NRA debunks ATF's attempted debunking of "myths"

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

The ATF is not our friend. While some of the individual agents may respect the Second Amendment, the bureau itself is not friendly to guns, gun owners, or our gun rights.

However, it seems that recently, the ATF has been handing out fliers at gun shows, trying to soften their image among the gun rights crowd. In fairness, that’s a smart place to do it, since you’re likely to see more of the pro-Second Amendment crowd there on a couple of given days than just about anywhere else.

These fliers are an attempt at “debunking” some “myths” about the agency.

The problem, as the NRA notes, is that they’re trying to debunk so-called myths with absolute BS.

“Myth: ATF makes the gun laws.
Fact: False: Congress makes federal gun laws; ATF enforces them.”

ATF must think gun owners are completely ignorant of the workings of the modern administrative state. In fact, most of the legislating that occurs in the U.S. is carried out by administrative agencies in the form of federal regulations and increasingly creative interpretations of federal statute.

Consider two recent ATF rulemakings.

On May 21, 2021, ATF published proposed rule 2021R-05F in the Federal Register entitled “Definition of ‘Frame or Receiver’ and Identification of Firearms.”

Chiefly, the rule targets the traditional American practice of making firearms for private use without government interference. In doing so, the proposed rule would create new definitions for the terms “firearm frame or receiver,” “frame or receiver,” “firearm,” “gunsmith,” “complete weapon,” “complete muffler or silencer device,” “privately made firearm,” and “readily.” The new definitions make it possible for firearms to have more than one “frame or receiver.” A conclusion that is both at odds with the controlling federal statute and could disrupt the entire industry.

The truth is that Congress handed over its responsibility to make numerous gun laws to the ATF ages ago. As a result, the ATF gets to essentially set federal law.

Evidence of this can be seen with bump stocks.

While lawmakers were considering legislation, the ATF ultimately decided to ban bump stocks. This was not the result of federal law or congressional action. In fact, the agency went beyond the text of the law in deciding that such stocks constituted machine guns.

To claim they don’t make law and only enforce it flies in the face of recent history.

“Myth: ATF has a national gun registry.
Fact: False: ATF is strictly prohibited by law from having a national gun registry.”

ATF is prohibited by federal law from maintaining a gun registry. However, that’s not the whole story.

Federal law requires those who purchase a firearm at a gun dealer (Federal Firearms Licensee or FFL) to fill out a form 4473. This record of the firearm transfer is then stored by the dealer on their premises. This creates a system whereby if a gun is found at a crime scene, ATF can trace the firearm to the last retail purchase. However, since the records are stored with each FFL, the system is decentralized in a manner that protects against government abuse of gun owner data.

Gun dealers are required to maintain 4473s for 20 years. When a dealer goes out of business, they must send their last 20 years of records to ATF’s National Tracing Center to facilitate firearm traces.

Look, go read the whole thing. However, it’s rich for the ATF to try and sell this nonsense after what they pulled recently in Delaware. That involved information that the ATF shouldn’t actually have.

It also suggests that while there may be no formal registry, there’s enough of an informal framework there for the effects to be the same.

Now, I get the ATF trying to soften their image among gun owners and the pro-Second Amendment crowd. After all, they’re in charge of enforcing gun laws and the people they most likely deal with are going to be armed. The last thing they want is for the default reaction to be hostility.

But Chief, this ain’t it.

Had the ATF done something different, they might have gotten what they wanted. Instead, this just smells like BS and no one is buying it.

Frankly, rather than helping their image, it just cements it as an underhanded federal agency of jackbooted thugs looking for an opportunity to go door to door looking to take our guns.