More ATF Ridiculousness: With Leaders Like Dettelbach, No Wonder Citizen Distrust Is So High

by Vern Evans
AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

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The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Director Steven Dettelbach joined CBS’s Face the Nation with Margaret Brennan to talk about violent crime committed with firearms and the tools he wants from Congress. The problem is those requests have already been rejected by Congress for good reason. Those tools would violate federal law and would chip away at the rights of those who obey the law without actually addressing the problem of crime.

“I was in Baltimore a few weeks ago with the law enforcement there, and it’s like, almost a 20 percent drop in homicides, but looks to me the caveat is that for many years in this country, we’ve had a very serious gun crime problem,” Director Dettelbach explained. “And we are the outlier among almost all Western modern nations, and not the outlier in a good way.”

He added later, “Well, I look at- look, I mean, data doesn’t lie.”

Juxtapose that with Director Dettelbach repeating the verifiably false claim that firearms are the leading cause of death among children. That’s just not true.

False Narrative

“The leading cause of death of children in the United States is firearms violence, right,” Director Dettelbach said. “Not cancer, not cars. Guns.”

That’s patently false. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris like to trot out the line in their gun control speeches even though it’s been proven to be false. The Washington Post, hardly a firearm-friendly news agency, admitted the narrative is false. To make the claim, The White House and now Director Dettelbach include people age 18 and 19. The problem is, 18 and 19-year-olds are adults, not children.

“When you focus only on children — 17 and younger — motor vehicle deaths (broadly defined) still rank No. 1, as they have for six decades,” The Washington Post reported. “In the interest of accuracy, it would be better for White House officials to refer to children and teens when citing these reports. When all motor vehicle accidents are counted, then motor vehicle deaths continue to exceed firearm deaths for children — defined as people under age 18 — whether or not infants are included.”

NSSF has blasted this twisting of data to arrive at the heated talking point. The claim in question came about as a result of a faulty study published by the University of Michigan Institute for Firearm Injury Prevention in April 2022. That study included Americans aged 18 and 19 years old – adults – in the data set as well as manipulated motor vehicle crash data to assert firearms became the “leading cause of death among children and adolescents” in 2020. NSSF debunked the study when it was published in April 2022.

Like Director Dettelbach said in his Face the Nation interview: data doesn’t lie.

Differing Ideas

Director Dettelbach lamented that the debate over firearms has become too heated. He recalled a meeting he had with residents of Lewiston, Maine, following the tragic criminal attack on innocent Americans there. He admitted that some in attendance, who were families of victims and victims themselves, were deeply suspicious of heavy-handed government intrusion on their rights.

“Those people were able to sit in that room with all that grief and have a discussion,” Director Dettelbach explained. “Tell me what they – what they – their feelings, differing feelings about how we should approach this problem. And they all had ideas.”

There are differing ideas. That’s why NSSF partners with the ATF to prevent the illegal straw purchasing of firearms in the “Don’t Lie for the Other GuyT” campaign, of which he spoke. NSSF also partners with ATF for Operation Secure Store to help firearm retailers improve security at their stores. However, there are some ideas that are just unacceptable.

Director Dettelbach bemoaned that Congress refuses to give him the authority to implement universal background checks. In fact, Congress has roundly rejected that idea because the Department of Justice (DoJ) admitted that for universal background checks to work, every law-abiding gun owner would need to be placed on a national firearm registry. That’s forbidden by federal law.

“So again, really, you know, people ask me, what’s my top priority? What’s my- what’s my wish list? I think the reality is it’s going to be a lot of things that we have to do to get out of this situation to make things better,” Director Dettelbach said. “… if Congress wants to consider more on universal background checks…”

Here’s why Congress isn’t giving in on surrendering the rights of law-abiding citizens to the government. It’s a false sense of security that would trade the rights of those who obey the law for an unkept promise to go after those who break the law. Congress is the representative government of “We, the People…” The “People” have been given every reason to distrust the government when it comes to protecting their Second Amendment rights.

Untrustworthy Track Record

Just weeks ago, the U.S. Treasury Department admitted that the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) violated the private banking and financial records of Americans to create a government watchlist that included anyone who bought a gun, ammunition – even a Bible – or shopped at one of several big box sporting goods stores.

The Biden administration’s Commerce Department has been working to throttle firearm exports in an attempt to kneecap U.S. firearm manufacturers. The Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security issued a “90-day pause” that’s well beyond the initial 90 days to halt nearly all firearm exports while the administration re-examines policy. That’s despite the strongest safeguards that have been in place ever. The United States sets the leading standard in the world for firearm exports. All firearm and ammunition exports are – and always were – subject to both Defense and State Department review, and either can halt the export if there are security or human rights concerns. Firearm and ammunition license applications undergo a 100 percent end-user check by the BIS Office of Export Enforcement (OEE), regardless of how long an exporting company has been doing business with that customer, regardless of how many times the buyer was subjected to an end-user check and regardless of whether BIS has no derogatory information on that customer, even if the end-user was recently approved. At present, no other commodity is subject to the same 100 percent check.

There are more reasons why Congress is suspect of handing the reins over to the Biden administration when it comes to Americans’ Second Amendment rights. ATF itself has shown a willingness to infringe on Second Amendment rights through the rule-making process. ATF wrote a proposed “engaged-in-the-business” rule that would require nearly all private firearm sellers to obtain a federal firearms license and run background checks. Congress made a one-word change to the definition of “engaged-in-the-business” in the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA). ATF used that to launch 108 pages to require an estimated 328,000 additional licensees. It’s not just unconstitutional. It’s unfeasible.

The U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan is demanding answers from Director Dettelbach, noting that the BSCA said the revised “engaged-in-the-business” definition “shall not include a person who makes occasional sales, exchanges, or purchases of firearms for the enhancement of a personal collection or for a hobby, or who sells all or part of his personal collection of firearms.”

ATF also published a Final Rule redefining “frames or receivers” in an effort to outlaw the ability for law-abiding private citizens to make their own firearms in their own home for private use. That was legal even before the founding of the nation. That rule is being challenged in courts for exceeding the authority of ATF to set criminal code, which is the sole authority of Congress. It is likely to be petitioned to the U.S. Supreme Court.

There’s also the recently-challenged Final Rule banning bump stocks, which was just heard by the U.S. Supreme Court. That challenge also questioned ATF’s authority to write criminal law. A decision is expected later this year.

There are more examples of why Congress – and the American public – distrust the federal government when it comes to their Second Amendment rights, including the Obama-Biden administration’s abusive Operation Choke Point, the ill-fated ATF Fast and Furious, California’s “accidental” release of concealed carry permit holders’ information to the general public and the same instance of New York City releasing concealed carry permit holders’ information to the media.

Data – and history – don’t lie.

—Mark Oliva, for NSSF

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