Inside The War On Your Gun Stores Manufacturers

by
posted on April 22, 2024
gun manufactures at convention
Photos (clockwise): Forrest MacCormack; Peter Fountain; Nathan Blow/Getty; Peter Fountain

President Joe Biden (D) hasn’t been able to pass the gun bans and confiscation schemes he desires, so he has been using the authority of his pen, and of the government agencies he oversees, to destroy gun manufacturers and gun stores.

This way, must go his logic, if people don’t have a local place to shop for firearms, ammunition and accessories, then some percentage of citizens will surely give up on being gun owners. Meanwhile, if guns and ammo—and permits and more—are made onerously expensive due to high fees, taxes, burdensome regulations and what should be frivolous lawsuits, then yet more citizens will be priced out of exercising this freedom.

By thus going around the democratic process, gun-ban advocates hope to reduce gun ownership culturally. If ownership is reduced enough, and if enough people who don’t choose to own firearms are swayed by the propaganda from the gun-control Left, then it will be much easier for them to politically reduce this right to nothing more than 200-plus-year-old words on parchment.

Biden indicated this was his mindset when, just prior to the 2020 election, he called gun makers and gun dealers “the enemy.”

Also, to sell this view of America to voters, he has consistently implied that many, if not most, gun stores are “rogue gun dealers,” and has accused them of putting guns “into the hands of criminals.”

Indeed, with his “enemy” defined, Biden has repeatedly empowered the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to use “zero-tolerance” policies to imperil lawful gun dealers. As part of this scheme, Biden’s ATF has even used minor paperwork errors as an excuse to shut down gun stores. Incredibly, the ATF is now more than happy to boast about shutting down gun stores.

A Single Typo Can Now Imperil a Gun Store
On June 23, 2021, the Biden administration announced a new policy of “zero tolerance for rogue gun dealers that willfully violate the law.” The policy further specified that, “absent extraordinary circumstances that would need to be justified to the Director, ATF will seek to revoke the licenses of dealers the first time that they violate federal law ... .” They might even do this, for example, because someone accidentally reversed digits in a serial number.

Following that, the ATF updated its Federal Firearms Licensee Quick Reference and Best Practices Guide. The updated guide makes it clear that the “ATF will, absent extraordinary circumstances, initiate proceedings to revoke the license of any dealer that has committed a willful regulatory violation of the Gun Control Act (GCA) for specified violations.”

The Justice Department’s so-called “zero-tolerance” policy for even small paperwork errors has forced many gun sellers out of business, according to Larry Keane, general counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF).

“What we have seen is many, many instances where in the past ATF would have worked with the dealer to educate them on the mistakes they made—because they weren’t really truthfully willful, they were paperwork errors, somebody made a mistake—now they’re revoking their license,” Keane told A1F in a January 2024 interview. “We also see a lot of licensees who get inspected, and then ATF pressures them to surrender their licenses in lieu of going through a revocation hearing. We’ve seen a big increase in that as well, and that’s troubling.”

Keane said another result of the “zero-tolerance” policy is a breakdown of the long relationship between gun sellers and the ATF in catching those who break laws governing firearms purchases.

gun convention floor“Dealers are the number-one source of information to the ATF that leads to trafficking investigations,” he said. “If you’re a dealer now, why are you going to invite any scrutiny by the ATF that might result in you losing your license?

“Gun dealers used to be viewed as the ATF’s partner, and the ATF gives lip service to that. But that’s just not the feeling that FFLs have now. I would say that the relationship between the ATF and the [firearms] industry is really at a low in my almost 25 years of working at the NSSF.”

Indeed, the ATF recently released updated data that proves Biden wasn’t bluffing when he said he would wield his authority like a hammer against the firearms industry. According to the report, in 2023, the ATF revoked 157 federal firearms licenses following an inspection, nearly twice as many as the 88 licenses revoked in 2022. In the last six months of 2021, only five licenses were revoked. This war on gun retailers, which lawful gun owners depend on to practice their Second Amendment-protected rights, has resulted in destroyed businesses, lost jobs and ruined lives.

“All this adds up to the ATF carrying out a politically driven agenda to drive firearm retailers out of business, rather than the ATF inspection process being used as it was designed—to assist firearm retailers to operate their lawful business in compliance with the laws and regulations governing the sale of firearms,” said Keane.

As if running dealers with minor violations out of business weren’t enough, the ATF report even listed the names of all the dealers whose licenses were revoked and included the report and revocation documents for each revoked license.

