A group of 20 Republican U.S. senators sent a letter to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) demanding information on the “secret internal guidance documents” the agency has been using to go after solvent trap kits and forced reset triggers.
“It has recently come to our attention that ATF has formulated secret internal guidance documents ‘to assist ATF personnel tasked with differentiating so-called ‘solvent-traps’ from firearm silencers’ and to assist ‘with identifying certain machinegun conversion devices commonly referred to as’ FRTs,” the senators write.
The group of lawmakers demand that the ATF hand over any internal documents related to these two issues along with explanations for how these documents are used by law enforcement and why these documents have not been made available to the public.
Solvent trap kits were in the news last week when Form 1 applicants began receiving threatening notices from the ATF asking for images of the “parts you will use to make the silencer.” The ATF had never before asked for such images, and the American Suppressor Association slammed the agency for “unilaterally deciding that the National Firearms Act (NFA) applies to these kits.”
Now, it looks like these senators have obtained documents demonstrating that the ATF has its own set of rules for determining whether these kits, along with forced reset triggers, count as highly regulated NFA items. Running afoul of these federal laws can land gun owners in federal prison for up to 10 years.
“Our government, including the ATF, has a duty to inform Americans what they must do to comply with federal law, especially when the conduct involves the exercise of an enumerated constitutional right and violations could result in a penalty of up to ten years in prison,” the senators write. “The use of ‘secret’ law is anathema to our system of government.”
Federal courts have ruled on numerous occasions that citizens must be able to see and read all laws under which they live, and the courts must have an opportunity to rule on their constitutionality. Laws that are “put in a desk drawer, taken out only for use at a criminal trial, and immune from any evaluation by the judiciary, is the sort of tactic usually associated with totalitarian régimes,” wrote the Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.
“With this attempted secret regulation, the ATF shows an abject disregard for the fundamental principles of due process and accountable governance. Federal agencies cannot enforce the law in this manner,” the senators write.
The ATF has until March 25 to respond to the senators’ demands.