From the east coast to the Pacific Northwest, the past week once again confirmed that Democrat political leaders prefer to address the serious problem of gun crime in America as a political rather than a law enforcement and mental health problem.
In Washington state, Democrat Gov. Jay Inslee signed a law outlawing the sale of AR-style rifles. Inslee wrongly but sanctimoniously stated that such “weapons of war” have as their “only purpose” murdering people. Conveniently ignored by the Governor is the fact that the AR is the most popular rifle in the country, used regularly by millions of law-abiding citizens for competition, hunting, and self-defense.
In the nearby, and also Democrat-led state of Colorado, Gov. Jared Polis lamented that he was not yet legislatively empowered to outlaw the same rifle, but pompously declared that by forcing citizens in the state to wait three days before being permitted to exercise their constitutionally guaranteed right to purchase a firearm, he was making it “safe” for them to go to the grocery store.
Last week also, on Capitol Hill testimony by the Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) made clear that today’s ATF remains more concerned with finding ways to limit the lawful ownership of firearms and accessories, than in meeting its avowed mission “to protect communities from violent criminals, criminal organizations, [and] acts of terrorism.”
For example, during his April 26th appearance before the House Judiciary Committee, ATF Director Steve Dettlebach was asked how the agency intended in the future to enforce the agency’s new, self-dictated regulation on so-called arm or “stabilizing” braces, which as of May 31st will become illegal to possess. Such questions made perfect sense considering that ATF had previously and quite publicly flip-flopped when asked whether attaching a brace to a pistol transformed it into a regulated “short barrel rifle.”
Pistol stabilizing braces had been developed in 2012 primarily to help disabled shooters fire a pistol accurately with one arm. When ATF was asked whether the pistols thus outfitted would be considered by the government to still be lawful to possess without a federal permit, ATF said they would be considered pistols and not short-barrel rifles.
Notwithstanding this record of inconsistency and the failure to articulate any meaningful reason why a stabilizing brace has suddenly been deemed so dangerous as to outlaw, the Biden Administration now has made it a priority to criminalize the mere possession of such a pistol; and Dettlebach refused to provide clarity as to exactly how it will enforce such a confusing edict.
Nearly 200 Members of Congress have lent their name as cosponsors to a measure, H. J. Res. 44, that would prevent the ATF’s self-made rule on stabilizing pistol braces from taking effect, but the Biden Administration remains committed to doing everything it can through executive actions including ATF rulemaking, to limit the ability of law-abiding citizens, including disabled veterans, to own and use firearms.
ATF, and its parent agency the U.S. Department of Justice, has employed regulatory legerdemain in other recent moves to limit firearms accessories. In 2019, for example, when the Congress failed to pass legislation making “bump stocks” illegal, rule makers at ATF simply revised the definition of a “machine gun” to include a bump stock (which is a piece of molded plastic polymer). That clever, but ridiculous maneuver was struck down in January by a federal appeals court; a ruling the Biden Administration is appealing.
ATF has existed in some form since the late 19th Century, and in fact counts many highly trained firearms experts among its personnel and who can, and do assist law enforcement agencies at all levels in solving many serious crimes involving guns. The agency’s ballistics and firearms identification technology is cutting-edge.
However, when ATF allows itself to be used as a vehicle to further political agendas targeting exercise of Americans’ Second Amendment rights, it loses the confidence of the American people and the firearms industry it regulates.
Similarly, if Blue-State governors such as Inslee and Polis focused on improving law enforcement and mental health facilities in their states, rather than restricting the ability of law-abiding citizens to possess firearms for self-defense and other lawful purposes, communities in those and other states would be far safer.
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.