What if government agents could, by declaration, make you into a criminal? What if, without legislative change, bureaucrats could decide that what was legal yesterday is a felony today? What if we were governed not by law, but by arbitrary statements telling us what we may or may not do?
Unfortunately, those questions are not merely hypothetical—thanks to recent abuses of power by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), millions of American gun owners are facing them head-on. Even if you hate guns, you should be deeply concerned by the arbitrary power wielded by the ATF against your fellow Americans. If an unchecked executive agency can run roughshod over any of our rights with impunity, all of our rights are in danger.
Felons by Fiat
Recently, the firearms manufacturer Q, LLC shared disturbing news with its customers: the ATF had declared the delightfully-named and popular “Honey Badger” pistol to be a “short-barreled rifle” (SBR). This determination subjects the firearm to special restrictions under the National Firearms Act (NFA). As a consequence of the ATF’s decision, customers who had purchased the Honey Badger have suddenly found themselves in felonious possession of a now-illegal firearm that they had legally acquired and legally owned.
The ATF’s determination is arbitrary. It is inconsistent with both federal law and prior ATF statements. Substantially similar firearms continue to be sold legally, as they have been for years. Instead of explaining what makes the Honey Badger different from those firearms, the ATF vaguely alluded to “objective design features,” offering no further explanation as to what those features are or why they lead the ATF to determine that the Honey Badger is an SBR.