ATF Given an Inch, Takes a Mile

by Tommy Grant

“The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) sure was quick to implement portions of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA) that benefit their gun control agenda but seem to be ignoring other parts of the law that would make it easier for firearm retailers to do business,” National Shooting Sports Foundation Senior Vice President and General Counsel Larry Keane complained in a February press release. “The Biden-Harris administration is cherry-picking the law to appease gun control advocates and ignoring portions of the law that actually keeps guns out of the hands of criminals.”

“NSSF did support parts of the law that provided more resources for mental health treatment and improved school security,” Keane elaborated. “NSSF also supported improvements that beefed up criminal penalties for illegal straw purchases, especially if those firearms are trafficked across state lines.”

And he decried two other provisions that have not been implemented, letting FFLs use the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) to screen employees, and screening used firearms to make sure they’re not stolen.

“That’s a no-nonsense part of the law upon which all sides can agree,” Keane asserts about the employee check, at least all “sides” who agree that NICS prior restraints aren’t infringements. He’s also presupposing the Gun Control Act of 1968 serial number requirement is a good thing.


Instead, Keane protests, the government is using the “bipartisan” infringement to close down private sales, “a thinly-veiled attempt to create a universal background check scheme,” push due-process-denying “red flag” edicts, exploit  the Department of Defense’s acquisition process to further administration gun control, “chill the First Amendment rights of firearm manufacturers to advertise,” to restrict exports, and to give citizen disarmament lobbyists seats at the White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention table to facilitate states banning semiautos and magazines, passing “public nuisance laws” to try end runs around the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), and to “franchise gun control offices to state governors like they are a fast-food chain.”

To borrow a catchphrase from Gomer Pyle, Surprise, surprise, surprise!” Lying down with dogs and making deals with the devil don’t end well. Who knew?

And NSSF, proud partners with ATF in the “Don’t Lie for the Other Guy” campaign, enables more infringements.


“Guess what is now considered a straw purchase?” a colleague, who makes a professional point of understanding “gun law” implications, asks. “You pay for a gun on an online website as you want it to be a birthday gift for a friend. The gun is being shipped to a gun store so your friend can go through the background check and get his gift. You fully intend for your friend to do the 4473 but ATF has told gun stores that they will investigate any non-in stock / transfers to see if the person doing the paperwork is the credit card holder who made the purchase. 

“Gun shops will NOT allow anyone except the purchaser to do the 4473,” he elaborates. “So, when asked about the ‘gift’ situation, ATF has told gun shops to have the purchaser do the 4473/background check and then hand the gun back to the dealer so it can be entered back into inventory so the person who is getting the gift can go through the approval process. This results in double transfer fees AND it is illegal because of the question on the form which asks if the buyer is buying the gun for themselves – a gift can only be for immediate family.”

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More “unintended consequences”? A question might be, with all the intended and observable consequences, why we shouldn’t expect doctrinaire violence monopolists to take the proverbial mile for every inch they’re given.

The whole prior approval/prohibited persons infringement is just that, and a Louisville judge with the Jefferson Circuit Court ruled in March that convicted felons have the right to own guns and that “prosecutors did not present evidence of a historical tradition of disarming felons after the Second Amendment was ratified in 1791.”

If violent criminals are still truly dangerous, Robert J. Kukla made a brilliant observation in his 1973 classic Gun Control, equating their release from prison with opening the cage of a man-eating tiger and expecting a different result. Imposing restrictions on “freed” criminals disregards an inescapable truth: Anyone who can’t be trusted with a gun can’t be trusted without a custodian.

The Bruen standard cited by the judge terrifies the Deep State Swamp. What other areas of “law” would fail its test?

Putting aside (but only for a moment) very real concerns about delegated Constitutional authority, prior restraint infringements, unjust punishments for minor squabbles, “professionally” biased mental health dragnets, false positives, and the disconnect between millions of attempts to break “the law” with only a handful of prosecutions and convictions, it’s tough to square Keane’s assertion that there are “portions of the law that actually keeps guns out of the hands of criminals.”

Simply put, “gun control” doesn’t work, and it’s astounding that the head of the firearms manufacturer trade association is publicly insisting that it does.

“In 2004,” criminologists Don B. Kates and Gary Mauser documented in the Spring 2007 Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, “the US National Academy of Sciences … failed to identify any gun control that reduced violent crime, suicides or gun accidents.” This was “from a review of 153 journal articles, 99 books, 43 government publications, and some original empirical research. The same conclusion was reached in 2003 by the US Centers for Disease Control ….”

To say that some laws work like NSSF’s “Fix NICS/Don’t Lie for the Other Guy” partnership with ATF, is, politely, to side with tyranny. So, naturally, Sen. Chris Murphy, lauding his deal with the “stalwart Texas Republican” and citing John Cornyn’s “A+ rating from the NRA,” referred to the “bipartisan” efforts as “baby steps” that could end up being a “breakthrough piece of legislation.”

“As the NRA struggles, the gun lobby has a new leader in D.C.,” NBC News proclaims. “The NSSF, the firearms industry’s biggest trade group, spent more than twice as much money on federal lobbying as the NRA last year.”

What they don’t understand is it’s not about guns, it’s about freedom, and that NSSF exists solely to maximize the profits of its industry members, even if it means assuming the role of rope-selling capitalist. And what NSSF, and NRA “leadership,” and far too many “law and order über alles” gun owners don’t get is advocating for government to “enforce existing gun laws” is ideologically no different than a Revolutionary-era colonist demanding that the Crown enforce existing Intolerable Acts.

About the Author

David Codrea is the winner of multiple journalist awards for investigating / defending the RKBA and a long-time gun owner rights advocate who defiantly challenges the folly of citizen disarmament. In addition to being a regular featured contributor for Firearms News and AmmoLand Shooting Sports News, he blogs at “The War on Guns: Notes from the Resistance,” and posts onTwitter: @dcodrea and Facebook.

If you have any thoughts or comments on this article, we’d love to hear them. Email us at [email protected].

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