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AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster
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With last week’s confirmation of Steve Dettelbach to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, gun control advocates and other nanny-staters are celebrating the agency’s first confirmed director since 2015. But what most of them aren’t taking into account is that NYSRPA v. Bruen makes putting an aggressive new leader at the top of ATF a terrible idea for the long-term health of their anti-gun agenda.

Why Pro-Gun and Republican Politicians Have Kept BATFE Without a Permanent Director

Before I get into why nominating a strong anti-gun head is bad for their agenda right now, I want to quickly review why BATFE hasn’t had a permanent Director in so many years.

Here’s a good example of a one-sided interview showing what Democrats think is behind the lack of leadership at the BATFE . . .

No, it’s not that Republicans love guns, hate gun laws, and want to hamper the enforcement of federal gun laws (if only). The reality is basically the opposite. The BATFE has a long history of not only questionable ethics, but downright criminal activity against law-abiding gun owners and people working in the firearms industry. It would take a whole series of articles to chronicle the extent of the agency’s sorry record, but you can search our archives and I found a pretty decent summary of some of the worst abuses here.

The agency had leaders who were appointed by presidents until 2006, when it was changed to a position that requires Senate confirmation. Since then, a combination of mistrust for the agency (due to its sordid history) and the people presidents of both parties have chosen to nominate have made it difficult or impossible to get enough votes in the Senate for confirmation.

The sad truth is that most people who know much about the agency’s misconduct would rather see it dissolved altogether, but there aren’t enough votes for that. So instead, the agency as been hampered in any way possible to keep its agents from harassing law abiding companies and gun owners.

What Anti-Gun Groups Think

Finally getting a permanent BATFE director nominee confirmed seems like a big victory for the gun control industry and their supporters in government and the media. The anti-gun true believers say that by getting an active leader confirmed and in the top spot, it will be able to aggressively enforce laws and regulations to achieve “gun safety.” The anti-gunners actually think getting Dettelbach confirmed will be a great way to begin to clamp down on civilian firearms ownership and enable a more powerful government.

Why They’ve Actually Shot Themselves In The Foot

While anti-gun activists and politicians have been playing checkers, Justice Clarence Thomas recently dealt out a truly epic 4D chess move with his ruling in NYSRPA v. Bruen. We’ve covered this extensively here, but in short, the case’s application of a new standard by which to evaluate gun control laws means that very few of the laws currently on the books will survive court challenges.

Why? Because instead of applying a balancing test, like intermediate or strict scrutiny, courts are now required to apply a text and history test for laws that seriously burden the right to keep and bear arms. If a gun law or regulation in question wasn’t common and in widespread practice around the time that the Second Amendment was ratified, it can’t be considered within the meaning of the text of the Amendment.

In 1791, there were no bans on short barreled rifles, machine guns, or other NFA items. There was nothing like the National Firearms Act of 1934, or the Gun Control Act of 1968, or the offending portions of the Firearms Owners Protection Act of 1986 (closing the machine gun registry). There were no waiting periods for gun purchases, limits on barrel lengths, no widespread bans on concealed carry, regulations on carrying guns in vehicles, or anything like those.

It isn’t totally over for any particular gun law until the Supreme Court sings, but they’ve set the tune now. They’ve vacated a number of lower court rulings and sent them back for reconsideration under Bruen. 

By putting someone the gun control industry perceives as a a “go-getter” in charge of ATF, Democrats have probably only accelerated this process. To the extent that Dettelback quickly takes steps to clamp down on gun makers, dealers and owners, the sooner these issues will find their way into court (and West Virginia v. EPA won’t help them either).

So the the Civilian Disarmament Industrial Complex may have cheered and claimed what they thought was victory last week, but in the long run, it may only be seen as something that hastened their cause’s ultimate demise.

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  1. I think W. VA vs EPA will do more to stifle “AFT”. It will make it more difficult for them to go after Mfg, dealers and citizens.

      • Are you in dire need of a career change? Isn’t it frustrating to have to create budgets for everything in life? What if I told that up to $500 can be earned daily without stepping outside of your home,t5 would you be interested? In fact, soft skills supposedly suffice to make…

  2. The problem with your article is that you don’t seem to realize that they can make all these regulations that infringe knowing that the regs etc will be tied up in courts for years if not decades. In the meantime gunners will be targeted, indicted and convicted with no hope of having their felony status vacated in the future. Like the Chinese, these traitors think in terms of decades while we are still wondering about lunch.

    • Send more AFT agents. The last ones tasted great.

    • No matter how things shake out a lot of time will be spent in court. The point that this will get the process started faster and at a higher level is likely accurate as is your general assessment of the process.

    • “…they can make all these regulations that infringe knowing that the regs etc will be tied up in courts for years if not decades.”

      It isn’t just the length of time waiting for a case to get to the SC, it is the carnage enroute. We seldom see anyone pointing out that people who are personally attacked (individuals and businesses), and suffer monetary or judicial punishment and costs do not automatically have their cases overturned, or convictions expunged. Those hundreds or thousands of injuries are not individually pushed forward by the 2A defense organizations. (however, they could launch class action suits).

