Gun Owners of America Aghast at Potential ATF Expansion
Gun Owners of America Aghast at Potential ATF Expansion

By Michael Clements

A national gun rights organization is decrying the expansion of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) in President Joe Biden’s $6.8 trillion budget proposal for 2024.

“GOA is extremely concerned at the massive surge in ATF funding in recent years—doubling the size of the agency since the end of the Obama administration,” Aidan Johnston, Gun Owners of America’s director of federal affairs, wrote in an email to The Epoch Times.

Biden’s budget proposal contains $1.9 billion for the ATF. This is a 13.6 percent increase over 2022 and half a billion dollars more than the agency’s fiscal 2020 budget.

If passed as written, Biden’s budget would expand the ATF by 35.7 percent—an overall growth of more than 50 percent since the Obama administration.

A researcher simulates a check done for the National Instant Criminal Background Check System or NICS, at the FBI’s criminal justice center in Bridgeport, W.Va., on Nov. 18, 2014. (Matt Stroud/AP Photo)

According to Biden’s plan, the $1.9 billion would finance the expansion of multi-jurisdictional gun trafficking strike forces, increase firearms industry regulation, and implement the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act.

The proposal also calls for $51 million for the FBI to complete implementing the enhanced background check system that is part of the Act.

In a statement, GOA said the budget items are nothing more than incremental gun control that will make no one safer while denying law-abiding gun owners their constitutional rights.

The organization is especially alarmed at funding for “crisis intervention programs,” so-called “Red Flag Laws.”

GOA and other gun rights groups claim that Red Flag laws set the stage for authorities to confiscate firearms without due process. They say that language in the Act requiring due process is misleading.

The Act calls for due process “at the appropriate phase” of the process to avoid violating a person’s constitutional rights.

The organization points out that the law doesn’t specify when that phase is, leaving open the possibility that the appropriate phase may come after a person’s firearms have already been confiscated.

“GOA analyzed the Biden administration’s disbursal of ‘Red Flag’ gun confiscation grants pursuant to the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act and found that the ‘due process’ protections … were worthless,” according to the group’s statement reads.

It also claims the ATF uses a “zero tolerance” policy to build an unconstitutional gun registry. GOA obtained an internal policy memo in which ATF officials explain how to shut down law-abiding gun shops for minor infractions.

‘Funding Should be Restricted’

When a shop closes, all its sales records are transferred to the government. GOA claims the ATF has aggregated these records into a central gun registry to track all firearms, whether they have been used in a crime or not.

In his email to The Epoch Times, Johnston said Congress should rein in the ATF immediately.

“Funding should be restricted to alcohol, tobacco, explosives, and only violent firearm crimes—meaning the agency should be prohibited from going after peaceful gun owners for non-violent gun control violations,” Johnston wrote.

According to the GOA statement, recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings may offer some protection.

“Laws restricting the rights of legal adults are rightly beginning to be struck down as unconstitutional under the Supreme Court’s ‘text, history, and tradition’ Second Amendment test as affirmed in DC v. Heller and NYSRPA v. Bruen,” the statement read.

A spokesperson for the Johns Hopkins University Center for Gun Violence Prevention and Policy did not return an email seeking comment before press time.

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