In 2021, the Biden administration continued a trend of aggressive federal gun control enforcement, with numbers at or near record levels.
But this isn’t something limited to Joe Biden, or even just Democrats. Both parties have utterly failed to abide by the clear restrictions in the 2nd Amendment.
During a public appearance in 2019, President Donald Trump proudly reminded us about his gun control credentials, bragging that his administration implemented new gun control and conducted more enforcement actions than anyone in history. In fact, ATF enforcement increased in each of the first three years of his administration, and even with government shutting down the much country, enforcement numbers only fell slightly in 2020.
With lockdowns mostly in the rearview, the Biden administration took up right where Trump left off.
The number of firearms cases initiated by the ATF fell slightly, from 39,449 in 2020 to 37,003 last year. But the number of cases recommended for prosecution surged by 39.9 percent from 8,025 in 2020 to 11,224 in 2021. This was roughly the same number of cases recommended for prosecution in 2019. (See Footnote 1)
Cases Recommended for Prosecution
- 2021 – 11,224
- 2020 – 8,025
- 2019 – 11,319
- 2018 – 10,691
- 2017 – 9,591
- 2016 – 8,805
- 2015 – 7,516
- 2014 – 7,577
The ATF got indictments in 7,532 cases last year compared to 6,934 in 2020. This was on par with the ATF’s performance in the second year Trump was in office and 18.5 percent higher than Obama’s last year in office.
- 2021 – 7,532
- 2020 – 6,934
- 2019 – 8,360
- 2018 – 7,630
- 2017 – 7,137
- 2016 – 6,357
- 2015 – 5,503
- 2014 – 5,310
In all, the feds indicted 11,083 defendants in 2021.
The feds got convictions in 5,967 cases. This was slightly higher than Trump’s second year in office. In total, federal prosecutors convicted 7,901 defendants in cases brought by the ATF.
- 2021 – 5,967
- 2020 – 5,181
- 2019 – 6,887
- 2018 – 5,485
- 2017 – 6,068
- 2016 – 5,517
- 2015 – 4,031
- 2014 – 4,482
The ATF also investigates arson, cases involving explosives, and alcohol and tobacco cases, but these make up a small percentage of the total. Last year, 92.4 percent of all cases were related to firearms. Under Trump, 92 percent of the cases investigated by the ATF involved firearms. It was slightly less under Obama – 90 percent.
ATF enforcement of federal gun laws under Trump in year one increased at roughly the same trajectory as it did during the last three years of Obama’s second term and it continued at roughly the same pace until the pandemic slowed things down. With the pandemic behind us, it appears Biden has returned to the status quo – aggressive enforcement of unconstitutional federal gun laws.
The lesson? We can’t trust anybody in Washington D.C. to protect the right to keep and bear arms.
In fact, if the government followed the Constitution, the ATF wouldn’t exist. All federal gun control laws are unconstitutional. Under the Constitution, there is nothing for the ATF to enforce.
Even among the strongest supporters of “gun rights,” most hold the view that the Second Amendment allows for “reasonable” federal regulation of firearms. But as originally understood, the Second Amendment includes no such exceptions. Constitutionally speaking, the federal government should not regulate the manufacture or private ownership of firearms.
There wasn’t an asterisk after “shall not be infringed.” No terms and conditions apply.
The bottom line is we can’t trust Republicans or Democrats in Washington D.C. to uphold the Second Amendment.
How to Stop the ATF
You can’t expect a savior to waltz into the White House and end the ATF, but there is a way to slow the agency’s roll. States can hinder the ATF by refusing to cooperate with their enforcement efforts, and withholding personnel and resources.
The federal government relies heavily on state cooperation to implement and enforce almost all of its laws, regulations and acts – including gun control. By simply withdrawing this necessary cooperation, states and localities can nullify many federal actions in effect. As noted by the National Governors’ Association during the partial government shutdown of 2013, “states are partners with the federal government on most federal programs.”
Based on James Madison’s advice for states and individuals in Federalist #46, a “refusal to cooperate with officers of the Union” represents an extremely effective method to bring down federal gun control measures because most enforcement actions rely on help, support and leadership from state and local governments.
Fox News senior judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano agreed. In a televised discussion on the issue, he noted that a single state taking this step would make federal gun laws “nearly impossible” to enforce.
“Partnerships don’t work too well when half the team quits,” Tenth Amendment Center founder and director Michael Boldin said. “By withdrawing all resources and participation in federal gun control, states and even local governments can help bring these unconstitutional acts to their much-needed end.”
No matter which party controls the federal apparatus, the federal gun control acts of 1934, 1968 and 1986, along with other various laws violating the Second Amendment, remain on the books. ATF enforcement statistics reveal little to no difference between “gun-grabbing” Democrats and Republican “friends of the Second Amendment.” In fact, over the last three administrations, Trump so far was the worst. It remains to be seen how enforcement numbers play out under the Biden administration, but it looks like he will carry forward Trump’s legacy of aggressive enforcement.
Instead of hoping the next president will do better, it’s time to confront this federal menace head-on with state and local action.
All enforcement statistics were taken from the following ATF Fact Sheets
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