The Biden administration in just the past year alone stockpiled the records of more than 54 million U.S. gun owners and is poised to drastically alter gun regulations to ensure that information on Americans who own firearms ultimately ends up in the federal government’s hands, according to internal Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) documents obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.
The ATF in fiscal year 2021 processed 54.7 million out-of-business records, according to an internal ATF document obtained by the Gun Owners of America, a firearms advocacy group, and provided exclusively to the Free Beacon. When a licensed gun store goes out of business, its private records detailing gun transactions become ATF property and are stored at a federal site in West Virginia. This practice allows the federal government to stockpile scores of gun records and has drawn outrage from gun advocacy groups that say the government is using this information to create a national database of gun owners—which has long been prohibited under U.S. law.
The ATF obtained 53.8 million paper records and another 887,000 electronic records, according to the internal document that outlines ATF actions in fiscal year 2021. Gun activists described this figure as worryingly high and said it contributes to fears that the Biden administration is trying to keep track of all Americans who own firearms, in violation of federal statutes. The procurement of these records by the ATF comes as the Biden administration moves to alter current laws to ensure that gun records are stored in perpetuity. Currently, gun shops can destroy their records after 20 years, thereby preventing the ATF from accessing the information in the future.
“As if the addition of over 50 million records to an ATF gun registry wasn’t unconstitutional or illegal enough, the Biden administration’s misuse of ‘out-of-business’ records doesn’t end there,” Aidan Johnston, the Gun Owners of America’s director of federal affairs, told the Free Beacon. “Instead of maintaining the right of [licensed firearm dealers] to destroy Firearm Transaction Records after 20 years, buried within Biden’s proposed regulations is a provision that would mean every single Firearm Transaction Record going forward would eventually be sent to ATF’s registry in West Virginia.”
The ATF’s registry site has long been a battleground between gun advocates and the federal government. Those in favor of more restrictive gun measures want the ATF to digitize this registry and create a federal database of U.S. gun owners, a move opposed by groups such as the Gun Owners of America and the National Rifle Association. The ATF has so many records stored in its West Virginia site that several years ago the floor collapsed, according to the New York Times.
An ATF spokesman declined to comment on internal agency records but told the Free Beacon that the agency’s “National Tracing Center processes millions of out of business records each month.” However, “those out of business records do not constitute an initiation or continuation of any federal gun registry,” the spokesman said.
The Gun Control Act of 1968 mandates that licensed firearm dealers that go out of business provide the ATF with their records. They are then processed into images, though the ATF maintains this database cannot be searched by a purchaser’s name. Physical records, the agency says, are then destroyed.
The record-keeping issue has received new scrutiny as the Biden administration readies to implement several new restrictions on firearms and owners, including a proposed ban on anywhere from 10 to 40 million pistol braces, which are used as stabilizers on popular weapons such as AR-15s. Under these guidelines, gun owners would be ordered to register or destroy these pistol braces.
The ATF’s proposed regulations would also require gun parts to be regulated with background checks, meaning that if an individual assembled a legal homemade gun, he may be forced to submit to up to 16 different background checks.
Gun advocates, including the Gun Owners of America, accuse the Biden administration of abusing the rule-making process to ensure these regulations are put into effect in record time, possibly before the end of the year.
“The Biden administration has forced ATF to undertake the rule-making process in record time—resulting in faulty argumentation and demonstrating that neither ATF nor Biden’s anti-gun appointees know anything about the firearms and accessories they seek to regulate,” said Johnston.
The ATF, through its spokesman, maintained that its rule-making process allows for gun advocates, experts, and others to offer comment on proposed regulations well before they go into effect. “Congress and the Government Accountability Office have an opportunity to review any final rule prior to its effective date,” the spokesman said. “The process is anything but ‘speedy.'”
OSHA suspends enforcement of COVID-19 vaccine mandate for businesses
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is suspending enforcement of the Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for large private businesses after a federal appeals court upheld a stay on it last week.
OSHA said in a statement published on its website Friday night that while it is confident in its power to protect workers amid the pandemic, it is suspending activities related to the mandate, citing the pending litigation.
“The court ordered that OSHA ‘take no steps to implement or enforce’ the ETS [Emergency Temporary Standard] ‘until further court order.’ While OSHA remains confident in its authority to protect workers in emergencies, OSHA has suspended activities related to the implementation and enforcement of the ETS pending future developments in the litigation,” OSHA said.
President Biden announced in September that the administration was rolling out a new rule that would require all private employers with 100 or more employees to mandate vaccines or weekly testing for all personnel, a guideline that has the potential to impact nearly 80 million workers.
Earlier this month the administration set Jan. 4 as the deadline for qualifying private employers to start mandating the vaccine or requiring weekly testing. The rule was developed by OSHA.
In a 22-page ruling last week, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals wrote that the administration’s COVID-19 vaccine and testing mandate was “fatally flawed” and ordered that OSHA not enforce the requirement “pending adequate judicial review” of a motion for a permanent injunction.
The court said OSHA should “take no steps to implement or enforce the mandate until further court order.”
The case originated when Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R), along with the states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Utah and South Carolina, filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration over the vaccine mandate in October, requesting a preliminary and permanent injunctive relief to stop the mandate from being enforced. The lawsuit also asked that the mandate be declared unlawful.
Earlier this month, the federal appeals court ordered a temporary halt on the mandate, but the Department of Justice then requested that the halt be lifted, contending that the administration has the legal authority to require COVID-19 vaccines or testing for larger companies and that the states that are challenging the mandate have not shown that their claims outweigh the harm of stopping of rule.
