By Lee Williams
SAF Investigative Journalism Project
Hallelujah! The legacy media has finally started covering ATF’s unconstitutional war on the country’s gun dealers, which the pro-gun media has been denouncing and warning the public about for more than two years.
The Wall Street Journal published a story Friday morning titled: “Hundreds of Gun Dealers Lose Licenses Under Biden Administration Crackdown.” Nine hours later, FOX News posted their take of the WSJ story titled: “Gun industry cries foul after hundreds of gun dealers lose licenses amid Biden administration crackdown.”
This, friends, could be a very good thing.
The more scrutiny the ATF receives, the more difficult it will be for them to continue violating our constitutional rights. But keep in mind that ATF officials are masters of hoodwinking and gaslighting the media and the public. Their responses to the WSJ and FOX show that ATF’s leadership are up to their old tricks. Clearly, they’re trying to downplay the significance of what they’ve already done, and what they continue to do every single day.
In an emailed statement to Fox News, ATF said it is merely following the law:
“Federal Firearms Licensees are often our first line of defense against gun crime and are often a source of critical enforcement information that helps law enforcement identify straw purchasers and disrupt firearms trafficking schemes,” ATF Spokesperson Kristina Mastropasqua said. “FFLs that willfully (emphasis mine) violate the law, however, must be held accountable. ATF conducts inspections to ensure compliance with applicable local, state, and federal laws and regulations and to educate licensees on the specific requirements of those laws and regulations.”
For those familiar with Joe Biden’s weaponized ATF, the word “willfully” should jump off the page.
In a story published in May 2020, one expert warned that the ATF had redefined “willful” to bolster Biden’s zero-tolerance for willful violations policy. Now, because of the new definition, if a dealer makes a simple clerical error they can lose their license, because the new definition of willful states that the dealer knew the law, but willfully chose to violate it anyway – regardless of whether it was a simple oversight, an error by an employee or a minor paperwork mistake.
“They have twisted negligence into willful,” the ATF expert said. “These are not uncommon errors that we’re seeing. Things happen.
Revoked vs. surrendered
Both FOX and the WSJ cited ATF revocation data, which claimed there were 122 Federal Firearm License revocations during the last fiscal year, which began in October.
First, I need to point out that ATF data – any ATF data – is immediately suspect. I’d rather rely on an 8mm Type 94 Nambu for home defense than any numbers ATF publishes. There is no doubt that far more than 122 FFLs were revoked, but this is not the point.
After a series of embarrassing losses during their own revocation hearings, ATF switched-up some of its tactics. Now, in addition to formal revocation proceedings, ATF agents try to scare the hell out of a gun dealer they’ve targeted, hoping they will “voluntarily” surrender their license and avoid hearings and reams of paperwork.
This tactic worked when ATF sent a SWAT team to the home of a gun dealer in rural Oklahoma and handcuffed him in front of his 13-year-old son, but it failed when they threatened a longtime gun dealer in Texas with unspecified federal charges, who instead opted to take them to court.
An FFL is an FFL to the ATF. It doesn’t matter how they get their hands on them, but any truthful data should also include the number of FFLs that were “voluntarily” surrendered.
When covering anything ATF, particular attention needs to be paid to their legalese. Often, when ATF claims a gun dealer broke the law, it’s not really a law. It’s actually a rule the ATF came up with themselves. More than a few courts have chastised the agency for trying to be judge, jury and executioner. They’ve violated real laws by creating and enforcing their own rules, which carry the full weight of a federal law, such as fines and lengthy prison terms.
ATF still can’t grasp that Congress creates laws, not the administration or any federal law enforcement agency. They’re headed for a spanking from the Supreme Court that will be legendary in its scope.
When a public official or the agency they represent have nothing to hide, they take questions. They submit to interviews. They give out their cellphone numbers. They make themselves available to the media and the public. After all, they work for us, or at least they’re supposed to.
Nowadays, ATF leadership is hiding deep in a bunker. They don’t respond to emails, phone calls or ever FOIA requests. When pressed hard, they’ll sometimes send a written statement, but only after it’s been approved by teams of lawyers and communications staffers.
This alone speaks volumes about the ATF. It says they don’t believe in accountability to the public, which pays their salaries. It also screams that they have a lot to hide – far more than what’s already been uncovered.
I hope the legacy media’s interest in ATF’s shenanigans continues – the more, the merrier. Besides, ATF has become bloated with lies and is long overdue for a massive investigative enema.
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