A coalition of three dozen Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives has vowed to investigate the Biden Administration’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), after it has been reported that the agency has been building up a database of as many legal firearms purchases as possible.
According to the Washington Free Beacon, the investigation will be led by Congressman Michael Cloud (R-Texas), and will be backed by 35 other Republicans. The probe will focus on the ATF’s efforts to “sweep up records of every gun sale in America,” the group declared in a letter announcing their investigation. The ATF’s database currently contains over 920 million transaction records involving the sale of firearms within the United States; such a database not only violates Americans’ privacy rights, but would also be in violation of federal law forbidding the federal government from maintaining any semblance of a national firearms registry.
While the ATF defended the database as primarily serving the purpose of tracking guns that are being used in crimes, it has also admitted that, thus far, the database has not dramatically improved efforts to prosecute gun crimes. This inefficiency, combined with the staggering number of records on hand, has led to Republican criticism that the database’s true function is to track legal gun owners.
At the heart of these concerns are recent efforts by the Biden Administration to unilaterally change federal gun laws so that any records of gun purchases will ultimately end up in the possession of the federal government. The attempted changes to the law would force gun store owners to keep all sales records in permanent storage, whereas the current law says that such records may be disposed of after 20 years.
“We would urge that you consider rescinding the proposed regulation that would require [licensed gun stores] to preserve firearm records older than 20 years,” the probe’s letter reads. “Indeed, the evidence provided by ATF thus far demonstrates that such records likely have little utility in prosecuting crime, yet raise serious concerns about whether ATF is creating a prohibited national gun registry.”
Furthermore, the letter stated that “ATF’s new proposal to require [gun stores] to keep all records of sales in perpetuity means that, eventually, ATF will sweep up records of every gun sale in America that occurs at a licensed dealer.”
In a statement after the group’s letter was made public, Congressman Cloud declared that “ATF’s response letter was disturbing as they revealed they have accumulated and are building a database of nearly a billion gun records. Americans have every right to be concerned about the Biden administration misusing their power to create an illegal federal firearms registry, and it’s up to Congress to get to the bottom of this.”