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Gun Rights Advocates Sue ATF Over Zero Tolerance Policy

Two Virginia-based gun rights organizations sued the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) over policy changes concerning federal firearms licensed (FFL) gun dealers.

Gun Owners of America (GOA) and the Gun Owners Foundation (GOF) claim the policy was rewritten to advance the Biden administration’s anti-Second Amendment agenda.

“This zero-tolerance policy towards lawful commerce guaranteed by the Second Amendment is just the latest example of this Administration weaponizing federal agencies against their political enemies,” GOA Senior Vice President Eric Pratt wrote in a statement on GOA’s website.

“It also is just one more compelling piece of evidence to support gun owners’ demands that Congress defund the ATF.”

The ATF did not respond to a request for comment from The Epoch Times.

Epoch Times Photo
Demonstrators gather for a Second Amendment rally at the Washington State Capitol in Olympia, Washington, on March 20, 2021. (David Ryder/Getty Images)

GOA filed its lawsuit on July 11 in the U.S. District Court for the District of North Dakota. GOA contends that on Jan. 28, 2022, ATF issued a revised Administrative Action Policy (AAP) titled “Federal Firearms Administrative Policy and Procedures,” replacing a 2019 AAP.

In the lawsuit, GOA claims the 2019 policy gave FFL holders some leeway when inspectors found minor violations. According to the lawsuit, the January 2022 policy takes a more stringent approach.

“The 2019 AAP stated that ‘ATF may revoke a federal firearms license under appropriate circumstances’ … the 2022 AAP states that ‘ATF will revoke a federal firearms license, absent extraordinary circumstances on initial violations….,’” the lawsuit reads.

GOA pointed out that in the past, ATF looked for a history of violations that demonstrated “willfulness” by gun dealers before taking action. That has changed, the lawsuit states.

“The 2019 AAP stated that … ‘[a] single, or even a few, inadvertent errors … may not amount to ‘willful’ failures, even when the FFL knew of the legal requirement’ The 2022 AAP eliminates this language, harshly warning only that ‘ATF does not have to establish a history of prior violations,’” the lawsuit reads.

No Public Input Sought

GOA claims the policy should be struck down because ATF made the changes without congressional oversight or public input.

Joining GOA and GOF as plaintiffs is Morehouse Enterprises of Valley City, North Dakota, which does business as Bridge City Ordnance.

Bridge City Ordnance is facing the revocation of its FFL over five alleged record-keeping infractions. According to Bridge City, none of the alleged infractions resulted in an illegal gun transfer.

“Suspiciously, the ATF inspected Bridge City Ordnance right after the company joined GOA and GOF in a separate lawsuit challenging the ATF’s Ghost Gun Frame and Receiver Rule last summer. Litigation is ongoing in that case,” GOA spokesman Walter Smoloski wrote in a statement on the GOA website.

GOF spokesman Sam Paredes asserts that the Biden administration was using heavy-handed tactics to bully law-abiding citizens into giving up their Second Amendment rights.

“It’s ridiculous that good people trying to make an honest living are facing this assault on their livelihoods. GOF is proud to be lending our support in defense of Bridge City Ordnance and all of those small businesses facing devastating consequences if this Administration’s hostility towards firearms is permitted to go unchecked,” Paredes wrote in a statement released when the lawsuit was filed.

Revocations Are Up

The ATF has been in a pitched battle with gun rights advocates. According to GOA, the ATF’s statistics from fiscal 2022 show the agency’s hostility.

According to agency numbers, there were 3,806 violations reported in fiscal 2022 among firearm licensees, 606 warning letters issued, 131 warning conferences, along with 93 revocations.

According to the ATF website, five FFL revocations occurred between July and December 2021. There were 51 revocations reported for the same period in 2022.

Meanwhile, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) has introduced the “Abolish the ATF Act.”

“The continued existence of the ATF is increasingly unwarranted based on their repeated actions to convert law-abiding citizens into felons. They must be stopped. My bill today would abolish the ATF once and for all,” said Gaetz when introducing the bill in January.

In 2021, when Democrats controlled both chambers of Congress, Gaetz co-sponsored a similar bill that sought to abolish ATF. Presently, Republicans have the majority in the House.

Naveen Athrappully contributed to this report.

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