ATF Gets Legislative Pushback

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According to Firearm Chronicles

In a letter sent last week to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland and ATF Acting Director Marvin Richardson, 20 Senators called out the ATF for its practice of passing internal guidance and then enforcing it on an unsuspecting public. The letter specifically discusses ATF’s recent crackdowns on solvent traps and forced reset triggers.

From the letter:

In light of the above, we respectfully request that the U.S. Department of Justice and the ATF provide the following no later than March 25, 2022:

• All internal instructions, directives, or guidance to any and all employees and/or contractors assigned to or working with the Firearms & Ammunition Technology Division containing criteria, factors, or “indicators” to be used to make the determination of whether a “solvent trap” is classified as a silencer subject to regulation under the National Firearms Act.
• All internal instructions, directives, or guidance to any and all employees and/or contractors assigned to or working with the Firearms & Ammunition Technology Division containing criteria, factors, or “indicators” to be used to make the determination of whether a “forced reset trigger” is classified as a machine gun subject to regulation under the National Firearms Act.
• Copies of all publications through which the ATF has made such guidance and criteria available to ATF Agents, including all Firearms & Ammunition Technology Division Technical Bulletins issued regarding “solvent traps” and “forced reset triggers”, including copies of each.
• An explanation as to how these bulletins are used by law enforcement.
• An explanation as to why documents with similar guidance have not been made available to the public.

The ATF is charged by law with enforcing the nation’s federal firearms laws and providing regulatory oversight of the firearms industry. ATF simply has no authority to conceal public guidance and then enforce it on unsuspecting Americans. The ATF must issue only those regulations authorized by Congress, provide notice of the proposed regulations, and then provide the American people with an opportunity to comment before a new rule goes into effect.

March 25th is just a week away. We won’t hold our breath on a meaningful response from the ATF, but we certainly hope this gains traction.

It’s entirely unacceptable that folks who intend to be law-abiding citizens keep finding themselves at odds with surprise new ATF opinions. The law is the law, and random bureaucrats in an office in D.C. shouldn’t be able to spring new and capricious interpretations, guidance, and “rulings” on an unsuspecting population often with post-ex-facto threats of criminal liability.

A press release from Senator Chuck Grassley’s (R-Iowa) office follows:

WASHINGTON – Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) joined Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and 19 of his colleagues in expressing concern over the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ (ATF) use of internal guidance to enforce regulations that are unpublished and unknown to the public. In an alarming display of insufficient transparency from a federal agency, the ATF has used this secret guidance to justify the seizure of property. The senators raise concerns that these regulations – unknown to the public – could be unfairly used to target and prosecute law-abiding firearm owners and businesses.
“We write to express our grave concern over the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives’ (ATF) continued pattern of enforcing secret guidance. This secret guidance was brought to our attention by those who have received recent threatening letters where the ATF makes blanket threats based on the recipient allegedly purchasing and possessing various firearms accessories, none of which are illegal based on any statute or regulation,” the lawmakers wrote.

“Our government, including the ATF, has a duty to inform Americans what they must do to comply with federal law, especially when the conduct involves the exercise of an enumerated constitutional right and violations could result in a penalty of up to ten years in prison. The use of ‘secret’ law is anathema to our system of government,” the lawmakers continued.

Grassley and his colleagues request the Department of Justice and the ATF provide them with all “internal instructions, directives or guidance” pertaining to these regulations, along with an explanation as to why this guidance has not been made available to the public.

“The ATF is charged by law with enforcing the nation’s federal firearms laws and providing regulatory oversight of the firearms industry. ATF simply has no authority to conceal public guidance and then enforce it on unsuspecting Americans. The ATF must issue only those regulations authorized by Congress, provide notice of the proposed regulations, and then provide the American people with an opportunity to comment before a new rule goes into effect,” the lawmakers concluded.

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