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ATF's rifle sales reporting requirement shenanigans look stranger all the time

No--YOU stop
No--YOU stop
Photo © Oleg Volk. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

National Gun Rights Examiner David Codrea noted early this month that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was apparently making a stealthy move to expand their already onerous multiple rifle sales reporting requirement in the four southwest border states into a nationwide program. This column noted that such an expansion would be in direct conflict with one of the reasons the requirement was ostensibly "reasonable" in the first place: because it would affect only a limited number of gun dealers.

The requirement, dating back to 2011, calls for gun dealers in the states of California, New Mexico, Arizona and Texas to report to the BATFE every time they sell more than one semi-automatic, detachable magazine-fed rifle over .22 caliber to the same purchaser within five days. This "bulk sales" (yep--two is "bulk" now) reporting requirement would supposedly help the BATFE interdict gun trafficking to Mexico. The BATFE even used their own "Project Gunwalker" gun trafficking operation to pad the numbers as justification for this requirement. That the BATFE would eventually move to expand this requirement nationwide is hardly surprising, and in fact was close to inevitable.

It should be noted that there is some doubt that what is being proposed now is actually an expansion of scope, from the four border states to nationwide, as opposed to merely an extension of the duration of the requirement. The more "innocent" interpretation is possible, but several factors argue against it. Most obviously, of course, is that the current proposal makes no mention of any particular states, as in the original proposal back in 2010. Federal government bureaucrats are no more adverse to saving themselves labor than anyone else--why not simply copy and paste the old language, unless a different effect is being sought this time?

Another point is that there does not seem to be anything in the original reporting rule imposing a "sunset" date on the requirement. Why would the BATFE feel compelled to ask for an extension when there was no reason that they would have to stop, even without specific approval to continue? The BATFE has a definite tendency to err on the side of assuming more power than they actually have, not less. Finally, whatever the BATFE's intent, if this proposal is approved, they would now have the power to demand these reports from every gun dealer in the country.

But alert reader Chris Meissen noticed another qualifier that was in the original proposal, and missing in the current one. In this proposal, there is no mention that the multiple sales have to be to the same purchaser, as is explicitly stated in the original proposal. In other words, if the BATFE gets its way, it can demand sales details from every gun store that sells two or more so-called "assault weapons" in a five-day period--no matter if each is sold to separate purchasers.

Again, why change the language of the proposal, unless you are proposing something different? And again, even if the BATFE is not seeking the power to enforce such a requirement, if the proposal is approved, they will have it--and this is not an organization known for refraining from use of every bit of power it can get its hands on.

Gun Owners of America has a couple suggestions for action that each and every one of us can take to nip this monstrosity in the bud. Let's do it.