Gun dealers have lost their licenses this year at an unprecedented rate, with critics accusing the Biden administration of stealthily undermining the Second Amendment.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) revoked the licenses of 122 gun dealers in the fiscal year that began in October.
Last fiscal year the figure was 90, and in 2021 it was only 27.
Since revocation records began in 2013, the ATF has never revoked more than 81 dealer licenses, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday.
Critics of the ATF’s newly discovered power say it attacks largely licit arms dealers who often provide valuable assistance to law enforcement when trying to track firearms being used in crimes.
Joe Biden is seen April 11 holding a ghost gun kit at a White House event to discuss gun violence
Arms dealers say the ATF is now too harsh in its enforcement of violations
Some law enforcement veterans told the newspaper that the previous system of issuing warnings rather than revoking licenses was preferable.
“Arms dealers were our first line of defense against arms trafficking,” said retired deputy director Peter Forcelli.
‘Why are we now beating an ally into submission?’
But Steve Dettelbach, appointed ATF director in July 2022, defended his office’s policy.
“We have taken steps to hold accountable the few resellers who engage in these willful violations,” he said.
“They will no longer have the privilege of being an arms dealer.”
Dettelbach, who served as the United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio before taking on the ATF role, said dealers must be held to strict standards because the guns could end up being sold. to criminals.
Rick Vasquez, a retired ATF official, told the newspaper he approved of Dettelbach’s approach.
“The ATF, before this administration, had a ‘Let’s see if we can help you’ attitude and some arms dealers took advantage of that,” he said.
Yet those who lost their license told the newspaper they were being unfairly targeted.
Anthony Navarro lost his license last year after receiving three previous warnings since 2009.
He still sells gun accessories at his store in Greeley, Colorado.
“We used to make $1 million a year, now it’s less than $100,000,” he said.
“This policy is designed to be a backhanded violation of the Second Amendment.”
Anthony Navarro, owner of a gun dealer in Greely, Colorado, lost his license last year
Navarro said some of the paperwork violations were minor and some were caused by a former employee — and he reported the issue to the ATF as soon as it was discovered.
Bridge City Ordnance in Valley City, North Dakota lost its license last year.
An ATF inspector in 2015 recommended revoking Navarro’s license for his Colorado store after sending him warning letters in 2009 and 2011.
The 2015 inspection found 10 violations, including selling firearms to people who said they were prohibited from owning firearms on background check forms.
An ATF supervisor overruled the recommendation and said he should just be given a warning.
Navarro said some customers made mistakes filling out background check forms.
In 2020, inspectors found other violations, including failing to report multiple handgun sales and failing to keep records of certain transactions.
Navarro said he discovered these issues after one of his employees left and then reported the issue to the ATF.
“It was a terrible mess,” he said. “This guy hid forms under the printer.”
In North Dakota, a Valley City gun store – Bridge City Ordnance – lost its license last year.
It was unclear what rules they had violated.
The store’s owners have filed a lawsuit against the ATF, arguing that store inspections are “wielded as a political weapon.”