“At my direction, the DOJ banned bump stocks. Last year we prosecuted a record number of firearms offenses.”
During a public appearance in 2019, President Donald Trump proudly reminded us about his gun control credentials, bragging that his administration implemented new gun control and has conducted more enforcement actions than anyone in history.
The president didn’t back off his commitment to enforcing gun laws in 2019. For the third straight year, the Trump administration has ramped up enforcement of unconstitutional federal gun control, according to the latest data released by the ATF.
Last year, the ATF investigated 35,790 firearms cases. That was on par with the 35,839 firearms cases the agency investigated in 2018. This after the ATF significantly increased the number of cases it pursued during Trump’s first year in office.
In 2016, the final year of the Obama administration, the ATF investigated 31,853 firearms cases. During Trump’s first year, the agency investigated 35,302. That was 3,349 more firearms cases than under Obama, a 10.81 percent increase. (See Footnote 1)
Cases Recommended for Prosecution
The big jump we saw in 2019 was in the number of cases recommended for prosecution.
Last year, the ATF recommended 11,319 cased for prosecution. That compares with 10,691 cases recommended for prosecution in 2018, a 5.9 percent increase year-on-year. This continues an upward trend in prosecutions we’ve seen going back to the Obama years.
- 2019 – 11,319
- 2018 – 10,691
- 2017 – 9,591
- 2016 – 8,805
- 2015 – 7,516
- 2014 – 7,577
Since Trump has been in the White House, the number of cases recommended for prosecution has increased by 28.6 percent.
The number of cases leading to indictment also went up significantly last year. The ATF got indictments in 8,360 cases last year compared to 7,630 in 2018. In all, the feds indicted 12,441 defendants last year.
- 2019 – 8,360
- 2018 – 7,630
- 2017 – 7,137
- 2016 – 6,357
- 2015 – 5,503
- 2014 – 5,310
The number of cases leading to a conviction was up 20.4 percent year on year. In 2019, the ATF tallied 6,887 convicted cases compared with 5,485 the year before. In total, the federal government convicted 9,773 defendants in cases brought by the ATF.
- 2019 – 6,887
- 2018 – 5,485
- 2017 – 6,068
- 2016 – 5,517
- 2015 – 4,031
- 2014 – 4,482
The ATF also investigates arson, cases involving explosives, and alcohol and tobacco cases, but these make up a small percentage of the total. Under Trump, 92 percent of the cases investigated by the ATF have involved firearms. It was slightly less under Obama – 90 percent.
ATF enforcement of federal gun laws under Trump in year one increased at roughly the same trajectory as it did during the last three years of Obama’s second term and it has continued at roughly the same pace since. In other words, the NRA-backed, GOP protector of the Second Amendment has been no better than the Democratic Party gun-grabber.
And Trump did something even Obama didn’t do. He instituted new federal gun control with the implementation of a “bump-stock” ban. He has also suggested he might impose a similar ban on firearm “silencers.”
Some might argue it would have been worse if Hillary Clinton had won. Perhaps. But if you support the Second Amendment, don’t you find it problematic that the president who’s supposed to be the good guy continues to ratchet up enforcement of existing unconstitutional federal laws?
A true supporter of the right to keep and bear arms would do better.
And make no mistake; all federal gun control laws are unconstitutional.
Even among the strongest supporters of “gun rights,” most hold the view that the Second Amendment allows for “reasonable” federal regulation of firearms. But as originally understood, the Second Amendment includes no such exceptions. Constitutionally speaking, the federal government should not regulate the manufacture or private ownership of firearms.
There wasn’t an asterisk after “shall not be infringed.” No terms and conditions apply.
The bottom line is we can’t trust Republicans in Washington D.C. to uphold the Second Amendment. Unfortunately, it appears we have the same problem with Republicans in state legislatures as well.
When Barack Obama was president, Republicans in state legislatures introduced dozens of bills to nullify federal gun control by refusing to help with federal enforcement. After Trump won the White House, those efforts virtually stopped, even though not one single federal gun control law has been repealed.
During the last two years of the Obama administration, there were more than 50 bills directly pushing back against federal gun control introduced in 22 states. During the four state legislative sessions since the Trump administration took over, the number of bills dropped by more than half and the number of states nearly did too.
Not only that, the bills that were filed after Trump took office didn’t go anywhere. Governors signed five bills into law directly taking on federal gun control during the last two Obama years. Since then – zero.
If you didn’t know better, you’d think there weren’t any more threats to the right to keep and bear arms. And yet the federal gun control acts of 1934, 1968 and 1986, along with other various laws violating the Second Amendment, remain on the books. And they’re still being enforced by the feds just as aggressively as they were when Obama was president.
By and large, Republicans use the Second Amendment as a campaign prop, but they do very little to actually stop the federal government from infringing on your right to keep and bear arms. They barely hold the line on new gun control and they don’t do anything to challenge the unconstitutional laws already on the books.
All enforcement statistics were taken from the following ATF Fact Sheets
These numbers include all cases investigated by the ATF, including arson, explosives, and alcohol and tobacco. In 2017, 2018, and 2019, approximately 92 percent of the ATF cases investigated involved firearms. In 2016, 90 percent of the cases were firearms-related.