Earlier this month, Attorney General Merrick Garland spoke about the rise of gun-related deaths in the U.S. and the federal government’s strategy to reduce them. His remarks suggest that criminal prosecutions will play a central part to that strategy.
The AG’s remarks about keeping guns “out of the hands of criminals” suggest an increase in prosecutions under 18 USC 922(g) against felons who possess firearms, even where they have no record of violent crimes or conduct. It appears the feds will go beyond that, however, as the AG has directed the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (commonly known as the ATF) to produce a report on criminal gun trafficking and study the advent of plastic, 3D-printed firearms and firearm accessories.
The AG’s statements also suggest the DOJ will target licensed firearms dealers if they find flaws in their background checks or if the dealer is selling legally questionable firearm kits and accessories. While the ATF is currently seeking to add regulations to address “loopholes” in firearms regulations, that likely won’t stop the DOJ from prosecuting firearms dealers or manufacturers before then. In addition to firearm kits, the AG’s statement focused on stabilizing braces that can be added to pistols to make them more stable and accurate and “red flag laws” which allow individuals and law enforcement to petition a court to temporarily bar a person from possessing firearms.
Around the same time as the AG’s remarks, President Biden nominated David Chipman, a gun control advocate and former ATF agent, to lead the ATF. Chipman’s experience as an agent included investigating firearms trafficking. The president has also announced that the DOJ will seek to add new regulations on firearms and firearm accessories.
There will undoubtedly be a lot of litigation stemming from the federal government’s actions on firearms, some of it criminal and some of it administrative. Some challenges will likely end up at the Supreme Court. Firearms owners and dealers should be aware of the federal government’s new aggressive approach and review their business practices for any areas of concern. They should also familiarize themselves with federal firearm offenses and defenses, and consult an attorney if they have any questions.
Click here to read the DOJ press release.