By Lee Williams
Shortly after taking office, Joe Biden weaponized the ATF and then announced a zero-tolerance policy for “rogue gun dealers,” who he claimed were responsible for increased violent crime rates in many major U.S. cities.
“Rogue gun dealers” the President explained, are those Federal Firearm Licensees who willfully transfer a firearm to a prohibited person, and/or who refuse to cooperate with a tracing request from ATF.
“Merchants of death are breaking the law for profit,” Biden said in June 2021. “We will find you and we’ll seek your license to sell guns. We’ll make sure you can’t sell death and mayhem on our streets.”
Now, there is ample proof Biden’s ATF is targeting all gun dealers, not just those who meet the president’s “rogue” definition. FFL revocations have skyrocketed, but most for only clerical errors. Gun dealers have noted a tremendous difference between how they were treated by the ATF before Biden took office, and how they are treated now.
The latest victim was a longtime gun dealer on the East Coast whose Federal Firearms License was recently revoked. The dealer did not want his name used in this story. “I may want to pursue this matter through federal court after the current administration leaves office,” he said.
Before Biden, ATF was interested in fixing minor mistakes, to make it easier to trace a firearm, if necessary. Unfortunately, this changed. “The engagement difference between agents four years ago and one year ago is drastically different,” the dealer said.
He and many other dealers complain that ATF changed their definition of what constitutes a willful violation. The ATF now says that every gun dealer has been told to submit only proper paperwork, so any error – even clerical – constitutes a willful violation of ATF rules.
“If a box was blank, they could accuse you of failure to fill out a 4473 or a different error,” he said. “Now, they can accuse you of failure to complete a background check, even though the transferee passed a background check.”
During his most recent audit, the ATF scrutinized thousands of ATF Form 4473s.
“There are data points on a 4473 that are created by the FFL holder and the transferee,” he said. “Those data points are duplicated in other locations. There is a total of around 200 data points per transaction, so the ATF was auditing millions of data points.”
Agents discovered just over 100 errors among the forms – all of which were minor, clerical errors. None of them resulted in a prohibited person receiving a firearm. Before Biden, he said, the ATF would have allowed him to fix these errors. Now, the penalty was much higher.
The ATF sent him a letter announcing their intent to revoke his Federal Firearm License, which he immediately appealed. The officer who presided over the hearing was the same ATF agent who signed his revocation letter.
“The appeal process is internal and presented as though it’s a court environment. It was me and my counsel versus a room full of people,” he said. “But what really matters is that it’s a non-adversarial legal environment. You can’t attack their witnesses because their witnesses are agents of the court. To discredit their witnesses is to discredit the court.”
The hearing officer affirmed his own revocation. As stated, the dealer may pursue the matter later though federal court. “Given the hostile nature of this administration, it seems like a terrible decision to pursue a legal matter anywhere but at the base level,” the dealer said.
To be clear, he was never accused of transferring a firearm to a prohibited person, failing to comply with a tracing request or failing to run a background check.
This dealer and many others believe ATF agents now have to achieve a certain number of FFL revocations.
“I am sure it’s a quota system. I have no direct evidence but my gut, which affirms it,” he said. “Years ago, they were there to help. Nowadays, the entire entity as a whole – not at all. They want revocations because it clears people out of the business. I wouldn’t say I personally felt hunted, because I didn’t take it personally, but they were definitely looking for targets of opportunity. They’ve only got a certain number of agents, who are working seven times as hard to get their quotas. In a fashion, I guess they’re hunting.”
The dealer has received employment offers from other gun shops, which he has refused because he does not want his presence to draw additional scrutiny.
“Congress should defund ATF or at least its enforcement capability,” he said. “We’ve got a president who signs executive order after executive order, and there’s no will of Congress there, just the will of the president, and he is not supposed to be the one who makes the laws.”