51 House Republicans Send Letter Accusing ATF Of Creating Backdoor Federal Gun Registry
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 22: US Attorney General Merrick Garland announces the launch of the Justice Departments five cross-jurisdictional trafficking strike forces at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) on July 22, 2021 in Washington, DC.
Jim Lo Scalzo – Pool/Getty Images

U.S. Representative Michael Cloud (R-TX) led a group of 51 Republicans who sent a letter to the acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives on Monday, alleging that the Biden administration is attempting to create a federal gun registry through backdoor policy enforcement, in violation of federal laws preventing the creation of such a registry.   

“Congress enacted a prohibition on the creation of a federal gun registry that could allow the government to target American citizens who own guns. We are concerned that this Administration is leveraging its power in a way to establish a federal gun registry,” the letter begins. 

“According to recently published documents, the ATF has collected 54.7 million records in FY 2021 alone,” Republicans noted. “Indeed, current regulations require FFLs (Federal Firearms Licensees) to send firearm transaction records to the ATF when an FFL goes out of business.” 

“However, Congress has also made it clear in the Firearms Owners’ Protection Act that the federal government shall not create a federal gun registry and has prohibited ATF from creating any centralized databases with its funding.”

“It is an outrage that the federal government would maintain such extensive records of law-abiding citizens’ law-abiding firearm transfers,” the members wrote. 

Republicans also concerned themselves with a proposed regulation that would surreptitiously pave the way for a federal gun registry by forcing gun dealers to keep permanent records of gun purchases and sales.

“For decades, FFLs have only been required to maintain firearm transaction records for 20 years, after which they can be destroyed,” the letter continues. “Many gun owners value the privacy afforded by the destruction of these records of their law-abiding firearm transfers after this period.” 

“However, the Administration’s proposed rulemaking ATF 2021R-05 would require FFLs to preserve all firearm transaction records [emphasis added]. This means that 100% of all lawful commercial firearm transfers would eventually end up in an ATF computer system, thereby creating a permanent database.”

“This gives us serious cause for concern that the Biden Administration is intent on creating a federal gun registry by circumventing the legislative process. In fact, a GAO (Government Accountability Office) report from 2016 was titled, ‘ATF Did Not Always Comply with the Appropriations Act Restriction and Should Better Adhere to Its Policies.’”

Taking those factors into account, Republicans posed five questions to the ATF head, asking for written responses:

  • “How many records does the ATF’s Out-of-Business Records Center (OOB) have in total?”
  • “How many of these records have been processed into a digitalized format?”
  • “How many firearm traces using these records were essential to the successful prosecution of a violent criminal in the last three years?” 
  • “In the case of each successful prosecution of a violent criminal, in what year was the essential firearm transfer record completed?”
  • “18 U.S. Code § 926 prohibits “any system of registration of firearms, firearms owners, or firearms transactions or dispositions [from] be[ing] established.” Explain in detail how the Out-of-Business Records Center policy combined with proposed rule change in ATF-2021R-05 does not violate the statutory restriction on a federal gun or gun owner registry.”

 “It is critical that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives does not use its power to encroach on the privacy of gun owners and restrict their Second Amendment rights,” the letter concludes. 

Notable names among the 51 signers of the letter include Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie, New Jersey Rep. Jeff Van Drew, Texas Reps. Ronny Jackson and Chip Roy, Arizona Rep. Andy Biggs, Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert, New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, Utah Rep. Burgess Owens, and North Carolina Rep. Madison Cawthorn.

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