The court, however, upheld the stay, which prompted OSHA’s announcement that it is suspending enforcement of the rule.
More than two dozen state attorneys general and other groups are also challenging the mandate in court.
Despite the court’s ruling, however, the White House urged businesses to continue implementing the guidance for COVID-19 vaccines and testing.
Pfizer, BioNTech, Moderna making $1,000 profit every second
Pfizer, BioNTech and Moderna are making combined profits of $65,000 every minute from their highly successful COVID-19 vaccines while the world’s poorest countries remain largely unvaccinated, according to a new analysis.
The companies have sold the vast majority of their doses to rich countries, leaving low-income nations in the lurch, said the People’s Vaccine Alliance (PVA), a coalition campaigning for wider access to COVID vaccines, which based its calculations on the firms’ own earning reports.
The Alliance estimates that the trio will make pre-tax profits of $34 billion this year between them, which works out to over $1,000 a second, $65,000 a minute or $93.5 million a day.
“It is obscene that just a few companies are making millions of dollars in profit every single hour, while just two percent of people in low-income countries have been fully vaccinated against coronavirus,” Maaza Seyoum of the African Alliance and People’s Vaccine Alliance Africa said.
“Pfizer, BioNTech and Moderna have used their monopolies to prioritise the most profitable contracts with the richest governments, leaving low-income countries out in the cold.”
Pfizer and BioNTech have delivered less than one percent of their total supplies to low-income countries while Moderna has delivered just 0.2 percent, the PVA said.
Currently, 98 percent of people in low-income countries have not been fully vaccinated.
The three companies’ actions are in contrast to AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, which provided their vaccines on a not-for-profit basis, though both have announced they foresee ending this arrangement in future as the pandemic winds down.
PVA said that despite receiving public funding of more than $8 billion, Pfizer, BioNTech and Moderna have refused calls to transfer vaccine technology to producers in low- and middle-income countries via the World Health Organization, “a move that could increase global supply, drive down prices and save millions of lives.”
“In Moderna’s case, this is despite explicit pressure from the White House and requests from the WHO that the company collaborate in and help accelerate its plan to replicate the Moderna vaccine for wider production at its mRNA hub in South Africa,” the group said.
Informers key in enforcing Biden vaccine mandate
To enforce President Joe Biden’s forthcoming COVID-19 mandate, the U.S. Labor Department is going to need a lot of help. Its Occupational Safety and Health Administration doesn’t have nearly enough workplace safety inspectors to do the job.
So the government will rely upon a corps of informers to identify violations of the order: Employees who will presumably be concerned enough to turn in their own employers if their co-workers go unvaccinated or fail to undergo weekly tests to show they’re virus-free.
What’s not known is just how many employees will be willing to accept some risk to themselves – or their job security – for blowing the whistle on their own employers. Without them, though, experts say the government would find it harder to achieve its goal of requiring tens of millions of workers at companies with 100 or more employees to be fully vaccinated by Jan. 4 or be tested weekly and wear a mask on the job.
“There is no army of OSHA inspectors that is going to be knocking on employers door or even calling them,” said Debbie Berkowitz, a former OSHA chief of staff who is a fellow at Georgetown University’s Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor. “They’re going to rely on workers and their union representatives to file complaints where the company is totally flouting the law.’’
Jim Frederick, the acting chief of OSHA, told reporters that this agency will focus on job sites “where workers need assistance to have a safe and healthy workplace.”
“That typically comes through in the form of a complaint,” Frederick added.
Critics warn that whistleblowers have often faced retaliation from their employers and that OSHA has offered little protection when they do.
The new mandate, which Biden announced last week, is the administration’s most far-reaching step yet to prod more Americans to get a vaccine that has been widely available since early spring. The mandate will cover an estimated 84 million employees.
The president called the move necessary to combat an outbreak that has killed 750,000 Americans and that continues to spread. Companies that fail to comply will face fines of nearly $14,000 per “serious’’ violation. Employers found to be “willful’’ or repeat violators would be subject to fines of up to ten times that amount.
The mandate has run into furious opposition, though, from leaders of mainly Republican-led states who have condemned the plan as an unlawful case of federal overreach and who immediately challenged the vaccine-or-test requirements in court. On Saturday, the Biden administration endured a setback when a federal appeals court in New Orleans temporarily halted the mandate, saying it posed “grave statutory and constitutional issues.”
Should the mandate survive its legal challenges, though, the task of enforcing it would fall on OSHA, the small Labor Department agency that was established 50 years ago to police workplace safety and protect workers from such dangers as toxic chemicals, rickety ladders and cave-ins at construction sites.
OSHA has jurisdiction in 29 states. Other states, including California and Michigan, have their own federally approved workplace safety agencies. These states will have an additional month – until early February – to adopt their own version of the COVID mandate, equal to or tougher than OSHA’s.
For a task as enormous as enforcing the new vaccine mandate, OSHA and its state “partners’’ are stretched thin. Just 1,850 inspectors will oversee 130 million workers at 8 million job sites. So the agencies must rely on whistleblowers.
OSHA urges workers to first bring unsafe or unhealthy working conditions to the attention of their employers “if possible.’’ Employees could also file a confidential safety complaint with OSHA or have a case filed by a representative, such as a lawyer, a union representative or a member of the clergy. But they have no right to sue their employer in court for federal safety violations.