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ATF preparing to regulate private gun sales with background check, whistleblower group alleges

Empower Oversight says power grab would be unconstitutional, usurping powers on Congress and infringing 2nd Amendment.

Published: January 31, 2024 8:59am

The whistleblower group that represented the IRS agents in the Hunter Biden case is warning that the Biden administration is preparing an “unconstitutional“ power grab to regulate private gun sales by requiring a background check.

In a letter Wednesday to Attorney General Merrick Garland, Empower Oversight said it had learned from two sources that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was directed by the White House to make the change and “has drafted a 1,300-page document in support of a rule that would effectively ban private sales of firearms from one citizen to another by requiring background checks for every sale.”

Empower Oversight said it believes that only Congress can make such a change because a 1986 law it passed explicitly forbade background checks for gun sales between private individuals.

“Such an expansive rule that treats all private citizens the same as federal firearms licensees would circumvent the separation of powers in the Constitution, which grants ‘all legislative Powers’ to Congress while requiring that the President ‘take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.’

“To the extent such a rule prevents the private sale of firearms, it would also clearly violate the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, which declares that ‘the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed,’” it added.

Empower Oversight said the rule could also lead to clashes between ATF agents and private citizens, citing two violent tragedies from the 1990s that began with federal raids.

“The lessons of the Ruby Ridge and Waco standoffs should make clear that attempting to enforce such an expansive regulation could endanger countless ATF field agents who are forced to serve as the face of the Biden Administration in going after private firearms owners for constitutionally-protected firearms sales,” it warned.

President Joe Biden last March signed an executive order requiring the federal government to “clarify the definition of who is engaged in the business of dealing in firearms, and thus required to become Federal firearms licensees in order to increase compliance with the Federal background check requirement for firearm sales.”

Biden admitted his goal was to “move us as close as we can to universal background checks.”

ATF subsequently submitted a proposed rulemaking that raised alarm among Second Amendment advocates that the administration was seeking to require any private citizen who sells even a single firearm online to register as an FFL.

Empower Oversight noted that legislation passed by Congress in 1986 made clear that the “business” of selling firearms “shall not include a person who makes occasional sales, exchanges, or purchases of firearms for the enhancement of a personal collection or for a hobby, or who sells all or part of his personal collection of firearms.”

The whistleblower group requested that the Justice Department and ATF release under the Freedom of Information Act all records and communications related to “this unconstitutional measure,” including contacts with the Biden White House.

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