By: José Niño
Will the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) ever be held accountable?
The ATF has been an object of ire for many gun owners because of the agency’s grossly unconstitutional actions, ranging from its gruesome crackdown against innocent civilians during the Waco Massacre of 1993 to the infamous “Fast and Furious” gun-running scandal that resulted in the death of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry in 2010.
If there is one institution that should be defunded, if not outright abolished, it’s the ATF; though I’m afraid that won’t be happening anytime soon with the present makeup of the U.S. Congress and White House.
Nonetheless, there are increasing forms of resistance sprouting across DC that show a genuine unease coming from many conservatives and independent-minded Americans skeptical of the ATF’s centralization agenda.
Texas Republican Rep. Dan Crenshaw recently teamed up with Blue Dog Democrat Henry Cuellar to introduce HR 1961, the ATF Accountability Act, a bill that would set up an administrative appeals process over ATF rulings. Crenshaw published a press release in March in which he explained what this bill does:
“This bill will bring ATF in line with most other federal regulatory agencies and create an appeals process so industry has more options to challenge rulings other than suing the federal government – which many businesses simply cannot do. This bill will help ensure that the ATF cannot unilaterally impose rulings that impede on Second Amendment liberties and hurt jobs within the firearms industry.”
Make no mistake about it, Crenshaw is no champion of the Second Amendment. He has previously endorsed the concept of red flag gun confiscation orders, however, in this case, Crenshaw gets it right.
That said, this is an incremental measure, as Hardold Hutchinson of AmmoLand recently spelled out:
"The establishment of an appeals process – even one that relies heavily on administrative law – still represents a marginal improvement, and it is one worth pursuing, given the success that incrementalism has had over the last 30 years."
Ideally, the ATF would be defunded, with the long-term goal of abolishing this agency altogether. Like all bureaucracies, the ATF is staffed with bureaucrats who face no pressure from the voters for their despotic actions. In fact, these agencies tend to receive bigger budgets and more power, all things being equal.
Stripping the ATF of its powers will require a strong presence of no-compromise elected officials who are willing to introduce and vote on legislation that defunds this agency and removes its unconstitutional power. The key is that the grassroots put forward strong litmus tests and screens candidates accordingly.
The current crop of leadership in Congress is simply not going to deliver on reforming the ATF. The good news is that the 2022 election cycle presents an opportunity for gun owners to clean house in Congress and elect no-compromise representatives who will actually deliver on pro-Second Amendment promises.
José Niño is a freelance writer based in Austin, Texas. Sign up for his mailing list here. Contact him via Facebook, Twitter, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Get his e-book, The 10 Myths of Gun Control, here.