Shooting Straight: It’s Time to Abolish the ATF

atf agents
The ATF lists their reason for being as the enforcement of existing laws. (Photo credit: WPDE)

The phrase “common sense gun laws” is uttered by politicians and those on the anti-gun side more times than we can count. It is, after all, a fantastic catch-all phrase that implies anyone who disagrees is a fool who, of course, possesses no common sense (and also wants children to die).

Maybe one of the biggest “common sense gun laws” jokes of all time is the ATF. This is a federal agency that uses every loophole possible to attempt to turn otherwise lawful gun owners into felons, many times overnight, and has earned its rightful place of being despised by most gun owners.

silencerco maxim9
The SilencerCo Maxim9 has an integral suppressor, making it a pretty clever design. (Photo credit: SilencerCo)

Yes, I said most gun owners. If you’re one of those people who happens to own a firearm who thinks the ATF is wonderful and so-called common sense gun laws are A Good Thing, we really need to talk. Sure, it’s going to be a one-sided talk, but you can feel free to argue with me in the comments.

This isn’t a history of the ATF so we’re going to gloss right over how they haven’t even been around that long in comparison to other executive branch agencies (officially, since 1972). It also isn’t an outright condemnation, because when you live in a country of more than 330 million people that already operates under a variety of laws and regulations, it shouldn’t be a surprise that there are gun laws in place and an agency tasked with enforcing them.

Here’s where the issue arises: the ATF is an enforcement agency. Their entire existence revolves around enforcing existing gun laws. They can’t legally create new laws. Of course, they’ve found a way around that by altering the definitions of gun-related gear and equipment in ways that render parts or actions suddenly illegal.

This can be seen in their handling of pistol braces and the way they’re now trying to put an end to private sales. Good news, there’s a multi-state lawsuit going on to fight the rule that would end private sales. Bad news, it’s never simple to fight any government agency, let alone the ATF.

ATF arrest being made
Does the ATF target lawful gun owners or criminals? Good question. (Photo credit: ATF Training Academy)

You know who doesn’t obey gun laws and ATF rules? Criminals. You know who likes to run around committing crimes and murdering people? Criminals. Guess who these ATF rules won’t have any impact on. You guessed it: criminals.

I am, unsurprisingly, pro-2A and not remotely fond of big government. Perhaps the greatest travesty of firearms regulation is the NFA, because it effectively made it wildly cost-prohibitive to get full-auto firearms, suppressors, and SBRs. No, it’s not impossible, but it puts those things out of reach for countless gun owners. And while actual, nationwide firearms registration is technically against federal law and the only firearms that are required to be registered by federal law are the aforementioned NFA items, that doesn’t stop some states—like Hawaii and California—from going ahead and enacting registration.

The ATF glories in utilizing the gray areas and loopholes to demonize and harass gun owners. They also use shady methods to trap gun owners who may truly not understand the law.  I can’t say if that’s always been the case, but it’s always been a slippery slope and the agency has been weaponized under the Biden administration.

You know how the saying goes—the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Whoever first formulated the idea of the ATF during the era of mafia kingpins probably felt they were doing something to fight crime. It hasn’t turned out that way.

So, what good has the ATF done for gun owners lately? They’ve done nothing. The ATF has been shutting down FFLs for typographical errors, broadening the definitions of NFA items to expand their ability to prosecute gun owners, and playing by their own rules when it comes to opening and closing comment periods on proposed rules. Part of this is certainly due to who’s running the ATF right now, but it’s been a long-time pattern of behavior.

Here’s a recent example of the ATF playing a game of I Do What I Want. In 2023, the ATF released the names and locations of FFLs to Brady United and USA Today. The release wasn’t only of FFLs who’d been inspected and had their licenses revoked but included FFLs that have things happen like more than 25 traces in the calendar year.

It doesn’t matter if it was a big box store or some random guy running an FFL out of his home—the locations and details were included in the information. That is a violation of the Tiahrt Amendment and has resulted in a demand for answers from dozens of pro-gun politicians. Of course, the damage is already done, and the ATF will ultimately get away with it. There are never consequences to these clear violations.

merrick garland
Courtesy C-SPAN

The ATF, part of the Department of Justice, isn’t going to do anything to punish or otherwise rein in the agency. They’ve become a politicized law enforcement agency that’s an island unto themselves, free to do as they please.

