by Bob Barr
Emperor Nero is said to have fiddled while Rome burned. President Joe Biden does not even offer the American people the benefit of music while cities across our country are aflame in murders.
Instead, the president has decided to target for punishment the one group of businesses in the front line of ensuring that firearms do not fall into the hands of criminals: Federal Firearms Licensees or “FFLs,” which includes businesses engaged in the retail sales of firearms and ammunition.
These businesses are heavily regulated by government at all levels, most especially the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). The regulatory regimen each of these tens of thousands of businesses must follow in order not to lose their federally issued license to sell firearms includes maintaining detailed records for every firearm that comes into or leaves their possession. The businesses are subject to periodic, often unannounced visits by ATF personnel who can demand access to their records and inventory.
Every firearm sold by an FFL must be accompanied by a federal form meticulously filled out by the prospective purchaser, double-checked by the salesperson and then submitted electronically or by phone to the FBI for a background check before the purchaser may take possession of the gun. Additionally, it is a federal felony offense for an FFL to permit a so-called “straw purchase,” that is, allowing the purchaser of record to buy the gun for someone else not lawfully qualified to possess it.
These myriad requirements apply whether the firearm is a .22 caliber derringer, a 12-ga. pump shotgun or an AR-15 rifle, which is by far the most popular rifle owned by millions of law-abiding citizens.
Although the AR-15 is rarely used by criminals, this administration remains fixated on the AR-15, which it has labeled a “weapon of war,” notwithstanding the rifle is not standard issue for U.S. armed forces for the simple reason it is not capable of automatic fire (unless illegally modified).
To state that the firearms retail business is a highly regulated practice would be a major understatement, and the vast majority of FFLs take their responsibility extremely seriously. Many require multiple checkpoints between a prospective purchaser completing the requisite federal form (known as a Form 4473) and leaving the store with their new firearm. As in any business, of course, mistakes occasionally do happen, but the last thing any FFL wants is to learn that a firearm sold by their business was used in a crime.
The thanks that firearms retailers now receive from the Biden administration for diligently policing gun sales, is to be demonized. Last week, Biden took a momentary break from repeating the canard that the AR-15 is the major culprit in gun crimes, to announce a “zero tolerance” program to put “rogue” FFLs out of business. There is no factual or reasoned connection between violent crime rates, especially murder, and federally licensed gun stores, but recognizing this fact would cloud Biden’s drive to be crowned the toughest anti-gun president in history.
The facts on murder rates as but one example of how violent crime has risen since the start of 2020, are sobering even if ignored by this administration.
Among major metropolitan areas, for example, murder rates last year increased 95% in Milwaukee, 73% in Minneapolis, 62% in New Orleans, 74% in Seattle, and 78% in Louisville. In my hometown of Atlanta, the increase was more modest at “only” 58%. The overwhelming majority (some 75%) of murders are committed by criminals using a firearm, and most of the guns so used were obtained unlawfully and not from FFLs.
Despite this reality, Biden, along with his pick to head ATF, the avowed gun control advocate David Chipman, invariably opt for the cheap, but inaccurate headline rather than addressing the difficult problems underlying increases in violent crime.
Were he truly interested in tackling violent crime, Biden would sit down with those on the front line dealing with these matters, including among others and most importantly, law enforcement leaders (and not only those who support him politically). The President would be well advised also to consult with and listen to firearms retailers, who are as concerned as anyone with stopping violent crime and who actually are in a position to help.
Unfortunately, Biden prefers to demonize these potential allies rather than seek their assistance.
Bob Barr represented Georgia’s Seventh District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003. He served as the United States Attorney in Atlanta from 1986 to 1990 and was an official with the CIA in the 1970s. He now practices law in Atlanta, Georgia and serves as head of Liberty Guard.