Let’s be honest: anything that promotes a visceral reaction — sex, cars…guns — can grab attention, which is why images and iconography of them are so often used in marketing. And which is why we see such things showing up in advertisements next to otherwise mundane things such as soft drinks and arthritis medications.
So I wasn’t as surprised as I probably ought to have been when James P. Vann, an attorney with the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, delved into the realm of gender fluidity at the NRA’s National Firearms Law Seminar on Friday.
The topic came up during a discussion of recent changes to your favorite and mine, ATF 4473: Firearms Transaction Record, the form prospective new gun purchasers must fill out when purchasing from an FFL.
One of the changes to the form may have been prompted from a question that was coming up with increasing frequency from gun stores: how should gender fluid people answer the “gender” question on form 4473? The question very plainly gives gun buyers two options: “male” or “female”.
“My initial reaction,” Mr. Vann commented, “was to ask: do you really have a problem with that many people coming in who are gender fluid and don’t know how to answer that question?”
But, stoically, the ATF man suppressed his impulses and forwarded the question up the line. People are so paranoid about getting things wrong on official ATF forms, he said with a smile and knowing shake of his head.
To his surprise, though, this idea apparently had traction, and when some changes to the 4473 form were made in October 2016, the “gender” field was no more. Instead, it had been replaced by a new one: “Sex.” Again, though, there are two options: “male” and “female”. Mr. Vann seemed to think that solved the problem to everyone’s satisfaction.
Bless his heart.
Anyone who’s been unfortunate enough to have a conversation about such matters on social media lately well knows that there are more genders than there are spices in Heinz 57 sauce. As self-described science guy Bill Nye puts it in his shall we say “interesting” direct-to-Netflix video, even the biological definition of ‘sex’ is equally slippery to the point of meaninglessness.
Anyway, we can at least take solace in the fact that whatever else we may think of the ATF, thanks to their stoic insistence on what the kids these days call “binary” sex definitions, they’re standing athwart the path of folks like Bill Nye and his ilk, shouting “STOP!”