Deputy Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms Thomas Brandon delivered a decidedly mixed message on the agency’s role in upholding the Second Amendment.
“Public safety is the reason we exist,” he said, speaking to CBS’s Sunday Morning. “ . . . it’s not to take people’s guns. It’s to regulate firearms that could be misused. We’re a small agency with a big job.”
However, when the issue of a national gun registry entered the discussion, Brandon’s comments raised concern among Second Amendment Advocates:
“Would it be efficient and effective? Absolutely. Would it the taxpayers benefit with public safety? Absolutely. Are we allowed to do it? No.”
He further noted that the politics around firearms ownership played a role in hindering the agency’s efforts to create a nationwide gun database.
Critics of a national firearms registry argue that such a database would be both unconstitutional and ineffectual. The National Rifle Association frames a nationwide gun registry as an intrusion into the privacy of legal gun owners and the first step toward confiscation. Organizations like the ATF counter that such a registry would enhance their ability to investigate and prevent crime.
The discussion is further complicated by the ATF’s problematic history with gun ownership and sales, culminating in a series of gun walking programs commonly referred to as Operation Fast and Furious. Under ATF auspices, at least 1,400 firearms were allowed to enter Mexico illegal. Many of them ended up in the hands of drug cartels, resulting in hundreds of deaths on either side of the border including at least one US Federal agent.
Ultimately the resources allocated to the ATF will be the result of legislative or executive action. The role played but the upcoming election remains to be seen, leaving many Second Amendment advocates uneasy.