OPINION — After writing, periodically, about gun laws and gun rights and gun wrongs and such for over twenty years, I’ve gotten to the point where I only address the issue if there’s something new to present. Usually there isn’t, and readers are tired of the same old saw, and I’m tired of writing the same things over and over, preaching to the choir. Few people are ever persuaded to switch sides on the basis of facts and evidence, if they haven’t already accepted truth. I’d rather not waste our time.

This week, however, there is actual news, and it’s actually important news, and if you care about your gun rights you need to actually do something about it. The ATF is planning to alter the format of the Form 4473 in such a way as to establish a de facto gun registry. The federal agency is required by law to receive comments from the public about this change, and you never know, if enough people complain, it could be stopped.

Now, we realize the attitude of most Texans is that Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms should be the name of a convenience store chain, instead of a federal agency tasked with enforcing federal laws, but we have to deal with reality. Officially the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, the ATF is the entity that has to be consulted if a citizen wants to buy a suppressor and save his or her hearing, or build a rifle with a barrel shorter than sixteen inches, or buy an actual machine gun (not just a semiautomatic firearm such as an AR-15). The ATF also regulates the Form 4473, which is the form that has to be filled out when a member of the unwashed general public, like you or me, wishes to be allowed to purchase a firearm from a licensed gun dealer. Because we’re so free.

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Above: An ATF Convenience store logo?

Longtime readers will recall my attitude toward most of the ATF’s rules. If you build a suppressor in your garage it’s a danger to the public, but if you buy it from a dealer, pay $200 to the ATF, present a note from your mom, wait a year, endure an extensive background check, and get a permit, your suppressor is suddenly safe to possess. Same with a short barreled rifle (SBR), or an automatic weapon. Somehow, paying the gubmint $200 makes the item safe. I guess it’s magic. Or something.

A rifle, according to the ATF, has to have a barrel at least sixteen inches long. Get caught with a rifle whose barrel is fifteen and ninety-five one hundredths inches long, and you go to jail, go directly to jail, do not pass go, and do not collect $200, which is the amount you would have paid for the permit, if you had followed The Rules. And you’ll probably be fined $10,000 and spend ten years making little ones out of big ones at picturesque Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary. At least you’ll get to meet a lot of interesting people.

But I digress. We were discussing the Form 4473, and the proposed changes thereto. Anytime a firearm is purchased through a FFL dealer, the buyer must fill out this form. The dealer has to keep it on file for twenty (20) years. But the files are usually only consulted during criminal investigations, so there’s that.

When buying a firearm from someone who’s not a dealer, no forms are required. Some bad people, such as Mini Mike Bloomberger, want to require 4473s and background checks on all gun transfers, even between Jethro and Ellie Mae, because otherwise how will they know Ellie Mae has a gun, when the ATF wants to take it away? You have to have a complete gun registry for that, and every single solitary individual firearm in the country has to be logged in to that registry, or else it won’t work at all. So there’s that.

Here’s the thing. As of now, the gun buyer’s name and personal information are on a separate page of the Form 4473 from the identifying information about the gun purchased. So it’s not really a gun registry, it’s currently more of a ‘gun buyer registry.’ Not great, but it could be worse. Here’s how.

The change the ATF plans to make to the 4473 would put the information about the specific gun on the same page of the form as the buyer’s information is on. No big deal, right? So what?

Here’s so what. Doing that is against federal law. The Firearm Owners’ Protection Act of 1986 is a US federal law that prohibits any gubmint agency from keeping any sort of database or registry that ties firearms directly to their owner. So if the ATF makes the planned change to the 4473, it will become a federal agency that is willfully and knowingly violating federal law. Of course, many states and cities, such as New York, California, Hawaii, and New Jersey have gun databases prohibited by FOPA. We refer to those places as ‘communistic’ for a reason.

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FOPA was written to protect our freedoms, and the ATF is planning to take those freedoms away anyhow. If you don’t want that to happen, let them know. Just don’t tell them I told you about this. The three agents already assigned to watch my house are enough . . .

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