“Face the Nation” Airs ATF Propaganda

posted on April 21, 2024
ATF Headquarters
Charles Krupa/AP

I am never surprised to see anti-gun media outlets eager to promote the current administration’s efforts to eviscerate the Second Amendment, so it came as no shock to see Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Director Steven Dettelbach on TV whining to regime media about the plight of his agency.

This time, Dettelbach sat down for a lengthy interview, aired in March, with CBS’ Margaret Brennan for “Face the Nation.” Brennan was also treated to a dubious lesson in firearm operation and handling from Dettelbach and Chris Bort, the acting chief of ATF’s Firearm and Ammunition Technology Division.

As always, a key complaint from ATF was how the agency’s National Tracing Center is required to operate within the law.

The federal law’s structure and explicit language act to prevent the creation of a federal firearms registry. As NRA members know, federal law requires those who purchase a firearm at a gun dealer to fill out a Form 4473. This record of the firearm transfer is then stored by the Federal Firearms Licensee (FFL) on their premises. This creates a system whereby, if a gun is found at a crime scene, ATF can trace the firearm to the last retail purchase. However, since the records are stored with each FFL, the system is decentralized in a manner that protects against government abuse of gun-owner data.

This understanding was at the heart of the debate over the Gun Control Act of 1968. In 1985, Sen. James McClure (R-Idaho) explained, “The central compromise of the Gun Control Act of 1968—the sine qua non for the entry of the Federal Government into any form of firearms regulation was this: Records concerning gun ownership would be maintained by dealers, not by the Federal Government and not by State and local governments.”

This is all very cumbersome to Dettelbach.

Brennan asked Biden’s ATF director, “The ATF is prohibited by law from creating a centralized database of registered gun owners. So that means there are actual physical records that have to be sorted through, right? How big of an impediment is that to actually stopping gun traffickers?”

Appearing to lament the current protections for law-abiding gun owners, Dettelbach responded in part:

“The way it doesn’t happen is we punch in a person’s name. And up comes oh, they own so many guns. Congress has prohibited us from doing that. So instead, we have a system of records where we can—we have to go through those records. Every year, we probably get in—First of all, we don’t have the all the records, the gun dealers keep the records, most of them. If they go out of business, they send them to us, millions and millions a month. And we have to keep them in—I—I’m the only customer, ATF is, of Adobe Acrobat, we pay somebody to take out search function, to remove search function that other customers have … in order to comply with the congressional notion that there can’t be a gun registry, the law that there can’t be a gun registry in the United States. It’s not a notion, it’s a law, and we comply with it. That—that means that we have to work within that system. That means we have more people there poring through records.”

Addressing the recent U.S. Supreme Court arguments on whether ATF has the authority to regulate bump stocks, Brennan asked why Congress and the Biden administration didn’t act to prohibit the items. Brennan said, “But why didn’t the Biden administration seek to put into the law—you work for the Biden administration—so why didn’t the Biden administration seek to do that?”

Soon after, Dettelbach appeared as if he was trying to conflate the bump-stock controversy with ATF’s ability to regulate actual machine guns. Referring to a green automatic sear he was using as a prop, Dettelbach stated:

“We have a broader issue, right, with—with machine guns in this country that I will tell you is returning. You asked me about things that I think are really concerning for public safety. It’s not just bump stocks, right? All over the streets of the United States, every police chief tells me that the pounding sort of jackhammer-like sound of machine-gun fire is returning to our streets, and bump stocks is one, I’ll show you another, right. So, this little piece of plastic, this little piece of plastic … So, this case is before the Supreme Court. You know, it’s pending, so I don’t know how much I can talk about it. But the issue of bump—is more than bump stocks.”

No one contests ATF’s statutory authority to regulate auto sears. Federal law, 26 USC § 5845(b), defines a “machinegun” as follows:

“… any weapon which shoots, is designed to shoot, or can be readily restored to shoot, automatically more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger. The term shall also include the frame or receiver of any such weapon, any part designed and intended solely and exclusively, or combination of parts designed and intended, for use in converting a weapon into a machinegun, and any combination of parts from which a machinegun can be assembled if such parts are in the possession or under the control of a person.”

