Hyde-Smith, colleagues target ATF ‘secret guidance’

Published 4:01 pm Monday, March 14, 2022

U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), of Brookhaven, and 19 of her colleagues are demanding that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) disclose details of its use of secret internal guidance to enforce regulations that are not openly published and could threaten constitutional Second Amendment rights.

The lawmakers detailed their concerns in a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland and Acting ATF Director Marvin Richardson.  The letter addressed the use of secret guidance in the ATF effort to classify solvent traps as silencers and forced reset triggers as machine guns, subjecting them to regulation and registration requirements under the National Firearms Act.

“ATF simply has no authority to conceal public guidance and then enforce it on unsuspecting Americans.  The ATF must issue only those regulations authorized by Congress, provide notice of the proposed regulations, and then provide the American people with an opportunity to comment before a new rule goes into effect,” the Senators wrote.

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Instead of releasing these new regulations as a public rule available for public notice and comment, the ATF is attempting to regulate through private letters to manufacturers and individuals suspected of owning these devices.  The Senators expressed alarm that the use of secret guidance has been used to justify the seizure of property and could troublingly be used to prosecute Americans and businesses.

“With this attempted secret regulation, the ATF shows an abject disregard for the fundamental principles of due process and accountable governance.  Federal agencies cannot enforce the law in this manner,” the Senators wrote.

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) led the letter, which was also signed by Senators James Risch (R-Idaho), Tom Tillis (R-N.C.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), Tim Scott (R-S.C.), and Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

The National Rifle Association, Gun Owners of America, and Firearms Regulatory Accountability Coalition are among the organizations supporting the Senators’ efforts.

Aidan Johnston, Gun Owners of America director of federal affairs, said of the ATF effort, “The ATF will stop at nothing to criminalize gun owners and attack the Second Amendment. This time, their scheme is to criminalize solvent traps — tools that gun owners use while cleaning their firearms. By mislabeling solvent traps as silencers, the ATF makes it clear that they not only do not understand how firearms really work, but also that they are willing to turn law-abiding Americans into criminals overnight to push their anti-gun agenda.”

In the letter, the Senators requested ATF provide details of its secret guidance practices by March 25.