A significant escalation of federal enforcement actions by the Biden administration has now reportedly angered many in the gun industry, which has revoked licenses from hundreds of firearms dealers.
Law-enforcement veterans have also expressed disagreement over it.
Some say it is a welcome change after years of wrist slapping, while others say it risks alienating some of the government’s most valuable sources.
122 gun dealers’ licenses have been revoked by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives in the fiscal year that began in October, compared with 90 last fiscal year and 27 in 2021.
In the past, ATF issued warnings to many firearms dealers for legal violations, in part because they are a great source of information about suspicious gun buyers.
The Trump and Obama administrations never revoked more than 81 dealers’ licenses annually since at least 2013, the earliest year for which data are available.
Gun manufacturers have filed lawsuits and threatened not to report suspicious buyers to federal agents, claiming that the crackdown is aimed at punishing them.
Biden administration officials have tried to claim that they are simply enforcing the law as they work to tighten gun regulations both legislatively and administratively.
Owners of gun stores complain that the federal government is robbing them of their livelihoods due to paperwork errors.
More than 50,000 licensed dealers are inspected across the country by the ATF, which employs about 800 people. In the past, the agency had a light touch with inspections in part because it relied on dealers for information about suspicious gun buyers, according to former ATF officials.
Biden’s tougher approach comes after years of pressure from gun-control groups such as Brady.