Joe Biden was open about his intention to target the legal and constitutionally authorized firearms industry when he was running for president, and he has been making good on his promises in that regard since assuming office. Revocations of federal firearm licenses for retailers have increased 500% recently.
During the 2020 debates, Biden indicated he would use the regulatory power of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to promote his agenda. He said at the time that his enemy is “not the NRA, our enemy is the gun manufacturers.”
Biden has followed through by weaponizing the ATF against firearm retailers. The agency’s Industry Operations Investigators have seen their mission move from ensuring that retailers comply with federal regulations to actively driving them out of business.
Since Biden announced his war on “rogue gun dealers,” the ATF revoked 273 Federal Firearms Licenses in less than a year. That compares with the typical annual average of around 40 revocations.
According to firearms investigative reporter Lee Williams, the ATF is now revoking licenses for even minor paperwork errors. Biden has directed the implementation of a “zero tolerance” inspection policy. Immaterial clerical errors that might have previously warranted a warning letter now result in revocation.
As part of Biden’s budget proposal this year, he called for $20.6 billion in Department of Justice funding for law enforcement and crime prevention. As part of that plan, ATF received funding for an additional 140 special agents and 160 Industry Operations Investigators. While the administration might not be doing much about violent crime, it is spending freely in the effort to target the firearms industry.
Former ATF acting director Thomas Brandon told reporters that the proper purpose of inspections is to bring dealers into compliance when necessary, not to unduly penalize them. He said the “high majority” of license holders are honest hard-working business people who are intended to function as the country’s “front-line of defense for intelligence for diversion of firearms with straw purchases.”
He added that the Biden policy of making war on “rogue gun dealers” could actually lead to increased illegal activity. Licensed retailers have normally worked in strong cooperation with ATF agents regarding suspicious attempts to purchase firearms. Now that the ATF has declared itself directly opposed to ordinary licensees, they are much less likely to willingly involve the agency in their business decisions.
Some ATF agents have privately said that the “zero tolerance” policy actually cuts off license holders as their most valuable resource in tracking criminal activity.
Unfortunately, there is no indication that the Biden White House has any intention to do anything other than maintain an aggressively adverse posture towards legitimate firearms businesses.