By: José Niño
The introduction of the ATF Transparency Act on March 2, 2023 represents the latest effort by Republicans to make the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) more transparent.
This bill was introduced by Sen. James Risch (R-ID) and seeks to improve the ATF’s fairness, increase its transparency, and process applications more rapidly.
“The ATF’s huge backlog of applications is triggered by a burdensome, seemingly endless process that fails to allow citizens access to an appeals process in the event of a wrongful denial,” Risch said to Fox News.
“The result: law-abiding Americans are prevented from exercising their Second Amendment rights,” Risch added. “As the Biden administration continues to create more and more hurdles for law-abiding gun owners, it is more than fair to demand the ATF stick to a strict timeline for reviewing applications and create an appeals process for rejected applicants.”
“With the ATF Transparency Act, the ATF would be held to a higher standard that would require a faster, fairer process for firearm applications,” he continued.
Sen. Roger Marshall (R-KS), who also co-sponsored this legislation, said to Fox News: “Law-abiding citizens wrongly denied their rights by this biased ATF during a background check deserve a chance to make their case through an efficient appeals process.”
“With no limits to this administration’s anti-Second Amendment agenda, we must do everything in our power to hold the ATF accountable and make the system fair and transparent,” Marshall commented. “I’m pleased to join Sen. Risch in introducing this important legislation that will do just that.”
The National Rifle Association (NRA) and Gun Owners of America (GOA), two of America’s most prominent firearms lobbies, have also backed this bill.
“The ATF Transparency Act is a crucial piece of legislation that will allow individuals the opportunity to appeal their denied application of National Firearms Act items,” stated NRA-ILA federal affairs managing director Brian Calabrese.
“The ambiguity of denials is an issue that must be resolved and the NRA thanks and applauds Sen. Risch for standing up for all Americans’ Second Amendment rights,” he added.
Aidan Johnston, GOA’s director of federal affairs, said to Fox News, “Gun Owners of America is proud to endorse Sen. Risch’s legislation to eliminate ATF’s bureaucratic loopholes in the already unconstitutional National Firearms Act.”
“ATF has deceived Congress and the American public with inaccurate NFA approval estimates for far too long. It shouldn’t take a bureaucrat any longer than 90 days to process paperwork, and ATF certainly shouldn’t be denying approval to make or transfer a firearm on day 88 just to skirt that deadline because they didn’t finish a background check on time,” Johnston stated.
The ATF is notorious for denying background checks for significant numbers of lawful Americans.
Under Risch’s bill, an appeals process within the ATF would be set up for individuals whose background checks were rejected. In addition, the bill requires the ATF to provide National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) transaction numbers on top of covering legal fees for successful appeals.
The bill would transform the ATF’s nominal 90-day application turnaround goal into a solid 90-day deadline that automatically approves the application if the deadline is not reached.
Risch’s bill would also mandate the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and Department of Justice (DOJ) inspector general to publish the number of National Firearms Act items that are featured in unfinished NICS background checks that took place between 2014 and 2021. The legislation would also recommend that the ATF minimize the quantity of background checks that are in limbo.
The ATF has recently come under fire as there has been a growing perception among conservative activists that the Department of Justice, in which the ATF operates under, has been weaponized against conservatives. As the DOJ and several agencies under its umbrella such as the FBI get placed further under the microscope, there will be stronger calls for accountability.
For well over five decades, members of the gun rights community have sounded the alarms on the ATF’s litany of abuses. Now, it appears that the broader conservative movement has picked up on these calls and is starting to push back against what is now seen as an unaccountable federal bureaucracy that must be reined in.
José Niño is a freelance writer based in Austin, Texas. Contact him via Facebook, Twitter, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Get his e-book, The 10 Myths of Gun Control, here.