Just two weeks after gun extremists in the United States House of Representatives held a hearing attacking the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), NBC News is out with a new piece that dives into the increasing divide in the gun lobby on whether to support abolishing the federal agency that is in charge of enforcing our gun laws and protecting the public from violent crime. Far-right Members of Congress have introduced legislation to do away with the agency entirely or have called to defund it — which would put families and communities at risk.
More from NBC News:
Today, abolishing the ATF splits the gun movement.
While smaller groups like Gun Owners of America and the Firearms Policy Coalition sell “abolish the ATF” merchandise, the National Sports Shooting Foundation — the firearms industry trade association — does not support disbanding the agency, preferring to be regulated by the relatively weak ATF over another agency, like the FBI.
The NRA, in a written statement to NBC News, called for curbing the ATF but stopped short of explicitly saying it should be defunded.
While abolishing the agency may be unlikely at the moment while Democrats control the Senate and the White House, gun safety advocates worry the maximalist rhetoric is being used to make deep cuts in its budget appear more reasonable.
“Efforts to defund or abolish ATF are more than misguided; they’re dangerous,” said Rob Wilcox, the federal legal director for Everytown for Gun Safety, who testified at last month’s ATF hearing. “ATF plays an essential role in keeping us safe by enforcing the gun laws on the books, regulating the gun industry and partnering with state and local agencies” to trace guns used in crimes.