Rep. Matt Gaetz is calling on his colleagues to support a bill that would abolish the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), a law enforcement agency that operates under the Department of Justice, after its latest guidance that restricts the ownership of gun components.
During a speech on the floor of the House chamber Wednesday, Gaetz, a Republican from Florida, said the bureau “cannot be trusted” and that it was ultimately seeking to strip Americans of their Second Amendment right to privately own firearms.
“The ATF cannot be trusted to protect our right to keep and bear arms,” Gaetz said. “There is no timeline where the ATF, under any administration, would become an ally [to gun owners]. It needs to go, we need to abolish the ATF before they abolish our Second Amendment rights.”
The comments came after the ATF announced it would treat pistols with stabilizing accessories like short-barreled rifles, which require a federal license to own under the National Firearms Act.
“Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms should be the name of a chain of convenience stores in Florida, not a federal agency,” added Gaetz, who represents the Pensacola, Crestview, and Fort Walton Beach areas.
Gaetz formally introduced legislation that would abolish the ATF in its entirety on Jan. 17.
Gaetz’s bill, H.R.374, the “Abolish the ATF Act,” simply reads: “The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives is hereby abolished.” It has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee.
“I urge every red-blooded American and every conservative in this Congress to stand with Rep. Andrew Clyde [R-GA] and his legislation and to stand with me and to co-sponsor my bill, the Abolist the ATF Act of 2023. Let’s get rid of this unlawful agency once and for all,” the Floridian said.
He concluded: “Let this special order be considered a shot across the bow.”
Gaetz previously told Fox New Digital that he knows many disabled veterans in his district who utilize the stabilizing bracing to shoot effectively and safely.
“The continued existence of the ATF is increasingly unwarranted based on the actions they’re taking to convert otherwise law-abiding people into felons,” the lawmaker added.
The ATF has defended its decision to treat the modified pistols no differently than rifles.
“Certain so-called stabilizing braces are designed to just attach to pistols, essentially converting them into short-barreled rifles to be fired from the shoulder,” said ATF Director Steven Dettelbach. “Therefore, they must be treated in the same way under the statute.”
Stabilizing braces were used in the shooting at a grocery store that left 10 dead in Boulder, Colorado, in March 2021, and during a shooting in Dayton, Ohio, that left nine people dead in 2019. President Biden has called for the accessory to be banned.
Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the restrictions to stabilizing brace accessories and said they should be subject to “heightened requirements.”
“Keeping our communities safe from gun violence is among the Department’s highest priorities,” Garland said. “Almost a century ago, Congress determined that short-barreled rifles must be subject to heightened requirements. Today’s rule makes clear that firearm manufacturers, dealers, and individuals cannot evade these important public safety protections simply by adding accessories to pistols that transform them into short-barreled rifles.”
The ATF focuses its law enforcement efforts on “violent criminals, criminal organizations, the illegal use and trafficking of firearms, the illegal use and storage of explosives, acts of arson and bombings, acts of terrorism, and the illegal diversion of alcohol and tobacco products.”
Many of the ATF’s law enforcement responsibilities overlap with local, state and other federal law enforcement agencies.