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Rogers Remarks At FY24 Budget Hearing For The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (As Prepared)

April 18, 2023
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The Subcommittee will come to order. Without objection, the Chair is authorized to declare a recess at any time.

Our witness this morning is Steven Dettelbach, Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

I will begin by recognizing myself for an opening statement.

The FY 2024 budget request for the ATF totals $1.9 billion, which is a 7.4% increase over the FY23 enacted level.

The primary criminal enforcement mission of the ATF is to protect the public from violent crime. And while the ATF's budget request attempts to assure us its resources are directed toward the most serious offenses and most dangerous criminals, some recent decisions tell another story.

Many folks are justifiably concerned about sweeping, seemingly poorly reasoned, new rules emanating from the ATF in recent months.

In one case, the ATF changed the operative definition of "rifle" in the Code of Federal Regulations such that pistols with attached stabilizing braces will be subjected to heightened federal regulation.

Under another rule, the ATF is now requiring gun dealers to retain transaction records for the entirety of their licensed activities, as opposed to the last 20 years, and redefined "frame" to crack down on privately made firearms.

Under the new rule on stabilizing braces, otherwise, lawful gun owners could face up to10 years in prison and thousands of dollars in fines if they fail to register pistols with stabilizing braces with the ATF.

If that weren't enough, the FY24 budget reveals a separate effort to roll back 2nd Amendment protections. It proposes to eliminate several long-standing gun rights riders and repeal several Second Amendment protections from permanent law.

This, along with the ATF's aggressive regulatory agenda, reveals a multi-faceted effort to eliminate freedoms not even associated with the criminal misuse of firearms.

When it comes to protecting Americans from violent crime, the Justice Department has my full support for locking up straw purchasers, prosecuting buyers who lie on their background check forms, and increasing prosecutions and penalties for gun theft – particularly from gun dealers.

The fact is, there is a lot that can be done to keep guns out of the hands of felons that does not involve requiring a disabled vet to register his adapted pistol or removing a longstanding rider related to obscure firearms. Nevertheless, it's clear where this administration has chosen to direct its efforts.

The American people can't be blamed for wondering why the government seems more intent on focusing its efforts on the law-abiding public than on doing the hard work of enforcing the law on people committed to breaking it.

The complexity of violence, and the very nature of criminal behavior, make predicting and preventing incidents of violence extremely difficult.

We in Congress want to ensure that funding is used effectively, and that it isn't used to support oppressive new regulations in the name of crime prevention.

America's national debt is out of control, and we continue to pay the price for runaway federal spending. We must examine all agencies and programs to find efficiencies and savings, and prioritize our scarce resources for those ATF efforts that have a demonstrable impact on public safety.

Today, I am sure we will have some questions about inefficiencies at the ATF, and we will examine whether some of ATF's policies are actually counterproductive.

Finally, in light of our charge to eliminate wasteful government spending, ATF's budget would benefit from much greater transparency. The entirety of ATF's budget justification, which reflects the agency's diverse mission, is reduced to two decision units – making it difficult for Congress to appropriate funding with any degree of precision.

Before we proceed, I would like to recognize Ranking Member Cartwright for any remarks he may wish to make.

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