Tuesday, november 29, 2022
U.S. Rep Jim Jordan of Champaign County is targeting newly-confirmed U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Director Steve Dettelbach over new gun rules that Jordan calls “a deliberate attempt to usurp the authority of Congress and infringe on American citizens’ fundamental Second Amendment rights.”
In a Monday letter to Dettelbach, the incoming House Judiciary Committee chair accused ATF of ignoring or failing to sufficiently respond to Jordan’s past requests for documents and information about the bureau’s efforts to regulate firearms through the rulemaking process. An ATF spokesman said Tuesday that his agency “has responded to the prior letters and will respond to the new letter and any future letters.”
Jordan also told Dettelbach his committee “may be forced to resort to compulsory process to obtain the material we require,” warned it “may require prompt testimony from ATF employees” and asked Dettelbach to “preserve all existing and future records and materials in your possession” relating to the gun rules.
The dispute over Jordan’s requests sets up a Washington showdown between Ohioans from opposite sides of the aisle. Before heading ATF, Dettelbach served U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio and was the Democratic party’s 2018 nominee for Ohio Attorney General.
One of the new policies that Jordan dislikes attempts to crack down on so-called “ghost guns” that are difficult for law enforcement to trace because they are made from kits and lack serial numbers. President Joe Biden unveiled the rule at the same White House event where he nominated Dettelbach for the ATF job.
The ghost gun policy clarifies that the kits qualify as “firearms” under the Gun Control Act, and that commercial manufacturers of the kits must become licensed and include serial numbers on the kits’ frame or receiver. Commercial sellers of the kits must become federally licensed and run background checks prior to a sale, as they must do with other commercially-made firearms. The fact that the kits were previously sold without background checks made them “easily acquired by criminals who otherwise would not be permitted to possess a firearm,” the Justice Department said.
Jordan says the ghost gun rule “goes well beyond the authority granted to the agency in any applicable federal statutes,” and expands the legal definition of a firearm beyond what Congress intended. A prior letter from Jordan to ATF declared the rule “appears to be a deliberate attempt to usurp the authority of Congress,” and said it unconstitutionally infringes “on American citizens’ fundamental Second Amendment rights and privacy rights under the Fourth Amendment.”
Gun control groups applauded the ghost gun regulations.
“Ghost guns look like a gun, they shoot like a gun, and they kill like a gun, but up until now they haven’t been regulated like a gun,” said a statement from John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety.
Jordan also objects to a new ATF policy that classifies “stabilizing braces” intended to allow disabled shooters to better control their weapons as short-barreled rifles subject to extra regulations under the National Firearms Act if they modify pistols to be fired from the shoulder. The National Firearms Act imposes heightened regulations on short-barreled rifles because they are easily concealable, can cause great damage, and are more likely to be used to commit crimes, according to the Justice Department.
“Companies now sell accessories that make it easy for people to convert pistols into these more dangerous weapons without going through the statute’s background check and registration requirements,” the Justice Department said in announcing the new rules. “These requirements are important public safety measures because they regulate the transfer of these dangerous weapons and help ensure they do not end up in the wrong hands.”
ATF estimates around 3 million stabilizing braces have been sold since 2013
Jordan says Congress hasn’t “criminalized the use of a pistol arm-stabilizing brace” under the Gun Control Act of 1968, or allowed for its regulation under the National Firearms Act.
“Through its proposed rule, ATF seeks to subject stabilizing braces to GCA criminal penalties and NFA regulation without Congressional prohibition of the underlying activity,” Jordan said in a prior letter to ATF.
The National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action notes that a report by the Congressional Research Service estimated 10 million to 40 million pistol stabilizing braces are in circulation in the United States, and said that “effectively banning firearms with these devices attached would be the largest confiscatory firearm regulation in the history of the United States.”
Everytown for Gun Safety applauded the proposed rule in 2021, saying that a pistol with a stabilizing brace was used in the mass shooting in a Boulder grocery store last year where ten people were shot and killed.
“In effect, what was designed as a niche accessory to assist disabled shooters, has become a loophole for gun companies to sell short-barreled rifles,” the organization said.
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