U.S.A. –-(AmmoLand.com)- The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are unlikely to have acted, as policy, to deliberately hurt President Trump's chances at re-election. This does not mean a faction of individuals inside the ATF did not do so.
Several sources have been willing to talk, off the record, about what is going on in the ATF. None are currently inside the agency. None were willing to be quoted. All have had considerable contact with the agency over past years.
One source confirmed the AmmoLand article by John Crump on 8 October was “on the money”. It was claimed Associate Deputy Director Marvin Richardson was quite upset with John Crump's AmmoLand article.
In the article, sources inside the ATF state Acting Director Regina Lombardo is “not loyal to the president”. They state Associate Director Marvin Richardson believes pistol braces “violate the NFA”.
Believing pistol braces violate the NFA appears to be a common position inside the ATF. ATF rulings on pistol arm braces have been contradictory.
An Acting Director of the ATF is not required to be personally loyal to a President, but they should be expected to follow DOJ directives.
Lombardo was next in line after Acting Director Thomas B. Brandon retired at the end of April of 2019. The simplest thing to do was to make her Acting Director while waiting for approval of a direct appointment by President Trump.
GOA actively worked to prevent the appointment of Chuck Canterbury. That meant Lombardo continued on as Acting Director, at least through the election. The Giffords organization, which seeks numerous restrictions on gun ownership and use, approved of Lombardo's appointment as acting director. From Giffords press release:
“Regina Lombardo is a career special agent who has served our country at ATF for over 25 years. We support her ascension to the top role at the agency. Congress and the Trump administration must now provide the increased funding and resources she needs to succeed in an agency that has been historically underserved.”
As someone who has studied bureaucratic dynamics for years, it appears ATF is being obstructionist, waiting out the election.
The inference is that many inside the agency think there will be a different President in 2021, a different Attorney General, and those pesky DOJ memos directing them to carefully follow the Administrative Procedures Act will go away when the next administration takes over.
A significant source of power of the ATF is the ability to make rulings with private letters, reverse them, change them, and never worry about having those rulings challenged in court. The Trump administration, through the DOJ, as part of its regulatory overhaul, has been working to change that and to make ATF rulings more transparent.
A common theme has been: the ATF is more chaotic than most bureaus and has factions inside which work against one another. It leaks repeatedly to Congressional members and resists Congressional oversight. At the same time, Congress has been deadlocked, unable to enact reforms that are needed.
Acting Director Regina Lombardo has a reputation of being reasonably competent, but not a rock star. Getting control of a chaotic ATF is no easy task. ATF has always been rather political.
The Honey Badger Cease and Desist letter may be an attempt to circumvent the DOJ memos.
The Boston Field Office of the ATF issued the Honey Badger Cease and Desist letter. They claimed the Firearms and Technology Division determined the firearm is a short-barreled rifle. It is not clear if Lombardo and/or Richardson approved of the letter before it went out. In a well run Bureau, such a sensitive item would not be sent out without approval from the top brass.
If people inside the ATF made the pistol brace letters to hurt President Trump, they have a poor understanding of the electoral dynamics. Such shenanigans are as likely to show the need to keep the Trump administration in control to bring the ATF into line. It is not easy to know how such moves will affect voters.
The smart bureaucratic move would be to do nothing so close to an election. It would be easy to justify to a Biden administration, as they could claim to be following the DOJ directives. What administration would want a bureau inside the DOJ to resist their directives?
As a political move, the brace rulings signal overconfidence of a Biden victory.
The ATF is part of the Administrative State. The Administrative State will reflexively resist attempts to control it and reduce its power. A strong, reform-minded director of the ATF is needed to change the organizational mindset.
Q, LLC., manufacturer of the Honey Badger Pistol, received a 60-day suspension of the cease and desist order from the ATF on October 9th. In a letter sent to lawyers representing Q, LLC it is indicated that the Department of Justice is now reviewing the “applicability of the National Firearms Act to the manufacture and transfer of the model ‘Honey Badger Pistol' firearm.”
In a letter posted on Q's website they explain that they believe this suspension to be, “an effort to put manufacturers, distributors, and consumers at ease, and to postpone the issue past the presidential election in hopes that a new administration will take a different view.”
Q, LLC will not resume manufacturing the Honey Badger Pistol until a definitive decision has been made by the ATF regarding the Honey Badger Pistol, “as the ATF could arbitrarily withdraw the suspension at any time.”
About Dean Weingarten:
Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of Constitutional Carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.