Last Wednesday, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives issued a behemoth 108-page notice of proposed rulemaking regarding licensing requirements for firearm dealers. At the direction of the Biden-Harris administration, ATF is interested in changing the legal definition of the phrase “engaged in the business,” with the intent of requiring a federal firearms license for a wider range of transactions. This is all very boring procedural stuff that other writers have covered much more skillfully than I can, so this post instead covers an aspect of the proposed rule change that I haven’t seen discussed yet.
It’s no secret that fans of gun control have long held a universal registration scheme as one of their most significant policy objectives. History has repeatedly shown that registration is a tool which gives the State more power to enforce other forms of gun control, up to and including outright confiscation. The civilian disarmament complex ardently wants this type of system in place, but several factors presently prevent them from making that happen. ATF isn’t allowed to create a searchable electronic database because the Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986 (FOPA) explicitly prohibits it. Congress won’t pass a registration law repealing the FOPA because there isn’t a large enough solidly anti-gun voting bloc to push it through—several legislators have been known to sign “moderate” gun control bills but balk at some of the more extreme measures. Finally, even if a registration bill were to become law, the court system would likely (hopefully) strike it down as a violation of the Second Amendment.
What does all that have to do with a change to rules surrounding dealers, though? Well, take a look at how this administration has treated FFLs as a whole. Their infamous “zero-tolerance” policy has caused a 500% increase in the number of FFL revocations, some over minor paperwork errors that ATF field agents would ordinarily help correct. Under orders from President Biden, ATF treats spelling mistakes on firearm transaction records with similar severity to deliberate arms trafficking. After trying to take away as many licenses as possible, then, why push to force more people to obtain licenses?
A likely answer is that this is an effort to create an enforcement framework that can later be used as justification for a registration law. The proposed rule change will require a license for so many firearm transfers that private transactions will become nearly illegal. Later on, lawmakers will be able to point to this enforcement framework and say that it effectively amounts to a registration or licensing requirement, so one codified into law wouldn’t be a major change.
As always, this action on the part of the federal government is a backdoor attempt at imposing more unconstitutional gun control without having to go through the proper legislative channels. Given that most criminals already obtain their firearms through illegal means, it will do little if anything to promote public safety. In a regulatory environment like this, Governor Newsom doesn’t need his stupid proposed constitutional amendment to export California-style gun control to the rest of the country—the White House will do it for him.