By: José Niño

Many Second Amendment advocates of the no-compromise persuasion have long warned about the dangers of the federal gun control bureaucracy and the threat it poses to the civil liberties of many gun owners.

Websites like AmmoLand News have served as watchdogs against the ATF’s long list of abuses. Back in April, they were able to acquire a leak from the ATF demonstrating that the agency was surveilling people’s firearms transactions.

John Crump of AmmoLand wrote a recent piece demonstrating that this wasn’t just any broad-based surveillance of gun owners, but of individuals who could perhaps “commit a crime in the future. Using the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) the ATF kept tabs on over 1,000 American citizens.”

What we should not forget about the people being surveilled by the ATF is that they are lawful Americans who have no criminal records, nor are they facing any kind of investigation. Nevertheless, the ATF and other federal bureaucracies like the FBI insist that these people run the risk of committing a crime in the future.

For years, the no-compromise wing of the Second Amendment movement has been sounding the alarm on the threats that background check systems like NICS would be used to harass lawful gun owners. Now their worst fears are being confirmed.

Gun Owners of America even went out of its way to file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to figure out how many Americans the ATF and FBI are snooping on.

GOA Senior Vice President Erich Pratt told AmmoLand News:

“It’s outrageous that our government is spying on law-abiding gun owners, who have committed no crimes. Congress needs to rein in the ATF and put a stop to this immediately. This is like the movie “Minority Report,” where the government targets those who might commit a crime. There are multiple problems with what the ATF is doing here, but let me use an analogy that even anti-gun Leftists should comprehend. What would they have said if the Trump administration had spied on illegal aliens who might vote in an election? Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer would have been calling for impeachment hearings.”

Per the FOIA’s findings, the ATF was reviewing the firearms transactions of 525 individuals using NICS. Those figures grew significantly as of April 2021, currently standing at 826 people being monitored by the ATF.

There’s a clear trend of increased surveillance of lawful Americans. While many casual political observers may deride the idea that the government will ramp up its surveillance efforts against everyday gun owners, the nature of government overreach is one of continued expansion.

Crump detailed other numbers that the FOIA request revealed:

The same FOIA also revealed the number of firearms purchases monitored by the FBI dropped in the corresponding period. In May of 2020, the FBI was watching 255 people’s purchases through NICS. That number dropped to 241. The drop can be attributed to the outlier month of June 2020 where the Bureau deleted 35 people from its search. Excluding that one month, the FBI also increased the number of Americans it is monitoring. None of the documents provided in the FOIA explains the drop in people monitored by the FBI for June 2020.

The combined totals, going from May 2020 to April 2021, show more than 1,000 lawful Americans who are exercising their right to bear arms being surveilled by the federal government.

Bureaucracies like the ATF always pose a threat to the right to bear arms. Their unelected nature makes them unaccountable to voter pressure and allows their functionaries to get away with arbitrary regulations that most politicians could not pull off.

If Republicans are serious about protecting the Second Amendment, they would be campaigning to defund the ATF. The ATF is one unconstitutional agency that America could do well without.

José Niño is a freelance writer based in Austin, Texas. Contact him via Facebook, Twitter, or email him at Get his e-book, The 10 Myths of Gun Control, here.