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Groups Demand ATF ‘Back Away’ From Threat to Grab Reclassified Guns

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OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.


A coalition of firearms rights groups are urging the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to “back away” from its attempts to reclassify AR-15 “pistols” as guns that should be taxed and regulated.

In a legal document, advocates expressed confidence that they would ultimately prevail against the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, urging the agency to abandon its efforts to reclassify those firearms as regulated and taxed guns.

“Our earlier victory in the case should have signaled to the government to back away from its rule,” said Second Amendment Foundation Executive Vice President Alan Gottlieb, according to the Washington Examiner. “Instead, the government has appealed in hopes of saving this arbitrary restriction, and we’re simply asking the court to affirm its earlier ruling.”

Gottlieb’s group has joined forces with two others to oppose the ATF’s decision to reverse a decade-long policy of not regulating AR-style pistols equipped with arm braces designed to assist handicapped and unsteady shooters.

When Joe Biden assumed office, the agency sought to overhaul its previous policy, asserting that certain pistols should fall under a category of heavily regulated and taxed rifles. This change could potentially criminalize the owners of approximately 7-10 million such guns overnight.

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Recent legal cases have found that firearms in “common” use are generally free from regulation. SAF argued that the presence of up to 10 million AR pistols in use demonstrates their “common” status.

The challenge, mirrored in other cases nationwide, is likely bound for the U.S. Supreme Court and could influence the upcoming presidential election.

Former President Donald Trump has expressed his opposition to the ATF rule. He plans to speak at the National Rifle Association convention, an organization that is also contesting the ATF’s new regulation. Trump is expected to secure the group’s endorsement once again, the Examiner noted.

In February, the ATF was preparing to issue a new rule that would regulate private gun sales and require a background check via the FBI, according to a whistleblower group that represented IRS agents in the Hunter Biden case.

The group, Empower Oversight, wrote in a letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland that the move would amount to an “unconstitutional” power grab and claimed that two sources had alerted it to the impending rule.

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The letter said that the ATF 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,” Just the News reported.

Empower Oversight asserted that it believes only Congress possesses the authority to enact such a modification due to a 1986 law that expressly prohibited background checks for firearm 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,’” the letter said.

Nevertheless, the Biden administration issued the rule in April that critics say gives the government overly broad powers to determine that anyone who sells a firearm privately and for a profit could be designated a “dealer” and therefore required to be licensed by the ATF and conduct a background check of the purchaser before any sales are mad.

Following the issuance of the rule, though, several state attorneys general filed suit against the ATF and the Biden administration, claiming it violates the Second Amendment and current existing federal statutes.

“This new rule represents an illegal overreach by unelected federal officials and the unlawful suppression of the private transfer of firearms by law-abiding citizens. The U.S. Congress has clearly defined what it means to sell firearms in our nation and the ATF has no legal authority to change that definition,” New Hampshire Attorney General John M. Formella said earlier this month.

“The rule is also a blatant violation of our constitutionally protected liberties, as Second Amendment protections have long included the rights of Americans to both acquire and sell firearms to one another in a private capacity,” he added.

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