We’ll never do away with the Form 4473 and the NFA is, in all likelihood, here to stay, but that doesn’t mean the ATF should be allowed to run roughshod over lawful gun owners. With the DOJ being the governing body that’s supposed to hold them accountable for bad behavior, though, it seems unlikely things are going to get any better (check out the anti-gun track record of the Attorney General). Garland likes to say things like how the AR-15 “belongs on the battlefield” and talk about how they’re diligently fighting “the threat of ghost guns.”

I have an idea. Let’s make a new law that creates harsh punishment for murder and makes it illegal. That’s sure to work work.

Big Brother and the government in general don’t care that criminals act criminally. They know that and their enforcement and rules aren’t directed at people who have no intention of complying. Instead, their enforcement efforts are directed at tax-paying citizens. Tightening restrictions only takes away the rights of the otherwise law-abiding. There’s money to be had in increasing the things they can charge fees for obtaining, not to mention the extra potential collecting more information on who firearms owners are and what they hate. When you give a gun grabber an inch, they don’t just take a mile, they take it all and they keep right on going.

It’s time to abolish the ATF. That sounds like a stellar start.

8 Responses

    1. I guess ATF agents never have to chase after people like beat cops. Those jeans look a bit restrictive.

      And yes, there’s no reason for the ATF to exist. Disband them completely, and the FBI can absorb their specialists. Yes, I know. The FBI can’t be trusted either. This is a morality problem.

      1. Dude,

        You trust the FBI???? Have you been paying attention???? The entire DoJ is a complete sh*tshow of partisan, politic discriminatory enforcement and prosecution, and it certainly is NOT just related to guns. Frankly, the whole concept of a Federal “police force” REALLY needs to be rethought. Please list me the crimes delegated by the Constitution to be enforced by the Federal government. Now reread the 10th Amendment, again, and ‘splain to me where this Federal police authority comes from, ’cause I sure as hell can’t find it.

        1. In my defense, I did literally say that they can’t be trusted, and that they’re immoral. My point was that even assuming a moral government, there’s no point in having the ATF. As bad as they are, I’m sure there are a few explosives, etc. specialists there that could be absorbed into the FBI.

  1. Back in the day (1990’s), I had somewhat regular contact with some FBI, IRS-CID, and DoJ Task Force investigators/agents (some of my civil cases overlapped with some major criminal investigations against the same people we were going after, and so we were routinely passing along information we uncovered to the feds). I got to know some of them pretty well, and if you wanted to get them wound up all you had to do was mention ATF.

    They regarded ATF agents as the dregs: people who couldn’t get hired by FBI, DEA, IRS-CID, or any of the other “real” federal law enforcement agencies, or elite state law enforcement (e.g., Texas Rangers).

    Bear in mind this was a generation ago, *before* the ATF got seriously politicized. Point is that since Prohibition ended, ATF agents have been regarded as a bad joke in law enforcement circles, and it only seems to be getting worse.

  2. Not just the ATF, but the entire Federal Bureaucratic Complex that controls far more of lives than Congress or the President and does so without being voted on.

    1. Yes sir. I wish we could get Milei to take a chainsaw to it. We could probably ditch 80% of the non-military/non-VA employees, and most people wouldn’t notice. Instead of something like the Dept of Ed, just have something like a small advisory council. The administrative bloat is completely unnecessary, legitimately harmful, and a waste of money.

    2. Darkman,

      Hear, hear!! Anyone who trusts ANY part of our ‘benevolent’ government is either an idiot, or a beneficiary of said government. The old justification for the federal bureaucracy was that “only the government is big enough to oppose Big Business”. After it became obvious that Big Business had totally captured and controlled their so-called regulators, now the apparent ‘justification’ is that “they’re protecting US, they are doing what’s best for us” (which is nonsense on the face of it). NOBODY in government gives a wet fart about me or my interests – fortunately, I learned that many years ago. I’ve NEVER expected ‘the government’ to do anything but screw me over (and on that, it has been very consistent). But the ATF is a particularly vile and useless example.

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