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ATF's proposed reporting requirement expansion illustrates 'slippery slope'

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National Gun Rights Examiner David Codrea reported last evening that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has been stealthily preparing to expand its requirement for gun dealers to report multiple long gun nationwide. The existing requirement to report sales within five days to the same buyer of two or more semi-automatic, detachable magazine-fed rifles of greater than .22 caliber has to date been limited to the four southwest border states of California, New Mexico, Arizona and Texas.

The existing requirement, readers my remember, is not a matter of law, passed by Congress. The reporting requirement was imposed by raw executive fiat. A similar requirement for multiple handgun purchases, in contrast, is mandated by federal law. A blatantly unconstitutional law, to be sure, but at least that requirement has the thin veneer of legitimacy of having received the blessing of Congress.

Oddly, the BATFE is well aware of the fact that it is not empowered to formulate the laws it enforces, or at least that's what the agency tells children, on the BATFE's "kids' page" (kids have to learn about tyranny sometime, one supposes):

ATF cannot enact a law, nor can it amend the law.

The other interesting aspect of this is that by expanding the reporting requirement nationwide, the BATFE seems to have decided it no longer needs one of the major arguments that supposedly justified the requirement in the first place--that by virtue of being limited to just those four states, the reporting requirement is not overly onerous. As the BATFE itself stated (in a document no longer on the Bureau's website, and only available via the "Wayback Machine"):

The estimated number of potential respondents is 8,479. In fiscal year 2010, 36,148 reports of multiple sales of hand guns sales were submitted by 2,509 FFLs in the four southwest border states. Because the specified rifles ((a) semi-automatic; (b) a caliber greater than .22 (including .223/5.56 caliber); and (c) the ability to accept a detachable magazine) are a subset of the long gun category, we estimate we will receive 18,074 (that is, one-half of the multiple sales reports for handguns received from licensees in the four southwest border states in 2010) reports of multiple sale of the specified rifles from FFLs located in the four southwest border states from a similar number of FFLs. We estimate that each report will take 12 minutes to complete. If we receive 18,074 reports from 2,509 licensees the total burden is 3,615 hours.

Furthermore, when challenged in court, the requirement was defended on the grounds that its being limited to only four states somehow made it acceptable. Specifically, in response to the objection that this requirement is a de facto gun registry. From Politico:

However, the third judge on the panel, Karen Henderson, noted that Congress has passed budget riders prohibiting a national gun registry. She noted that only about 7 percent of the gun dealers in the U.S. are covered by the ATF reporting rule.

When the courts later upheld the requirement, the geographical limitation was again cited as evidence that the BATFE was acting within its authority. From ABC News (emphasis added):

In her ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Rosemary Collyer wrote, “Congress has effected a delicate balance between ATF’s regulation of firearms and the right to privacy held by lawful firearms owners. ATF’s Demand Letter did not disturb that balance. Because the Demand Letter was limited to only certain sales of certain guns in certain states, ATF did not exceed its authority.

And now, the BATFE evidently believes it no longer needs even that dubious justification. If not, is there any reason to believe they will feel the need to limit themselves to "certain rifles," as Judge Collyer describes detachable magazine-fed, semi-automatic rifles of greater than .22 caliber? Maybe the existence of the .204 Ruger cartridge means that "greater than .22 caliber" will be seen as too limiting. Maybe "bullet buttons" and ARMagLocks mean that the BATFE will decide it should not limit itself to requiring the reporting of only detachable-magazine fed firearms.

The forcible citizen disarmament zealots incessantly mock the "paranoia" of gun rights advocates who warn of the "slippery slope" of oppressive gun regulation. Being shown yet another example of that slippery slope in action will do nothing to change that.

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