AmmoLand News partnered with data scientist Wes Scoggin to analyze the public comments on the proposed rule that would redefine who the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) considers a “gun dealer.”
The new rule is a backdoor to universal background checks. Anyone who sells a gun and makes a profit could potentially require a federal firearms license (FFL). Also, the ATF could consider anyone selling more than one of a single type of firearm to be a gun dealer. The ATF claims that the Bi-partisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA) gives them the authority to change the rules surrounding dealers.
The BSCA was a bill passed through Congress with the support of Republicans such as John Cornyn and was signed into law by President Joe Biden. It has been the centerpiece of the President’s gun control agenda. Republicans ignored warnings from pro-gun groups that the Democrats would exploit the law.
The comment section of previously proposed ATF rules has been overwhelming pro-gun. This time, support of the proposed rule is lopsided in favor of the ATF change. Currently, over 96% of the comments implore the Government to enact the new rule.
The disparity between the comments for the proposed rule and those against the new rule could be for a few different reasons. One reason could be that gun owners do not believe their comments will make a difference. Although a great majority of public comments on the last two ATF rules opposed the changes, the ATF ignored many of the concerns and enacted new restrictions on the rights of Americans.
Mr. Scoggin and AmmoLand News investigated the comments to see why the statistics are so lopsided in favor of the new rule. The discovery shows that the vast majority of the comments favoring the ATF proposed rule were identical.
We tracked down the text of the comments to an Astroturf campaign by Brady United. Ninety-eight percent of the comments backing the change read:
“I strongly support the proposed rule to ensure that individuals who are ‘engaged in the business’ of selling firearms are licensed, thus requiring them to complete background checks for all firearm sales and maintain records of those transactions, and that dealers who have lost their licenses may no longer sell firearms to the public. A recent study found that more than 1 in 5 gun sales in the U.S. are conducted without a background check, amounting to millions of off-the-books gun transfers annually; many of these transactions are facilitated by individuals who profit from the repetitive sale of firearms yet avoid the necessary oversight required of licensed dealers.
“This is a public health and safety issue, and I urge the Department of Justice and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to finalize the rule in order to prevent firearm transfers to prohibited purchasers and ensure that individuals who are selling guns for profit are licensed, regulated, and engage in responsible business practices.”
The anti-gun group launched an email campaign on September 9, which coincides with the bump to the pro-gun control comments.
The email contains a link that allows anyone on its mailing list to submit a comment to the Federal Register by just filling out their name and clicking a single button. Brady runs the campaign through a website plugin called “fastaction.” The whole process takes the user less than 30 seconds to complete.
“It seems that this go-round that the anti-gun organizations are showing up early to flood the comments on the new ATF docket,” Scoggin told AmmoLand. “With their ‘fastaction’ branded one-click comment scheme, it would seem there is an effort to outpace any opposing comments to the rule change.
There seemed to be an emerging trend at the end of last year’s public comment window for the Frame and Brace dockets. We saw a spike in what appeared to be canned responses from these same groups, and that seems to be the case from the very beginning of this docket posting last year in the gun-related docket comment periods that have accelerated from the beginning of the comment window.”
The rule will most likely happen no matter what the final statistics show. The danger of not commenting is that the Biden Administration will exploit the lopsidedness of the comments to argue in court that most Americans support the change. Even though interest balancing is supposed to be a thing of the past after the Bruen decision, judges might still be subconsciously or even consciously persuaded by the statistics.
Not all hope is lost. The comment period is still open, and gun owners can make their voices heard. AmmoLand News strongly encourages its readers to send a message to the ATF and the Biden Administration that the rule should not go into effect. We might not be able to stop the change, but we can take away a talking point from the anti-gun side and prevent the Brady Astroturf campaign from succeeding in cooking the books.
AmmoLand has prepared a comment that readers can submit to the ATF. If you choose to write your own comment, remember to stick to the facts, as they are always on gun owners’ side.
“I strongly oppose the proposed rule that redefines who is “engaged in the business” of selling firearms. The new rule will burden American gun owners by creating a grey area where they can inadvertently break the law.
The new requirement circumvents Congress by creating a de facto universal background check rule. Congress has chosen to leave background check laws for private gun sales to the state governments. This rule will override the authority of the states with overburdensome federal regulations and strip state’s rights.
The regulation will not make us any safer. The vast majority of guns used in crimes are stolen. States that have enacted universal background checks did not see any reduction of crimes committed with firearms. I strongly encourage the government to work on real solutions to solve the epidemic of violent crime and stop using firearms as a scapegoat for failed policies.”
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.