The Biden administration is revoking licenses from hundreds of firearms dealers in an escalation of federal enforcement actions that has angered many in the gun industry, reports the Wall Street Journal. It has provoked disagreement among law-enforcement veterans. Some welcome the change after years of wrist slaps, while others say it risks alienating some of the government’s most valuable sources in combating gun violence. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has revoked the licenses of 122 gun dealers in the fiscal year that began in October, up from 90 for all last fiscal year and 27 in 2021. Previously, ATF issued warnings to many firearms dealers for violations, in part because they are a valuable source of tips on suspicious gun buyers. The Trump and Obama administrations never revoked more than 81 dealers’ licenses annually since at least 2013.
Gun dealers have filed lawsuits and threatened to stop informing federal agents about suspicious buyers, calling the crackdowna way to punish the firearms industry by an administration hostile to them. The Biden administration, which has been pushing to regulate guns more tightly both via legislation and administrative action, said it is simply enforcing the law. ATF Director Steve Dettelbach said guns can end up getting sold to criminals and others who shouldn’t have them if dealers don’t follow the rules. Gun-store owners complain that the federal government is taking away their livelihoods over paperwork errors. “We were making $1 million a year, now it’s less than $100,000,” said Anthony Navarro of Colorado, who lost his license last year after receiving three earlier warnings since 2009. “This policy is designed to be a backdoor violation of the Second Amendment.” ATF employs about 800 people to inspect more than 50,000 licensed dealers.