Under Biden’s war on the gun industry, the ATF has turned many gun dealers—most of which were happy to work with the agency to fight crime in the past—into adversaries of the agency instead of allies.

“The Biden administration has weaponized the ATF as a tool to dismantle the firearms industry instead of preserving the relationship with the agency that regulates the firearm industry to operate lawfully,” said Keane. “Zero tolerance has unfortunately damaged the cooperation between firearms retailers and the ATF’s special agents.”

Biden Also Wants to Sue Gun Makers Out of Business
Another one of the administration’s schemes has been to lobby to revoke the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), a 2005 law that protects gun makers and gun dealers from frivolous lawsuits over criminal misuse of their legally made and legally sold products. When a criminal harms someone, the criminal-justice system is supposed to try to arrest and prosecute the individuals evidence shows are responsible; instead, Biden wants to sue the makers and sellers of tools even when they are lawfully made and sold. This is like suing car makers or distilleries because some irresponsible person got drunk, got behind a wheel and harmed others.

In the late 1990s, Andrew Cuomo, Bill Clinton’s Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), was encouraging lawsuits against gun manufacturers for the illegal misuse of lawfully made products. At the time, Cuomo was trying to make gun manufacturers the “next tobacco,” even though, unlike cigarettes, when used properly, firearms aren’t a danger to  the user and, in fact, can be used to protect people. Cuomo even warned gun companies that if they didn’t cooperate, they’d suffer a “death by a thousand cuts.”

Those lawsuits prompted Congress to pass the PLCAA. The law protects firearm manufacturers and dealers from being held liable when crimes have been committed with products that were legally made and sold.

gun convention floorYet President Biden, and other gun-ban advocates, often lie about the law. Biden has repeatedly said that repealing it is a top priority. “If I get one thing on my list, if the Lord came down and said, ‘Joe, you get one of these,’ give me that one,” Biden said about repealing the PLCAA during an April 2021 Rose Garden ceremony.

Unlike what Biden and other gun-ban advocates repeatedly state, however, both gun manufacturers and dealers can still be held liable for damages resulting from defective products, breach of contract, criminal misconduct and other illegal actions for which they are directly responsible. But they’ll never tell you that.

Perhaps the biggest benefactor of a repeal of the PLCAA would be a group of people who represent one of the president’s largest donor groups: trial lawyers.

These Attacks Have Real Consequences
RISE Armament, located in Broken Arrow, Okla., is a manufacturer of top-quality AR-style rifles, along with triggers and other gun parts. According to company president Matt Torres, the unprecedented assault on gun makers by the Biden administration and other anti-Second Amendment politicians should be a concern to all Americans.

Torres said that if Biden and company are successful in this effort to repeal the PLCAA, then it would raise the cost of doing business for firearms manufacturers greatly, and in ways other than just having to hire a whole office full of lawyers to defend against the frivolous lawsuits in court. Considering that manufacturers would be held responsible for the judgment of people they’ve never met but who have purchased their products, finding a company to insure gun makers would likely become impossible.

“I would have to imagine that if we could find insurance companies, it would be very expensive,” said Torres. “It’s already bad enough. A lot of insurance companies will not insure us because we’re in the gun industry. And the ones that do require that we have a lot of different policies and procedures in place to meet their policy requirements.

“According to the Biden administration, if you get fewer guns in the hands of citizens, then it’s easier to control the people,” said Torres.

In another example, Brandon Wexler has operated WEX Gunworks in Delray Beach, Fla., for the last 15 years. Since the Biden administration came to power, his and other retailers’ ability to make a living has become increasingly difficult.

Biden’s “zero-tolerance” policy for even small paperwork errors has put more pressure on Wexler, just as it has on other retailers. Also, in an effort to further distance itself from the gun industry, Wells Fargo dropped WEX as a customer after 25 years. Wexler was told this was because of anti-gun pressure from the administration and other gun-ban advocates. Then, when Wexler did some media interviews discussing the discriminatory banking situation, the social-media company Instagram disabled his account. He had been keeping in constant touch with 70,000 followers on Instagram.

While continuing the battle of staying in business, Wexler is concerned about the Biden administration’s demonization of manufacturers and retailers. The push to repeal the PLCAA is particularly troubling to him.

“Of course, my business would be gone,” he said. “They’re trying to shut down manufacturers completely, and that must not happen. They’re doing anything and everything they can do to eliminate freedom and to make us become Australia.”