    • Very true. We have to consider the damage done in the interim. We’ll be so busy trying to win battles, but losing the war.

    • A felony conviction which resulted from a law deemed unconstitutional will be vacated so I have no idea what you are talking about with that claim. Further its nowhere near as simple as you make it sound. There are multiple costs, political and otherwise for losing case after case before the courts and multiple lower court rulings have already been made against the government against everything from NY states new permitting law to the prohibition on indicted persons possessing and acquiring guns to the frame and recover definition change. Not every case needs to go to the supreme court and as more and more are lost by gun control advocates, fewer and fewer will need to be brought at all.

  3. [Bruen] “…means that very few of the laws currently on the books will survive court challenges.”

    This may be somewhat true, but who is going to see to it that the rulings of the Court, or courts will be enforced or followed through on? We’re already seeing the work-around by the blue states and cities with Bruen and we also realize by now that Dobbs will have no effect on the number of babies murdered, regardless of the Left’s tantrums and screaming otherwise.

    I suppose we could have a real armed uprising by The People to force the progressives back under their rocks but such a move would likely mobilize the Stazi against the very folks trying to insure that The Law, or rulings thereof, is enforced and behaviors altered to reflect it.

    No matter what happens from here, until we change the majority party and see to it that those in the UniParty are tossed, we will continue to donate our tax dollars to the government for the express purpose of further hampering and stifling our rights, liberties, and way of life.

    • A good start in Iowa would be challenges to the BS concealed carry rules at our Regents (state univ & c colleges). Clearly unlawful in under they recent decision.

    • Lower courts are already following the precedents. Federal judges in TX have already ruled against the frame and receiver rule and prohibited person status for those under indictment and a NY state judge has ruled against multiple elements of NY s New carry law.

  4. {Gun ‘laws’}

    “Because instead of applying a balancing test, like intermediate or strict scrutiny, courts are now required to apply a text and history test for laws that seriously burden the right to keep and bear arms.”

    Yeah, about that –

    I bet right now, even as we speak, they are combing over every scrap of paper from that era (And likely forging new ones) to create all kinds on new and even more draconian gun laws.

    Because that’s what Leftist Scum ™ do, “It’s all they do!”, to crudely paraphrase the movie character of Kyle Reese… 🙁

    • Geoff PR,

      What is the special designation that I type to create superscripts in a comment? (I also want to be able to add a “trademark” superscript to some of my comments.)

      I know how to create italics, bold, and strikethrough scripts. But for the life of me I cannot figure out how to create superscript.

    • I just replied to your comment asking how to create superscript in html comments. I think I just figured it out.

      Here is a trademark superscript TM test.

      … which obviously failed.

    • They have nothing to use to establish historical precedent for most contemporary gun control. Historically, by FAR most laws attempting to control guns regulated their carrying in public places. That is very likely 90%+. Many of the rest are rendered irrelevant by the 14th amendment, e.g. laws prohibiting guns to slaves and Indians which were a substantial portion of what’s left. The simple fact is, if the laws pertaining to carry were inadequate to uphold NYs carry law its going to be almost impossible to find acceptable historical precedent for most other gun laws. Its like being told you have to find a certain number of horses in America, and having failed to find enough, you have now been assigned the task of going back out to find the same number of zebras. Its just not happening.

      • Its far from that simple. The vast majority of judges don’t like being overruled on opinions that clearly violated precedent and activist judges who are less likely to mind are in much shorter supply. Lower courts have already begun to rule against the government on everything from the frame and receiver rule to prohibited status for those under indictment and NYs NEW carry law. A judge in TX has ruled that TX state law prohibiting carry to those under 21 is unconconstututional due to lack of the now required historical precedent. Even TX which is far from a hoplophobe friendly state is getting its relatively limited laws seriously challenged.

  5. “Courts are required to apply a text”

    Says who? They can just ignore it like they have many other things in the past. Yes, it would likely be appealed, possibly all the way to the Supreme Court again. That is generally a years-long endeavor, so they would get to thwart the ruling for at least that amount of time.
    There is no punishment for ignoring the SCOTUS ruling, so as the leftists see it, why not?

    • Its far more complicated than people like you make it sound for the simple fact that there are not enough activist judges to do as you claim and the minority that will know they take very real risk of getting even more broadly reaching precedents set if they ignore precedent and have cases wind up back before SCOTUS. Smart AGs know the same thing which 8s why the CA attorney General sent an open letter to sheriffs in the state saying that may issue permitting was no longer constitutionally permissible. NY has already suffered its first loss on its NEW carry law and is scrambling to appeal. A TX judge has ruled that TX law prohibiting carry to those under 21 is unconstitutional for lack of historical precedent. A federal judge has ruled against prohibited person status for people under indictment. So no, practically speaking the ruling cannot and will not be ignored and those activist judges who try simply run tge risk of sending another case like NYSRPA v Bruen to the SCOTUS to do even more damage to their ideological cause, which is enough to give even them pause. For an example watch what happens if NY state and any activist judges are stupid enough to let their new carry law get back to the SCOTUS.

