SAF Investigative Journalism Project
Even though Joe Biden’s nomination of David Chipman to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has “issues” according to one senior Democrat, and is stalled in a Senate committee, the Biden/Harris Administration has started weaponizing the ATF without waiting for the president’s embattled nominee to take over.
As expected, their target is the firearms industry.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation recently received a copy of an internal ATF memo, which was written by Acting Assistant Director George Lauder and sent to ATF’s senior management.
The memo mentions Biden’s five-point strategy to reduce gun violence, which was announced at a press conference June 23.
“ATF’s role in the Strategy is essential, and includes refocusing our FFL inspection and administration action policies,” Lauder wrote.
The memo calls on field agents to prioritize their gun shop inspections by using a data tool that tracks the number of firearms sold by a gun dealer that are later used in crimes. It also tracks the time period between the sale and the crime.
When they say the memo, the NSSF immediately alerted their members, because of the impact it might have on a gun dealer’s ability to conduct business.
“This memo is concerning because it is the opening moves to the manifestation of what both President Biden and Vice President Harris said they would do during the presidential campaign. They said they would use the ATF as a bludgeon against the firearm industry and revoke licenses for minor clerical errors,” Mark Oliva, NSSF’s public affairs director told me Tuesday. “It is very concerning that the ATF would be using data analytics for crimes that were committed by unrelated third party or attempt to draw conclusions of time-to-crime statistics to label a lawful retailer as party to criminal activity.”
The remainder of the memo focuses on what Biden calls “rogue gun dealers,” who he claims are responsible for violent crime increases in five major cities historically controlled by Democrats.
If an ATF inspector finds that a gun dealer has transferred a firearm to a prohibited person, or failed to conduct a background check, falsified records or refused to cooperate with an ATF tracing request or inspection, the inspector is to recommend revocation of the dealer’s Federal Firearms License.
The gun dealers I spoke to Tuesday scoffed at this new assertion. This has always been the law, they said. The president is simply grandstanding, trying to take the heat off of the Democrats in charge of these crime-ridden cities by creating a new boogeyman for the public and the media to blame for the increasing crime – the “rogue gun dealer.”
“The overwhelming majority of firearm retailers abide by federal and state laws and regulations,” Oliva said. “Retailers that ignore the law are participating in criminal activity and NSSF wants those individuals to be held responsible for their actions, However, the Department of Justice’s own reports show the overwhelming majority of criminals obtain firearms through illicit means, mostly through theft or the black market.”
The day after Biden announced his five-point strategy, I submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the ATF, seeking the numbers of gun dealers, by state, who, over the past three years, have been prosecuted for willfully transferring a firearm to a prohibited person and/or for refusing to cooperate with a tracing request from the ATF. Experts say the number will be very small – less than a dozen across the entire country.
To date, the ATF has not even acknowledged receipt of the FOIA request.
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