Last week our friends at The Trace published a long article based on nearly 2,000 reports of gun shop inspections conducted between 2015 and 2017. The authors note that the ATF is coming under ‘scrutiny’ because a former ATF staffer, David Chipman, is going to start running the agency, and since he previously worked for Gabby Gifford’s group, he’s certainly going to change how the ATF operates and turn what The Trace considers a ‘toothless’ regulatory agency into a tough, go get ‘em outfit that will finally make a dent on violence caused by guns.

              Why do the authors of this totally contrived and error-filled article conclude that the ATF’s activities give gun dealers “immunity” from serious punishment and allows them to “enjoy layers of protection unavailable to most other industries?” Aside from the fact that these authors have obviously never worked for a bank or a brokerage house, the entire argument is based on this: “A single violation is enough to shutter a gun shop if ATF officials can prove that the store willfully broke federal regulations. In the vast majority of the cases analyzed by The Trace and USA TODAY, the ATF gave violators the lightest penalty available.”

              Of course, the so-called gun experts who wrote this nonsense never took the trouble to figure out how the ATF decides that a gun dealer has committed ‘willful’ violations in how he sells guns. And since the ATF only shut down 3 percent of the dealers who committed these horrible, willful violations, obviously gun retailers are being regulated by an agency which doesn’t know how to do its job.

              The article goes into great detail about some egregious examples of gun shops that were allowed to stay in business while they kept selling illegal guns. It starts off with a story about a West Virginia gun shop named Uncle Sam’s, which was allowed to stay in business despite numerous warnings about willful violations over multiple years while the shop operated as the “backbone of a sprawling gun trafficking scheme.” Obviously, the moment a gun dealer starts committing ‘willful’ violations, he’s another Uncle Sam’s and should be shut right down.

               My gun shop underwent a full ATF inspection in 2014.  The ATF team visited the shop numerous times, reviewed somewhere around 4,000 transactions of guns coming in and going out, they also examined hundreds of 4473 FBI-NICS background checks covering retail sales and other documentation covering guns sent to dealers, sold to tax-exempt agencies as well as the forms we filled out whenever anyone purchased multiple guns.

              At the end of this tedious and seemingly-endless exercise in the examination of thousands of pages of paperwork, it was determined that we could not produce requisite documentation on the transfer of – ready? – three guns. It doesn’t mean the paperwork didn’t exist. We just couldn’t produce the paperwork at the time the inspection occurred.

              Several weeks later, I received an inspection report from the ATF.  The report detailed the fact that the inspection team had found more than 1,000 ‘willful’ violations, each of which was considered a ‘threat to public safety’ and could result, under law, in shutting me down. On the other hand, if I showed up for a conference at the ATF, said my mea culpa’s and promised to do a better job, I could continue to operate my gun shop.

              The thousand ‘willful’ violations consisted of one violation repeated more than a thousand times: we didn’t write out the full name and federal license number of the same wholesaler from whom we purchased most of our guns. What made these violations ‘willful’ was the fact that when we received our license in 2002, an ATF agent delivered the license and also made some comments about how to fill out the forms. Incidentally, the two kids who ran the shop and had committed those thousand ‘threats’ to community safety weren’t even in the shop when the ATF agent showed up and allegedly delivered his spiel.

              I wouldn’t be so upset by this half-assed journalism if it weren’t for the fact that this story, reprinted in USA-Today, will become the new narrative used by Gun-control Nation to frame their demands for how the ATF needs to clean up its act.

              More on this tomorrow.