Auto sears are designed and intended to convert a firearm to shoot automatically “by a single function of the trigger,” while bump stocks are designed to facilitate the user’s ability to repeatedly operate the trigger.

“Government agencies like ATF should never act as a taxpayer-funded political-policy lobbying arm of any anti-gun administration.”

To her credit, Brennan eventually sought to clarify just what Dettelbach was talking about, asking, “The little green nub. Is that illegal?” Dettelbach acknowledged, “Yes.” Further pressing the director, Brennan asked, “Do you need Congress to write a law specific to these innovations?” Dettelbach again acknowledged: “To that one? No.”

Brennan also pushed back slightly when Dettelbach claimed, “The leading cause of death of children in the United States is firearms violence.” This Biden administration talking point has been repeatedly debunked, even by The Washington Post. Brennan clarified, “This is kids and teenagers,” to which Dettelbach admitted, “Right.” Of course, included among those “teenagers” are young adults aged 18 and 19.

During the show-and-tell portion, there were moments sure to irk NRA members and other knowledgeable gun owners. Dettelbach described a 75-round AK drum magazine as a “75-round clip.” When discussing handguns equipped with illegal auto sears, Dettelbach used the term “kick-up” to describe the firearms’ recoil.

Chris Bort, the purported firearms expert, appeared to acknowledge that ATF’s tax-stamp procedure functions as a “waiting period.” Bort also had an observably difficult time disassembling a Glock handgun. After failing to disassemble one gun, Bort was able to disassemble a second. However, Bort then attempted to place the removed slide assembly onto a finished, unserialized frame to no avail. Glock pistols are a standard ATF duty sidearm.

Dettelbach also criticized cash firearm purchases. The ATF director encouraged FFLs to notify ATF when individuals in border states use large amounts of cash for firearms purchases, noting that in those circumstances there would be “no credit-card trail.”

Of course, the behavior of anti-gun groups and federal law enforcement has incentivized law-abiding gun owners who are justifiably concerned about their privacy to use cash for firearm purchases.

In September 2022, Amalgamated Bank successfully petitioned the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) to create a Merchant Category Code (MCC) for firearm retailers. MCCs enable payment processors and banks to categorize, monitor and collect data on various types of transactions. At the time, Amalgamated Bank noted that they intended to create a software algorithm that would use the MCC “to report suspicious activity and illegal gun sales to authorities.” The contours of what would be deemed “suspicious activity” were not articulated. As those purchasing firearms from retail establishments already undergo an FBI National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) check, such “suspicious activity” would clearly be aimed at otherwise lawful gun sales.

Since then, your NRA-ILA has successfully worked with a growing number of states to enact laws restricting the use of the firearm-retailer MCC, with Utah being the most recent state to do so. In March 2023, Visa and Mastercard paused implementation of the controversial code.

Further, Bank of America was recently the subject of a U.S. House of Representatives investigation for allegedly turning over to federal law enforcement customer credit- and debit-card information related to the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2020. In a May 25, 2023, letter to Bank of America’s CEO, Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) demanded information from the financial institution about its alleged sharing of firearm-purchase data with federal law enforcement. Citing whistleblower testimony, the letter stated, “BoA specifically provided information about Americans who exercised their Second Amendment right to purchase a firearm.”

Government agencies like ATF should never act as a taxpayer-funded political-policy lobbying arm of any anti-gun administration, let alone the most anti-gun administration to ever occupy the White House. That’s why your NRA-ILA is working through the legislative process, the courts, and the 2024 election cycle to ensure ATF no longer abuses its position as a federal agency to promote anti-Second Amendment policies—whether it be through media-driven lobbying for gun control like this “Face the Nation” broadcast or through ATF’s illegal attempts at enacting anti-gun laws through it rules-making authority. Depending on how a host of high-profile ongoing litigation comes out that challenges such rules, ATF could have a whole lot more to worry about than their legally required manual search techniques.


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