Gun Owners of America Aghast at Potential ATF Expansion

Organization calls on Congress to cut firearms control funding in Biden's budget
By Michael Clements
Michael Clements
Michael Clements
Michael Clements focuses mainly on the Second Amendment and individual rights for The Epoch Times. He has more than 30 years of experience in print journalism, having worked at newspapers in Alabama, Florida, Texas, and Oklahoma. He is based in Durant, Oklahoma.
March 13, 2023Updated: March 20, 2023

A national gun rights organization is decrying the expansion of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) in President Joe Biden’s $6.8 trillion budget proposal for 2024.

“GOA [Gun Owners of America] is extremely concerned at the massive surge in ATF funding in recent years—doubling the size of the agency since the end of the Obama administration,” Aidan Johnston, GOA director of federal affairs, wrote in an email to The Epoch Times.

Biden’s budget proposal contains $1.9 billion for the ATF. This is a 13.6 percent increase over 2022 and $500 million more than the agency’s budget for fiscal year 2020.

If passed as written, Biden’s budget would expand the ATF by 35.7 percent—an overall growth of more than 50 percent since the Obama administration.

A researcher simulates a check done for the National Instant Criminal Background Check System or NICS, at the FBI’s criminal justice center in Bridgeport, W.Va., on Nov. 18, 2014. NICS did about 58,000 checks on a typical day in 2013. That surged to 145,000 on Black Friday. (AP Photo/Matt Stroud)
A researcher simulates a check done for the National Instant Criminal Background Check System or NICS, at the FBI’s criminal justice center in Bridgeport, W.Va., on Nov. 18, 2014. (Matt Stroud/AP Photo)

According to Biden’s plan, the $1.9 billion would finance the expansion of multi-jurisdictional gun trafficking strike forces, increase firearms industry regulation, and implement the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act.

The proposal also calls for $51 million for the FBI to complete implementing the enhanced background check system that is part of the act.

GOA stated that the budget items are nothing more than incremental gun control that will make no one safer but will deny law-abiding gun owners their constitutional rights.

The organization is especially alarmed at funding for “crisis intervention programs,” so-called red flag laws.

GOA and other gun rights groups claim that red flag laws set the stage for authorities to confiscate firearms without due process.

The act calls for due process “at the appropriate phase” of the process to avoid violating a person’s constitutional rights, but the organization points out that the law doesn’t specify when that phase is, leaving open the possibility that the appropriate phase may come after a person’s firearms have already been confiscated.

“GOA analyzed the Biden administration’s disbursal of ‘Red Flag’ gun confiscation grants pursuant to the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act and found that the ‘due process’ protections … were worthless,” the group’s statement reads.

It also claims that the ATF uses a “zero tolerance” policy to build an unconstitutional gun registry. GOA obtained an internal policy memo in which ATF officials explain how to shut down law-abiding gun shops for minor infractions.

‘Funding Should be Restricted’

When a shop closes, all its sales records are transferred to the government. GOA claimed that the ATF has aggregated these records into a central gun registry to track all firearms, whether they’ve been used in a crime or not.

In his email to The Epoch Times, Johnston said Congress should rein in the ATF immediately.

“Funding should be restricted to alcohol, tobacco, explosives, and only violent firearm crimes—meaning the agency should be prohibited from going after peaceful gun owners for non-violent gun control violations,” Johnston wrote.

According to the GOA statement, recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings may offer some protection.

“Laws restricting the rights of legal adults are rightly beginning to be struck down as unconstitutional under the Supreme Court’s ‘text, history, and tradition’ Second Amendment test as affirmed in DC v. Heller and NYSRPA v. Bruen,” the statement reads.

A spokesperson for the Johns Hopkins University Center for Gun Violence Prevention and Policy didn’t respond by press time to a request by The Epoch Times for comment.