They Also Want to Blame Gun Dealers for This
The administration’s proclivity to blame straw purchases on gun sellers is another attack used to further demonize those who sell firearms. But, as NSSF’s Keane pointed out, when a straw purchase does occur, it’s not the fault of gun sellers.

gun convention floor“It’s a straw purchase,” Keane said. “That’s illegal. That doesn’t mean it’s an illegal sale. They’re deceiving the dealer on the paperwork. But it’s just assumed that the dealer’s the bad guy because someone lied on the form. Dealers don’t have crystal balls.”

To add insult to injury, the same politicians and bureaucrats who blame straw sales on dealers, and make them out to be bad guys, often release the real bad guys with little more than a slap on the wrist.

“We have long been frustrated by the fact that when you see somebody arrested and prosecuted for straw purchasing, the sentences are laughable,” said Keane. “I mean [they get] probation or a couple of months. ‘Wait a second, the law says they can get up to 10 years. And you’re giving them probation when they participated in an illegal straw purchase that put a gun in the hands of a bad guy? That’s ridiculous to us.”

Incidentally, most criminals don’t purchase their guns from licensed dealers. Also, despite the assertion by Biden and other gun-ban advocates, the ATF’s own records prove the time between a gun purchase and its use in a crime is quite long. The ATF’s time-to-crime figures measure the amount of time from when a gun is legally purchased from a dealer to when it is used in a crime. According 2022 figures, the average national “time to crime” is 6.34 years, which could indicate that the person who initially purchased the firearm was not the one who later committed a crime with it. It would seem possible that such a gun had passed through several hands before it was used in a crime and may have even been stolen from the original purchaser.

Still, the administration’s open season on gun dealers has emboldened others. It has even spilled over into Mexican politics. Mexico is suing gun makers and some Arizona gun sellers for “arming” drug cartels. Recently, a U.S. federal judge ruled that the lawsuit could go forward.

“This idea that the industry is somehow purposely marketing guns to the cartels is absolutely absurd, patently false and highly offensive,” said Keane. “The border with Mexico is not controlled by the Mexican government; it’s controlled by the cartels. These are not guns sold legally in Mexico. They’re being smuggled into Mexico by criminals.”

As for the gun sellers being sued by the Mexican government, Keane said all five have a long history of working with the ATF to stop straw purchases and other illegal sales.

“I know for a fact, talking to former ATF agents, that those dealers regularly, and have for a very long time, cooperated with the ATF and have provided the ATF with information that led to trafficking investigations,” he said. “The notion that those particular dealers are somehow purposely or willingly selling guns to drug cartels is demonstrably false.”

They Are Even Stopping Gun Sales in This Novel Way
The administration, in an attempt to keep its efforts to restrict so-called “assault weapons” front and center, has even gone so far as to use the federal Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) to further hurt gun manufacturers. Last November, the BIS announced it was putting a 90-day “pause” on the export of firearms to much of the world.

gun convention floorThe export ban wasn’t released publicly, but instead was included in a “Frequently Asked Questions” document posted online late on a Friday afternoon when it would be less likely to be noticed. Since then, BIS has been working on implementing a policy to keep the ban in effect.

“They will put out some kind of policy that will make it more difficult for the industry to export firearms to countries that want them, and that the government of that country has signed off on the import of the firearms,” said Keane. “They’re going to target semi-automatic firearms. And they hide behind the claim that this is all ‘national security,’ when Commerce’s job is not national security, it’s to promote commerce and exports by the United States.”

Biden has even created a new White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention and named Vice President Kamala Harris (D) to head up the effort. In its first order of business, last December, the office hosted nearly 100 Democrat lawmakers from 39 states to encourage them to pass more-restrictive firearms laws.

Demonizing gun makers and gun dealers was included in the plan. Under the header “Hold the Gun Industry Accountable,” Biden sought to enlist the help of anti-gun state lawmakers in his continued attempt to weaken or repeal the PLCAA.

“The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act merely prohibits lawsuits against the gun industry for the criminal misuse of their products by a third party. Suits against the industry for knowingly unlawful sales, negligent entrustment and those predicated on traditional products liability grounds are still permitted,” said Randy Kozuch, executive director of the NRA Institute for Legislative Action. “While it is often described as providing ‘extraordinary immunity’ to the firearm industry, in fact, the PLCAA merely protects the firearm industry from attacks that attempt to expose it to extraordinary liability. Make no mistake, the only reason to seek the repeal of the PLCAA is to destroy the American firearm industry, and, with it, the right to keep and bear arms. Stopping this attack is why the NRA fought for the PLCAA in the first place.”

Such is why voters must realize, when they cast ballots for candidates at every level of government, they are also voting on whether to allow gun manufacturers and dealers to be further targeted for extinction by gun-control advocates.

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