ATF aggression on Federal Firearms Licensees

→ Posted on Jan 06, 2009 - 12:06 AM

Tennessee Firearms Association, Inc.
Legislative Action Committee

I know of at least 3 FFL holders in parts of the state of Tennessee who are actively being pursued by ATF on license revocations and/or who have recently surrendered the license because its simply too expenses and to hard to fight ATF.  I have been told there are many more.  What I have seen is that this trend by the ATF is getting worse and will likely get much worse with Obama in control of the Executive Branch (and thus appointing the Attorney General) and with Pelosi and Reed in almost total control of Congress.  Couple that with Republicans who are increasingly federalists and the future for gun owners shows an increasingly dark cloud on the horizon.

One trend I am seeing is that ATF is spending weeks and in some instances months doing a “compliance inspection” that Congress (as if those elected to Congress really remain true to the Constitution once they get there….) initially intended be a relatively brief spot check to confirm that things were running smoothly and, if not, to give correct instruction and guidance. Inspections which were intended to be cooperative and to help licensees have now become essentially a dreaded visit from the “angel of death” masquerading as the ATF knocking at the door with a slogan of “we are the government and we are here to help you….” Instead, these compliance inspections have turned into burdensome and time consuming almost-anal dissections of a FFL’s entire existence including a scrutiny of the FFL’s records at a level never seen on a regular basis prior to 2004 and never heard of prior to 2001.

ATF has succeeded in convincing the federal courts that it has the absolute authority to revoke a federal firearms license if it finds even one (1) error on a 4473, or even one (1) error involving anything else that a FFL is required by law or regulation to do. Arguments that perfection cannot be attained have been resisted by the ATF (an institution with an admitted willingness to perjure itself in court in the name of getting guns off the street see documents compiled at GunOwners) or simple Google “ATF INSTITUTIONAL PERJURY”). ATF has sadly but repeatedly convinced the federal courts that these errors need only be reckless and that specific intent is not required (ATF actually argues that negligence is all that is required). See Oct 2008 6th Circuit Court of Appeals decision in Armalite v. Marcia Lambert.

The federal courts have bought in to ATF’s argument and essentially find that normal record keeping errors are not “normal” or acceptable errors if they are on any document that the licensee is required by law or regulation to maintain. The courts find this determination to be even easier if the licensee has ever had a prior inspection that resulted in the licensee being advised that there were record errors (which is quite common) and that future errors would be considered “willful” violations of the law. Its an absurd argument and frankly a standard that the ATF does not hold its own agents accountable to (agents often make all kinds of errors in preparing their “worksheets” that are used to document the “errors” by federal licensees in order to revoke their licenses).  In addition, a 2008 Government report found that ATF had lost 76 of its own firearms and 418 laptop computers.  http://www.usdoj.gov/oig/reports/ATF/a0829/findings.htm  But, of course, no one is even thinking about revoking the ATF’s authority as a result of these “willful” errors in their duties and/or firing (or even criminally prosecuting) those employees who were in charge of those items. 

Thus, ATF argues and courts agree, any single error or omission on a Form 4473 or any error or omission (including even transposed numbers in a serial number or minimal delays in transposing information from a 4473 to the bound books) is sufficient to put a dealer out of business.

I would like to find some means of quantifying how many FFL holders in Tennessee over the last 5 to 10 years have been subjected to ATF license revocation proceeds (including those who have surrendered their license as well as those who are or have fought to keep their licenses). Asking ATF for this information is useless because they will not disclose the information willingly. I would like to start documenting, perhaps to assist willing federal legislators, the ATF abuses in Tennessee so that the changes which are needed to reign in the ATF’s intentional attack on licensees can hopefully be curtailed before it reaches the point that Tennessee’s gun owners will no longer be able to buy guns - not because guns have been banned but because federal licensees have been abused out of business by the ATF on purpose.

A thread has been started on TFA Online to discuss this issue:  http://www.tfaonline.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=1679

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