The Biden administration has rescinded the licenses of hundreds of gun dealers in a crackdown on an industry that law enforcement has previously seen as a key ally.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) has revoked the licenses of 122 gun dealers so far this fiscal year on top of the 90 licenses it pulled last year. Since 2013, the earliest year for which data is available, the previous record for licenses revoked in a single year was 81. The agency pulled just 27 licenses in fiscal year 2021, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The ATF has previously hesitated before pulling a dealer’s license. Gun sellers are helpful to law enforcement in identifying suspicious customers and aiding in investigations into illegal gun selling. The ATF has typically chosen to issue warnings instead of full license revocation.
“The gun dealers were our first line of defense against gun trafficking,” retired ATF deputy assistant director Peter Forcelli told WSJ. “Why are we now beating an ally into submission?”
Other former officials say the Biden administration’s more aggressive approach is warranted. Too many gun dealers took advantage of previous administrations’ more lax approach, and rule-breakers must be reined in.
“The ATF, previous to this administration, had a ‘Let’s see if we can help you’ attitude and some gun dealers took advantage of that,” retired ATF official Rick Vasquez said.
The ATF said in a statement that it is enforcing the law.
“Federal Firearms Licensees are often our first line of defense against gun crime and are often a source of critical enforcement information that helps law enforcement identify straw purchasers and disrupt firearms trafficking schemes,” ATF spokeswoman Kristina Mastropasqua told Fox News. “FFLs that willfully violate the law, however, must be held accountable. ATF conducts inspections to ensure compliance with applicable local, state, and federal laws and regulations and to educate licensees on the specific requirements of those laws and regulations.”
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The ATF’s 816 “industry operative investigators” oversee about 50,000 licensed gun dealers across the country. Some who the ATF’s enforcement actions have targeted say the Biden administration is being overly hostile and acting in bad faith.
In one instance, the ATF targeted a part-time gun dealer in a small town in Oklahoma. Russell Fincher told the Second Amendment Foundation’s Investigative Journalism Project that the ATF sent seven SUVs full of armed agents to raid his home after he invited them in. In a previous inspection, the agents had identified traces on several of his guns and a paperwork error. Fincher eventually agreed to give up his FFL while the ATF confiscated an estimated $50,000 worth of firearms.
“They have my life in the palm of their hands, and they have very little accountability,” Fincher said. “I’m just trying to make a living and it takes three jobs just to make ends meet. Dealing as little as I have with the ATF, when you ask them a specific question, they’ll tell you it’s a grey area. Well, a grey area can send you to jail. I’m not Hunter Biden. I’m not going to get my weapon charges dropped.”
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