  6. Wake me up when they start approving forms for the manufacture of new machine guns for the common citizen.

  7. I echo the evil Andrew Jackson as he evicted thousands of Cherokee. Enforce your order’s SCOTUS. I’d volunteer to enforce their decisions!

  8. Oh how nice the Saudis gave theBiden a pair of sunglasses.
    Wonder what part of America he sold to get those?
    Hold on, hold on to yourself, cause this is going to hurt real bad

  9. “By 48-46, Senate confirms Steve Dettelbach, giving ATF its first confirmed director … Rob Portman(RINO-RETIRING-Proving-Why-Term-Limits-Are-Not-A-Solution) and Susan Collins(RINO EXTRADIARE) the lone GOP YES votes.”

    Not getting into how Susan C… is basically a democrat, how does 48 votes confer a nominee?

    • I think this vote had a few no-shows so it goes based off of who is present. Need to review what happened here as have been more focused on the growing number of state level challenges lately.

  10. In reality the corrupt Supreme Court will take years to hear another gun rights case leaving the anti-gun lower court’s’ rulings stand.

  11. I hope you’re right. I note that similar (though smaller) predictions could have been and likely were made after Heller, and yet Bruen was still required. I’m very excited about Bruen, but I’m not prepared to predict the fall of the NFA or the leashing of the ATF yet.

  12. I have wondered how a tax collection agency morphed into law enforcement.
    BATFE was originally a treasury dept. agency in charge of collecting taxes on Alcohol. tobacco and the excise tax on NFA firearms. Explosives were added a bit later.
    Would it not be an actual law enforcement agency, such as the Marshal’s service, or perhaps the FBI that should enforce gun laws?
    Secondly, what part of “Shall not be infringed” is so hard to understand?
    Lastly, the cry is always about how guns and gun crimes etc. are such a danger to society, and public safety or public health issue. Problem is, isn’t murder, and other assorted misuses of firearms already illegal? So, honestly, criminal use of weapons should be the issue. Not the items being misused.
    Let the tax collectors do what they do and leave enforcement to actual police agencies.

    • Old – they ‘assumed’ those ‘enforcement’ powers the same way that IRS did – they saw an opportunity to seize more over reach – and took it because no one saw what they were up to. Kinda ‘neat’ for a regulatory agency to write their own new regulations that have the force of law once codified that expand their powers and authority. Never mind whether they really have jurisdiction or not

  13. I understand, and generally agree with, many of the comments here stating “yeah but the socialist scum will resist/ignore this ruling!” No doubt, that is what socialists do- the don’t create or build, only corrupt and destroy. Still, the Bruen decision is largely what we’ve been hoping & praying for years. It is a GOOD thing. Nothing wrong with a little well-earned cynicism, but it was a big win for the good guys.

  14. I think there’s an element missing here in the accelerationism; The Uvalde Shooting. It’s the most blatant, in your face and undeniable statement that the government can’t and won’t protect you. It can’t even protect 10YO children.

    The question that needs to be getting pushed is why is a government that can’t protect children with hundreds of officers on scene and with ballistic shields, rifles, body armor and other such things not going to see any real consequence from their actions while wanting to disarm you at the same time.

    The more an “average person” sees this, the more the culture shifts away from a reliance on government protection.

    The legal front is one thing, the cultural is something else entirely.

    • “The more an “average person” sees this, the more the culture shifts away from a reliance on government protection.”

      Unfortunately, all the “average person” sees is a wild man with a gun. And dead children.

      The logic of the “average person” unfolds thus: “This incident proves only gun confiscation can stop the shootings; if the shooter had not been armed, the police would not have been needed to stop the shooting.”

      The reasoning above actually acknowledges that police cannot protect the public.

      • The “average man” sees police waiting an hour plus to go after a guy shooting children.

        This was so blatant that it became impossible to hold on to. The guys at Parkland got lucky CNN covered for them and by the time the facts came out they had their town hall.

        • “The “average man” sees police waiting an hour plus to go after a guy shooting children.”

          Which wouldn’t have happened if all guns were banned and confiscated (except for gangs and inner-city criminals, who don’t shoot up schools).

          The “average man” you envision isn’t “average” anymore. “Projection” cuts both ways.

          Welcome to the brave new world.

        • A very minor issue compared to many others like the AWB the House just passed and the numerous state AWBs and other laws soon to fall. You have common use, test problems with getting rid of the NFA. It is what it is.

  15. The 1934 “National Firearms Act” could be rendered “null and void” under the prohibition of “cruel and unusual punishment” aspect of the Constitution of the united States.
    Any way one looks at it, a $10,000 fine and ten years in prison for failure to “pay” a $200 “tax” to merely possess or “make” a Constitutionally protected item IS “cruel and unusual punishment”.

    • Good point – the presumption of our legal (NOT ‘justice’) system is that the punishment should fit the crime. Certainly not the case in this instance.
      Cases in point – the multitude of minimal fines levied (or light slaps on the wrist and admonitions to not do that again) against the political elites for egregious crimes and/or misuse of their public office for personal gain.

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