- The Washington Times
Monday, July 25, 2022

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives ramped up a public relations campaign recently at a massive gun show in Northern Virginia, warning gun sellers and buyers not to believe myths about the agency.

The ATF routinely sets up tables at gun shows across the country to interact with America’s firearms community and hit the Nation’s Gun Show at the Dulles Expo Center in Chantilly, Virginia, armed with Obama-era handouts titled “ATF Myths — Not everything you hear is true.”

The flyer is a list of accusations and notions about the ATF that the agency wants to set straight with the public. For example, the agency says it is false that the bureau wants to confiscate firearms. “The ATF supports the firearms industry & works to promote lawful gun ownership.”

The ATF has been working to dispel these myths since first printing out the flyer in 2015.

It says it is false that the ATF has a national gun registry.

“ATF is strictly prohibited by law from having a national gun registry,” it says.

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The handout also says that it is false that the ATF makes gun laws, explaining that “Congress makes federal laws; ATF enforces them.”

The effort failed to impress several gun rights enthusiasts whom The Washington Times spoke with at the Nation’s Gun Show.

“From arbitrary gun bans to a zero-tolerance policy shutting down [federal firearms licenses] for honest paperwork violations, the ATF is quickly destroying what is left of its relationship with the firearm industry,” said Aidan Johnston, spokesman for the gun rights group Gun Owners of America. “ATF isn’t a friendly law enforcement agency there to help gun owners, their job is to infringe on the Second Amendment and ban whatever the unpopular firearm or accessory of the day is for the party in power.”

The gun control crowd isn’t thrilled with the ATF, either. Some fault the agency for not doing enough to regulate firearm ownership and are pressuring the new ATF director, Steve Dettelbach, to change the culture of the agency.

Mr. Dettelbach earlier this month became the first Senate-confirmed ATF director the agency has seen since 2006. He was sworn in last week.

According to a recent report by the gun-control advocates at the Giffords Law Center, ATF is too influenced by gun industry groups like the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

“For years, the gun industry, led by NSSF has developed an exceptionally cozy relationship with ATF, a relationship that has enabled the industry to exert tremendous influence over the agency,” the report’s author, Giffords Law Center’s Lindsay Nichols, writes. “This influence benefits the industry, but has undermined ATF’s ability to do its job: to protect public safety from gun violence by enforcing the laws regarding firearms and firearm sales.”

Don’t try and tell that to Alan Gottlieb, president of the Second Amendment Foundation. He said federally licensed firearms dealers fear ATF is becoming more adversarial. 

“While they have a good working relationship with field agents they know the Biden administration and the new ATF director are not industry friendly,” he said.

Second Amendment activists point to a recent video on the internet in which ATF agents show up at the front door of a Delaware gun owner and ask to inspect his firearms without a warrant.

“Everyone’s talking about it,” one gun dealer said. “It’s an infringement of our Constitution.”

Many dealers at the gun show were selling firearms with stabilizing braces, but because the ATF proposed a rule last year that would start “factoring criteria for these firearms” that would classify them as short barrel rifles and subject them to further regulation under the National Firearms Act, some sellers were reluctant to sell them.

“You don’t need a tax stamp for this — yet,” one dealer said, acknowledging the proposed ATF rule and noting how dealers often must adapt to ATF rule changes when a new president takes office. 

He confirmed a lot of people who own such firearms that are affected by the ATF will end up locking these guns away until a president with a more favorable stance on firearm ownership wins the White House.

• Kerry Picket can be reached at kpicket@washingtontimes.com.

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