Jim Jordan (R-OH), the Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary and Subcommittee on the Administrative State, Regulatory Reform, and Antitrust Chairman Thomas Massie (R-KY), have invited the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Director, Steve Detttlebach to testify in front of Congress on April 26.
Representatives Jordan and Massie have questions about the ATF’s rulemaking process. The Committee requested multiple documents about the ATF’s rulemaking process and the agency’s effort to regulate firearms without going through the proper channels in Congress. The Committee has additional questions that it wants Dettlebach to answer in person.
“The Committee on the Judiciary continues to conduct oversight of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). We have written the ATF with several requests for information and documents regarding the agency’s efforts to regulate firearms through the rulemaking process. We have additional questions, for which we write to request testimony from relevant ATF employees,” the request said.
In a letter sent to Mr. Dettlebach, the Congressmen accused the ATF of a lack of transparency. The letter highlights the ATF’s attempt to circumvent Congress through the rulemaking process. The ATF has used rulemaking to advance the political agenda of former President Donald Trump and current President Joe Biden.
The ATF, under President Trump, used its rulemaking powers to designate bump stocks as machine guns even though bump stocks do not meet the definition of a machine gun under the National Firearms Act of 1934 (NFA). Recently the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 13-3 that the ATF violated the Administrative Procedures Act (APA) in the Cargill case. The case was sent back to the District Court to rule in favor of Michael Cargill and issue the proper relief. The District Court ruled in favor of Mr. Cargill but defied the Circuit Court by not issuing relief.
Under President Biden, the ATF has used rulemaking to change the definition of a firearm to include parts that can be used to build a firearm. The frames and receivers’ rule were meant to shut down the making of unserialized firearms that the White House calls “ghost guns.” Multiple companies have received court-ordered preliminary injunctions against the rule, including the market leader, Polymer80. Once again, the Courts found the ATF violated the APA.
Biden also ordered the ATF to target pistol-stabilizing devices. The agency created a rule that any firearm with a stabilizing device would be considered a short-barreled rifle (SBR) and thus regulated under the NFA. By the ATF’s own admission, several million pistol braces are in the country, making them in common use. The ATF faces several legal challenges to the final rule surrounding the pistol braces.
The Committee also wants to question Dettlebach on the ATF’s “zero-tolerance” policy that has caused federal firearms licensees (FFL) revocations to increase by 500%. At the behest of the Biden Administration, the ATF has started shutting down FFLs over basic clerical errors. Biden claimed this move was to act against “rogue gun dealers,” but it seems to go much deeper. With some dealers doing thousands of transactions a month, mistakes can happen. The Industry Operations Inspectors (IOI) no longer have the discretion to decide what is an innocent error and a willful disregard for the law.
“The ATF’s lack of transparency comes after the agency issued a final rule banning stabilizing pistol braces, and as the agency continues to shut down lawful businesses through the ‘zero-tolerance’ policy for federal firearms dealers (FFLs). Just last year, the United States Supreme Court held in West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency that under the major questions doctrine, ‘given both separation of powers principles and a practical understanding of legislative intent, the agency must point to ‘clear congressional authorization’ for the authority it claims.’ This ruling raises serious doubts about ATF’s ability to regulate pistol braces absent a clear mandate from Congress,” the letter said.
In addition to Dettlebach, the Committee wants transcribed interviews from Daniel Board, Chief of Staff, Justin O’Connell, Acting Assistant Director, Public & Government Affairs, and Megan Bennett, Deputy Assistant Director.
About John Crump
John is a NRA instructor and a constitutional activist. John has written about firearms, interviewed people of all walks of life, and on the Constitution. John lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and sons and can be followed on Twitter at @crumpyss, or at www.crumpy.com.