Skip to content

Ernst Works to Protect Lawful Gun Dealers from ATF

Biden ATF’s “zero tolerance” policy is punishing accidental violations.

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) is leading legislation to protect gun dealers’ Second Amendment rights in the face of the Biden Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives’ (ATF) punishing “zero tolerance” crackdown.

After the Biden administration instituted an approach that puts Federal Firearm License (FFL) holders at risk of having their licenses revoked for a single, minor, clerical error, Ernst’s Fighting Irrational Regulatory Enforcement to Avert Retailers’ Misfortune (FIREARM) Actfights the Biden ATF’s “zero tolerance” policy by creating a safe harbor for lawful gun dealers at risk of having their FFLs stripped. This leads them to report violations without the fear of losing their ability to do business.

"Biden’s ATF has had it out for gun owners since day one," Ernst said. "For years, the Biden administration has cracked down on law-abiding gun dealers to advance its gun-grabbing agenda, even preventing small businesses from making a living. Rather than helping dealers comply with the law, Biden’s ATF has created more hurdles to legally sell guns, so it can turn around and revoke licenses for inconsequential, so-called ‘violations.’ While Joe Biden’s ATF has avoided critical oversight on its FFL abuse for over a year, I am proud to stand up for law-abiding Iowa gun dealers." 

“From the beginning, this Administration has sought to undermine the Second Amendment and weaponize federal agencies against law-abiding citizens and family-owned small businesses targeted for being a part of the lawful firearms industry. This has delivered a transparently unfair assault on the fundamental rights of our fellow Americans, and that’s why my friend Senator Ernst and I are introducing the FIREARM Act. It’s time to stop this abuse of power and prevent it from ever happening again,” said Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who is leading this legislation in the House.

“Senator Joni Ernst’s ‘FIREARM’ Act will help restore confidence that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives will fulfill its mission as a regulatory agency over the manufacture and sale of firearms rather than being used as a political tool by special interests,” said Lawrence G. Keane, NSSF Senior Vice President & General Counsel. “For too long, the firearm and ammunition industry has seen the ATF turned into a sledgehammer to carry out the extremist policies of antigun administrations. This damages the cooperative relationships between firearm retailers, who are often the frontline preventing illegal straw purchases of firearms, and the ATF, who enforces laws to safeguard our communities. NSSF is thankful for Senator Ernst’s leadership to provide remedies that repair this necessary public trust in our federal agencies.”

Specifically, the FIREARM Act:

  • Creates a safe harbor for FFLs to self-report violations, so they can correct any accidental errors;
  • Requires the ATF to work collaboratively with FFLs to fix violations and help avoid future violations;
  • Addresses the “willfulness” issue by defining it to mean a voluntary, intentional violation of a known legal duty achieved through specific intent or deliberate planning, excludes previous conduct, and creates a rebuttal if the conduct is not willful; and
  • Allows for direct judicial review of license revocations to avoid the ATF from serving as both the judge and prosecutor.

Read full bill text here.


Ernst has worked to hold the ATF accountable by standing up against ATF agents knocking on the doors of private residences, where many law-abiding gun owners live, and asking them to display a recently purchased firearm.

She has also exposed the ATF’s routine misclassification of administrative positions as law enforcement jobs, improperly costing the federal agency millions in pay and enhanced benefits over a five-year span. In January, she followed up and called for accountability and a full review of the ATF’s unlawful misclassification of administrative positions as “law enforcement” that wasted millions of taxpayer dollars.