests the agency provide answers to five questions posed in the letter by the end of the year.

In the queries addressed to Acting ATF Director Marvin Richardson, the lawmakers express they fear the new rule could be a workaround of Congress’ prohibition of a federal registry of gun owners.

Details emerged this month that the ATF was collecting and keeping records of firearms purchases from stores that went out of business.

The questions in the letter include how many records the ATF’s Out-of-Business Records Centers (OOB) have collected in total and how many have been processed into digital format.

It also questions if the collection of these records helped lead to the prosecution of violent criminals over the last three years – and how far back those records date.

Of course, the ATF will say that no, they’re doing no such thing and that this is just modernization of records they’re already required to keep. However, that’s kind of not the point.

See, one problem I’ve always had with the paperwork requirements for buying a gun is that it creates a paper trail that would allow the government to determine who owns firearms and who doesn’t. The saving grace is that records are kept at the gun store so long as it’s in business, at which point it’s then forwarded to the ATF where it sits in a warehouse.

It’s a de facto registration, just one that’s so horribly inefficient that it’s useless. Couple that with face-to-face transfers that don’t require paperwork and you’re still relatively safe.

But we have to remember that the administration’s efforts to digitize these records come at a time when they’re also pushing universal background checks, which would create a paper trail on every firearm purchase.

Again, these records are kept with the FFL holder who handles the transfer, but for how long?

The average lifespan of a small business is pretty short, all things considered, which means the ATF will get mountains more paperwork. If they’re all digitized, how long until some other effort removes paperwork from FFL holder hands indefinitely. Imagine a push for paperless transfers–the technology exists and some stores already use digital Form 4473s as it is–that then gets stored at a central database.

Not really difficult to imagine, is it?

What’s really funny to me is that I can see people pushing this and never even thinking about it as backdoor registration. I can legitimately see people simply seeing this as a modernization effort to make these records more useful.

These people would likely have no intention of creating a gun registry.

However, I know of a certain road that some claim is paved with good intentions. One’s intentions don’t really matter all that much, only the results of one’s actions.

I don’t care what the ATF says in response. This is a backdoor registration, regardless of what people claim or even intend, and it should be stopped.

Nov 29, 2021 4:30 PM ET