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Press Release Published: Mar 23, 2023

Joint Hearing Wrap Up: Biden Administration has Weaponized the ATF to Target Law-Abiding Americans, Turn Them into Criminals

WASHINGTON—The Oversight Committee’s Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Energy Policy, and Regulatory Affairs and the Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Crime and Federal Government Surveillance held a joint hearing titled, “ATF’s Assault on the Second Amendment: When is Enough Enough?” Subcommittee members discussed with expert witnesses how the ATF under the Biden Administration has upended guidance that law-abiding gun owners have relied upon for over a decade, potentially subjecting individuals and small businesses to felony prison sentences and exorbitant fines if they do not comply with a new final rule. Subcommittee members also discussed how the ATF in recent years has operated without congressional approval and devoted substantial time and resources to pursue a left-wing agenda targeting lawful gun-owning Americans exercising their Second Amendment rights.

Key Takeaways:

The Biden Administration has weaponized the ATF to target law-abiding gun owners through regulation and Congress must step in to prevent this regulatory overreach.

  • Amy Swearer—Senior Legal Fellow at Heritage Foundation—testified how the actions of the ATF are directed by the Administration guiding them. The Biden Administration’s regulatory attacks on law-abiding gun owners warrants congressional intervention to address its unchecked power: “ATF is not inherently good or inherently bad. It depends in large part on who controls it and the ends for which its power is exerted…Congress should not undermine ATF’s legitimate efforts to enforce federal laws and stop violent criminals but it should absolutely step in to restrict ATF’s discretion as to where it should focus its efforts and how it should wield its vast regulatory powers.”
  • Matthew Larosiere—Partner at Zermay-Larosiere Law Group—discussed how the ATF’s flip flopping of enforcement affecting lawful gun ownership has unleashed a torrent of legal issues which have harmed Americans for simply exercising their Second Amendment rights: “My experience has been representing individuals and small businesses who have been caught up in some of the flip-flopery that the ATF has engaged in. Representing individuals and small businesses who have had their lives shattered, their employees left jobless because of frankly innocent omissions that were characterized as intentional misconduct by the ATF. What I’ve seen ATF doing in these prosecutions is extremely concerning. The threats imposed by ATF’s overreach are not theoretical, they are very real.”

The ATF’s reversal of longstanding practice will force lawful gun owners to forfeit, destroy, or register their stabilizing brace and will subject millions of Americans to possible felony liability and exorbitant fines if they don’t comply.

  • Alex Bosco—Founder and Inventor of the Stabilizing Brace—outlined how ATF’s final rule regulating his stabilizing brace, which was initially invented for disabled Americans, is unjust and targets law-abiding citizens who have closely followed ATF guidance for years and will actually make pistol shooting less safe: “The effects of this change are enormous, according to the ATF, millions of who have followed the ATF’s advice for the past decade have unbeknownst to anyone been committing felony crimes. And ATF almost certainly underestimates thew scope of the impact of the rule. The effects of ATF’s rule is to put out of business the industry that ATF itself fostered for ten years and punish consumers who relied on ATF’s prior decisions. Ironically, this rule eliminates an important and widely adopted safety feature that will arguably make the sport of pistol shooting less safe.”

Member Highlights:

Subcommittee Chairman Fallon (R-Texas) discussed the hypocrisy of liberal lawmakers pushing to take lawfully obtained firearms from American citizens while surrounding themselves with armed security.

Subcommittee Chairman Fallon: “I find it very hypocritical that some Members of Congress hire armed security to protect themselves – with firearms – so firearms are ok when they protect them, but not other people.”

Subcommittee Chairman Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) noted how recently the ATF has acted in an isolated fashion without consulting industry experts when passing sweeping regulation.

Subcommittee Chairman Biggs: “Mr. Bosco, as the designer and inventor of the pistol brace, did the ATF contact you for input or collaboration when they went to change the rule you had been relying on for ten years?”

Mr. Bosco: “No, they didn’t but for years we worked with ATF to try to get to the bottom of parameters that we could work with to allow us to make a product that fit and suit what they thought the needs should be.”

Subcommittee Chairman Biggs: “Miss Swearer, as an expert in this area, were you contacted?”

Miss Swearer: “I was not.”

Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.) quantified the harmful ramifications of the ATF’s final rule on Americans and the unconstitutional autonomy with which ATF operates.

Rep. Donalds: “How many Americans do you think will become felons as a result of this rule?”

Mr. Bosco: “Anywhere between 10 and 40 million Americans own arm braces at this moment…you will have an effect that come, I believe, May 16th which the deadline, if someone wasn’t smart enough to look up the federal register, who didn’t know about this rule, from one day to the next, would be in possession of an unregistered short barreled rifle. He would be committing a crime which is punishable up to 10 years in prison, it’s a felony offense, and a $250,000 dollar fine.”

Rep. Donalds: “Did Congress pass a law to stipulate the ATF do this?”

Mr. Bosco: “Unequivocally, no.”

Rep. Anna Paulina Luna (R-Fla.) touched on the false notion that guns don’t protect women when they are actually a useful tool for women to protect themselves.

Rep. Luna: “Do you believe that firearms, and women that have firearms is apparently anti-women?”

Miss. Swearer: “This is something that’s been raised several times in this hearing today, the idea that guns don’t protect women. Of course they do and personally I take offense at having my natural right to self-defense mansplained to me by members of this body who come to work every day protected by armed men with guns.”

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) slammed the ATF for reversing course without Congress’ approval on a decade of precedence which gun owners relied on for guidance to following ATF’s regulations.

Rep. Jordan: “You were told ten years ago that the stabilizing brace does not convert a pistol into a short-barreled rifle, is that right?

Mr. Bosco: “That is correct.”

Rep. Jordan: “And then seven weeks ago, a 180-degree change. They now say it is  just the opposite of what they told you ten years ago…your government told you this was fine, and now they have changed it.”

Mr. Bosco: “That’s correct”

Rep. Jordan: “When was the bill passed that changed the law?”

Mr. Bosco: “There was no bill.”

Rep. Russell Fry (R-S.C.) touched on how the ATF is proposing a compliance regime for regulations that they aren’t operationally capable of processing.

Rep. Fry: “At that rate, assuming no further backlog and assuming all affected gun owners comply with the gun registration date of May 31st, it would take the ATF 78 years to process all of the pistol registration forms.”

Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) outlined how the ATF’s final rule only targets law-abiding gun owners while violent criminals who never register their illegally obtained firearms are left out.

Rep. Perry: “Do folks that kill other people apply for permits when getting a gun?”

Mr. Larosiere: “Certainly not in my experience.”

Rep. Perry: “Do criminals go out to their local gun shop and fill out the paperwork, and pray to the good lord that they’re not found out to be criminals when they purchase a gun.”

Mr. Larosiere: “I think it would be odd for them to do that, so no.”

Rep. Nick Langworthy (R-N.Y.) broke down how arbitrary rules from the ATF which get promulgated with little warning, can create criminals out of law-abiding citizens.

Rep. Langworthy: “Do you think that the recent ATF rules that are allegedly meant to deter crime might be leading Americans to obtain weapons in an illegal fashion?”

Mrs. Swearer: “In practice, that is what happens. You have law-abiding peaceable citizens who especially in the case of this pistol brace rule are sitting there with their lawfully obtained firearms and then a lot of times without their knowledge, because they’re not paying attention to what goes on in the regulatory rule-making processes, overnight they are now felons. In practice this is not directed at violent criminals, this is directed at and has the effect of creating criminals out of peaceable citizens.”