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atf agents

(AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

The ATF raided a major ghost-gun company this month after determining that it hadn’t been complying with federal law. Rumors have circulated on gun-industry sites that the Biden administration intends to tackle both pistol braces and ghost guns. The administration has not confirmed those rumors, though ghost guns do figure prominently in Biden’s gun violence plan.

While almost everything associated with the ATF is controversial, there is one aspect of their mission that is politically red hot: They handle gun industry inspections and shutting down problem dealers. For years, the ATF has downgraded recommendations by its own inspectors to shut down gun stores that have repeated serious violations such as selling weapons to felons or not running the required background check. At the same time, [ATF Special Agent Mark] Jones said, the center of gravity within the ATF shifted after Waco. The part of the bureau responsible for inspecting gun dealers and manufacturers “lost an enormous amount of power,” Jones said, while the law-enforcement side of the bureau took over.

The result is that firearms inspectors have few resources and little pull. That’s made it difficult for the ATF to oversee an industry with immense political power. “It’s hard for me to imagine how the industry could be treated any more gently by ATF than they’re treated right now,” Jones said.

[NSSF Director of Public Affairs, Mark] Oliva, who represents the firearms industry, pushed back on that. He pointed to a Democratic presidential debate last year where Biden called gun manufacturers “our enemy.” He’s afraid the new administration will use the ATF to close down dealers that mess up on paperwork.

“Instead of using it as a regulatory agency, they’ve said that they would use the ATF to shut down businesses for even minor clerical errors,” Oliva said.

— Joshua Eaton in This Beleaguered Federal Agency Is America’s Best Hope to Curb Guns

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