WASHINGTON — Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Energy Policy, and Regulatory Affairs Chairman Pat Fallon (R-Texas) opened today’s joint subcommittee hearing by slamming the Biden Administration’s recent actions infringing upon Americans’ Second Amendment rights. Subcommittee Chairman Fallon highlighted how under the Biden Administration, the ATF has been weaponized against law-abiding gun owners and Americans who wish to acquire firearms. He emphasized how the ATF’s recent final rule related to stabilizing braces upends over a decade of precedent and could turn law-abiding gun owners into criminals unless they comply. Subcommittee Chairman Fallon closed by urging the Biden Administration to go after actual criminals rather than Americans exercising their Second Amendment rights.
Below are Subcommittee Chairman Fallon’s remarks as prepared:
Good morning, and welcome to today’s joint hearing with the Oversight and Accountability Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Energy Policy, and Regulatory Affairs and the Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Crime and Federal Government Surveillance.
I thank Chairman Biggs and his staff for joining us in this critical oversight hearing to explore and expose government overreach at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives or ATF.
The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution plainly states that “…the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
Shall. Not. Be. Infringed.
Ever since President Biden took office, his administration has actively sought to infringe on this right.
I am deeply concerned about the ATF’s recent actions against firearm manufacturers, Federal Firearms Licensees or FFL’s, and law-abiding Americans who wish to procure and use firearms.
Under the Biden Administration, the ATF has been weaponized against gun owners and Americans who wish to acquire firearms in numerous ways in recent years.
The ATF issued the “Frame or Receiver” final rule in April 2022, infringing on Americans’ ability to assemble their own firearms from component parts.
More recently, the ATF issued a final rule at the end of January 2023 that will have the effect of criminalizing the possession of stabilizing braces in most instances, even though those braces were lawful to possess for over a decade by ATF’s own guidance.
These braces were originally designed to assist disabled veterans who were physically unable to utilize traditional pistols for self-defense or to enjoy recreational firearm activities. The Congressional Research Service estimates that there are approximately 40 million of these devices in circulation.
On November 26, 2012—over a decade ago during the Obama Administration—the ATF’s Firearms Technology Branch issued a letter to Mr. Alex Bosco, one of our witnesses here today and the inventor of the stabilizing brace.
That letter clearly stated that ATF “finds that the submitted forearm brace, when attached to a firearm, does not convert that weapon to be fired from the shoulder and would not alter the classification of a pistol or other firearm.” It also stated, that “such a firearm would not be subject to [National Firearms Act or NFA] controls.” “Would not be” is even underlined in the letter.
Millions of people acquired stabilizing braces, relying on ATFs determination, made over a decade ago under the Obama Administration, that these ingenious devices were perfectly legal and did not convert a firearm into a short barrel rifle subject to NFA controls.
Now, anyone who has a stabilizing brace will be committing a crime after May 31, 2023 unless they permanently remove and dispose of the stabilizing brace, turn in their firearm to a local ATF office, destroy the firearm, or try to obtain an NFA registration through a byzantine process that includes marking the firearm so it can be traced.
This rule will effectively turn many lawful gun owners into criminals if they fail to comply, even though Congress did not act to pass any new criminal laws or penalties related to stabilizing braces.
In addition to these overreaching regulations, ATF has abused its enforcement authority at the direction of President Biden and other gun control advocates who simply don’t care about the Second Amendment or the proper role of government.
In June of 2021, President Biden directed the Department of Justice to adopt a zero-tolerance policy when inspecting firearms merchants known as Federal Firearms Licenses or FFLs, and to revoke their license for ANY violation no matter how minor or unintentional.
This policy led to the ATF revoking licenses on the basis of small and technical paperwork errors without any showing of intent, pattern, practice, or materiality. Revocations have skyrocketed. In 2022 alone, the ATF revoked 90 licenses—more than any year since 2006.
A consequence of revoking this license is the ATF’s authority to seize and store that merchant’s business records in the National Tracing Center as out-of-business records. These documents are then digitally scanned for archival purposes.
ATF alleges that these records will not be searched electronically despite being digitized, but many Americans are concerned that these records could be easily used to create an unlawful gun registry prohibited by the 1986 Firearms Protection Act.
With crime spiking across the country, law-abiding Americans are buying firearms at a rate not previously seen in our nation’s history.
In 2020, the Federal Bureau of Investigation processed a record 39.7 million background checks for the legal purchase of a firearm.
Unfortunately, the actions taken by the ATF have clearly demonstrated that the agency has changed its focus from those who commit crime to law-abiding Americans who wish to exercise their Constitutional rights.
Instead of going after actual criminals, ATF—by changing the rules without any input from Congress—is trying to turn law abiding citizens into criminals. It’s unacceptable, unfair, and unconstitutional.
This hearing will examine how the Biden Administration’s ATF has engaged in a host of practices to chip away at our Constitutional right to keep and bear arms.
I thank the witnesses for appearing today, and look forward to their testimony.