By Lee Williams
SAF Investigative Journalism Project
(The Second Amendment Foundation’s Investigative Journalism Project wouldn’t be possible without you. Click here to make a tax-deductible donation to support pro-gun stories like this.)
While the world’s attention is focused on the horrific events unfolding in Eastern Europe, the Biden-Harris administration quietly unleashed hell on American gun dealers.
As the NRA first noted, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has started revoking licenses of gun dealers for the most minor of paperwork errors – errors that never led to license revocations until Biden took office.
The move was intended to bolster Biden’s politically motivated stratagem, which he first announced June 23, 2021, that “rogue” gun dealers are responsible for skyrocketing crime rates in large cities that historically have been controlled by Democrats. The “epidemic of gun violence” wasn’t caused by weak prosecutors who refuse to hold criminals accountable, or gangs or underfunded police departments or by any combination thereof, Biden claimed. It was all the fault of “rogue gun dealers.”
Back then, Biden said rogue dealers willfully transfer firearms to prohibited persons, fail to conduct background checks, falsify records and/or refuse to cooperate with an ATF tracing request or inspection.
This week, the Biden-Harris administration added four more criteria to the rogue list – all minor paperwork errors: failure to account for firearms, failure to document a gun buyer’s eligibility, failure to maintain records needed to comply with an ATF tracing request and failure to report multiple handgun sales.
FOIA the FOIA
To vet Biden’s rogue gun dealer theory, on the same day he made his “rogue” speech, the Second Amendment Foundation’s Investigative Journalism Project sent a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the ATF, seeking the following:
Copies of documents that show the number of Federal Firearms Licensees (FFLs) and their state of residence, who have been prosecuted for willfully transferring a firearm to a prohibited person over the past three years (from June 23, 2018 to June 23, 2021.)
Copies of documents that show the number of Federal Firearms Licensees (FFLs) and their state of residence, who have been prosecuted for ignoring and/or refusing to cooperate with a tracing request from the BATFE, over the past three years (from June 23, 2018 to June 23, 2021.)
(Note: We did not seek the names or other identifiers of any FFL.)
The FOIA request would prove or disprove Biden’s claims, which everyone, even the ATF, likely knew were false. If the rogue dealers were responsible for the increasing violence, there should be hundreds if not thousands of prosecutions and subsequent FFL revocations. If Biden’s claims were false, there would likely be a half-dozen prosecutions in the entire country.
Four months passed without a word from the ATF — not even an acknowledgement they had received the FOIA request. Then, in October, the ATF finally admitted it had received the request, but warned it might take even longer to process.
“For your information, this office assigns incoming requests to one of three tracks: simple, complex, or expedited. Each request is then handled on a first-in, first-out basis in relation to other requests in the same track. Simple requests usually receive a response in approximately one month, whereas complex requests necessarily take longer. At this time, your request has been assigned to the complex track,” the ATF letter states.
The letter also provided the names of two FOIA liaisons, Darryl Webb and Zina Kornegay. Months of calls and messages left for these alleged liaisons were not returned.
In February, after another four months had passed, Kornegay finally answered her phone.
“I’m seeing a bit of back-and-forth,” she said of the request. “Let me look into this further. I will try and find out what’s going on with this.” She refused to say when the ATF would actually respond to the FOIA request. “Let me speak to my team leader,” she said. “I do see your request, but there seems to be some back-and-forth about the best way to handle it.” Kornegay was clearly alarmed by something she read in the FOIA file. She promised to call in a few weeks, but never did.
Now, nearly nine months after the original FOIA was filed, there has been no further communication from the ATF, so the Second Amendment Foundation’s Investigative Journalism Project sent ATF a second FOIA request – an attempt to find out more information about the kerfuffle our first FOIA request seemingly ignited.
Specifically, we requested copies of all internal ATF emails related to our first FOIA, as well as copies of all external emails the ATF received related to our initial request – for example, emails that may have come from the White House. We will publish any response we receive.
The Biden-Harris Administration clearly wants to revoke as many FFLs as they can. Their goal is simple and transparent: Fewer gun dealers will result in fewer gun sales. Like most of their anti-gun schemes, they did not take into account that criminals don’t buy their firearms from licensed gun dealers, they steal them or buy them on the black market, so the administration’s plan will only infringe upon law-abiding firearm purchasers.
The Second Amendment Foundation’s Investigative Journalism Project wouldn’t be possible without you. Click here to make a tax-deductible donation to support pro-gun stories like this.