MIL-OSI USA: Armstrong Helps Launch Inquiry into ATF’s Attempt to Stop Firearm Sales

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Source: United States House of Representatives – Congressman Kelly Armstrong (R, N.D.)

WASHINGTON – Congressman Kelly Armstrong (R-ND) joined House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH) to launch an inquiry into the ATF’s recent attempt to regulate the lawful private sale of firearms.

For years, Congress has consistently rejected misguided universal background check legislation. However, in March 2023, President Biden issued an Executive Order, which the White House described as directing the Attorney General to “increase the number of background checks conducted before firearm sales, moving the U.S. as close to universal background checks as possible without additional legislation.” It appears that the Biden Administration is attempting to abuse the federal rulemaking process to circumvent Congress in order to achieve a far-left policy outcome.

Excerpts of the letter to Director Dettelbach:

“On September 8, 2023, ATF began its effort to regulate the lawful private sale of firearms by publishing a notice in the Federal Register. The proposed rule seeks to drastically expand the universe of Americans who would be classified as a ‘dealer’ under federal law requiring them to obtain a license to become a Federal Firearms Licensee (FFL). Under federal law, an individual who willfully engages in the business of dealing in firearms without a license is subject to a term of imprisonment of up to five years and a fine of up to $250,000, or both.

“[T]he proposed rule goes beyond federal law to create several presumptions about when an individual is ‘engaged in the business of dealing in firearms,’ which would require them to register as an FFL under federal law. However, when passing the Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA), Congress did not include any of these presumptions—and ATF fails to cite any legal authority allowing it to make these presumptions in the proposed rule. The rule states that ‘absent reliable evidence to the contrary,’ individuals are presumed to be ‘engaged in the business of dealing in firearms’ if their conduct falls within one of ATF’s specified presumptions. In other words, the rule flips the burden of proof and presumes that Americans engaged in conduct disfavored by ATF are breaking the law unless they can prove their innocence.

“To make matters worse, ATF’s proposed rule states these ‘presumptions are not exhaustive.’ This language gives Americans no certainty about the enforcement of federal law, and gives ATF blanket authority to create new presumptions with no notice. This language mirrors ATF’s recent ‘frame or receiver’ rule, which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit unanimously vacated, where the court explained that ‘key determinations . . . are exceedingly unclear under the Final Rule, such that the individual must guess at what he is and is not allowed to do.’ A concurring opinion called ATF’s rulemaking ‘a vague, indeterminate, multi-factor balancing test’ that ‘will act like a Sword of Damocles hanging over the heads of American gun owners.’

“To advance the Committee’s oversight of ATF and to better understand ATF’s basis for issuing the proposed rule, we request that you provide the following information:

1. Please explain when ATF first began to conceive of the need to regulate the lawful private sale of firearms through an agency notice.

2. Please identify the offices and individuals within ATF that conceived, drafted, reviewed, and approved the September 8, 2023, notice in the Federal Register entitled, ‘Definition of “Engaged in the Business” as a Dealer in Firearms.’

3. Please provide all communications between the Executive Office of the President and ATF regarding the September 8, 2023, notice.

4. Please explain whether the Justice Department reviewed and approved ATF’s September 8, 2023, notice, including the entities involved in the review and the timing of the review.

5. Please explain whether the Office of Management and Budget reviewed and approved ATF’s September 8, 2023, notice, including the entities involved in the review and the timing of the review;

6. Please explain how ATF plans on enforcing the final rule that will come from the September 8, 2023, notice;

7. Please produce all documents and communications in your possession between ATF and any organizations ATF consulted, collaborated, and discussed the September 8, 2023, notice with.”

Read the full letter to ATF Director Dettelbach here.

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