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During Thursday’s House Judiciary Committee hearing, U.S. Congressman Matt Gaetz (FL-01) confronted the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ (ATF) Director Steven Dettelbach on the department’s new rule attacking private sales of firearms, which attempts to bar Americans from legally transferring firearms.

Video of Rep. Gaetz’s interaction with Director Dettelbach at the House Judiciary Committee hearing can be found HEREA rough transcript can also be found immediately below:


Rep. Gaetz: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. So the ATF has a final rule. I think the comments and the rule itself accumulate to about four and 66 pages that define who is engaged in the business of firearms dealings. So how many firearms does someone have to sell to be engaged in the business of firearm dealing?

Director Dettelbach: Congressman, as you know, that matter is being litigated in several courts. So sticking to what’s already in the public record, the rule itself is 16 pages, skipping lines, and there’s about, as you say, over 400 pages of explanation. Yeah. And so there are factors that are conduct based, not numerical based but conduct based. There’s also we received many comments, one of the comments that we received was from I think, Senator Cornyn, who expressed the view that there was no numerical threshold others had a different view.

Rep. Gaetz: In the House Judiciary Committee, we probably won’t look to Senator Cornyn as the Oracle of all things, gun rights. But you know, as to so you’re sitting there really is no number.

Director Dettelbach: I’m saying that Congress, our job, our job is to implement the statute that Congress writes, no, Congress didn’t

Rep. Gaetz: For a regular person for regular person, that one form or another requires guns, and they’re trying to figure out how many of these guns do I sell before I have to register as a dealer? What you’re saying is there is no bright line there.

Director Dettelbach: I’m saying that there is now more information than ever, in the form of that rule for specific conduct.

Rep. Gaetz: I think, I think just for a regular person, more information than ever, is probably less helpful than if you sell three guns, you’re not a dealer. And if you sell four guns, then you are a dealer. Right? And this rule that you guys have drafted, it’s currently enjoined. Right? It has no effect.

Director Dettelbach: There is a there are three cases that I know of maybe more going on now, one of the judges has issued equitable relief.

Rep. Gaetz: So in Texas, a judge has stopped the implementation of this law for three reasons. One is that there’s no minimum minimum requirement. And the court has found this court in Texas, that you are just giving effect and life to Congress’s statutes, you’ve in fact exceeded your authority, because Congress would have never allowed some sort of sliding scale, were 16 pages of single spaced whatever determines whether or not you’re a firearm dealer, not how many guns you sell. There’s a second reason that court in Texas said that this would not have effect. And it’s that actual profit is not a requirement of the statute, only the predominant intent for profit. How do you understand that ruling?

Director Dettelbach: Again, that’s in litigation, the Department of Justice’s positions on each and every one of these matters is public, it is laid out in many, many pages of briefing. And so I would, I would ask people to look at our briefs that we filed in the Court. And I would commend your tablet.

Rep. Gaetz: Just somebody’s just trying to figure out whether or not they have to get a federal license or be subject to your guys breaking their doors down and potentially killing them, you would think that you’d want that to be easily understandable. And here, even if someone isn’t turning a profit, but they might want to turn a profit, that could be subject to this regulation. And the court found that troubling. And then the third reason the court identified is that your rule doesn’t just give meaning to Congress’s statute, but that quote, arbitrarily eviscerates, the safe harbor for provision. So there’s a safe harbor provision, this law that says if you’re just engaged in the occasional sale or exchange or purchase of a firearm for a personal collection or a hobby, that this wouldn’t this regular regulatory structure wouldn’t affect you. But what the court is saying here, in blocking your rule, is that you you have eviscerated the Safe Harbor that exists for the hobbyist. Do you have a reaction to that ruling?

Director Dettelbach: Again? Yes, our position is is not that but I it’s under litigation, we have filed extensive Oh.

Rep. Gaetz: Here we are make your argument? Well, I mean, they’re sitting here in court trying to figure out what Congress means. What we’re saying is, there should definitely be a bright line in terms of guns. You shouldn’t have to have this pondering question about profit motive, and you shouldn’t eviscerate the safe harbor. That’s what we’re saying. So what’s your argument as to why the safe harbor should be eviscerated?

Director Dettelbach: Our argument is to look to the statute that Congress wrote the statute that Congress wrote, and I just want to make clear that people understand this. There was an earlier comment about the word livelihood that is not in the law anymore that Congress wrote Congress took that out of the law doesn’t exist anymore. So we start with the statute. That’s where things always begin.

Rep. Gaetz: Know you started with the statute, but what this court is saying is that you have exceeded the state issue you’ve done in a way that eviscerates the Safe Harbor that blurs the lines, and that creates no discernible way for people to comply with the law. And the reason I think you guys are doing that is you want to make it more difficult for people to engage in the legal, lawful and constitutionally contemplated manner to transfer firearms, and you’re trying to criminalize an entire enterprise and that’s why you see is trying to curtail some of your funding and your authorities. I see my time has expired. Mr. Chairman, I yield back.

Author: Press Release


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