USA Today Prepares Fact-Challenged Hit Piece On Gun Industry Ahead Of ATF Director Nomination Hearing

USA Today Prepares Fact-Challenged Hit Piece On Gun Industry Ahead Of ATF Director Nomination Hearing

A USA Today reporter who has worked directly with a Bloomberg-funded anti-gun group is preparing an attack on a major gun industry trade group ahead of hearings for Biden's ATF nominee.
Sean Davis
By

USA Today is working with an anti-gun group funded by failed Democrat presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg to attack a major gun industry trade group ahead of a Wednesday Senate hearing for President Joe Biden’s nominee to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), The Federalist has learned.

Nick Penzenstadler, a USA Today reporter who has partnered with Bloomberg’s anti-gun publication The Trace, has peppered the National Shooting Sports Foundation with loaded questions and factually inaccurate assumptions about NSSF’s work, according to correspondence reviewed by The Federalist. NSSF is a Connecticut-based gun industry trade group that helps members navigate and comply with federal firearms laws and ATF rules and regulations.

The apparent premise of the still-in-progress USA Today attack is that NSSF, which works directly with ATF to advise federal firearms licensees (FFLs) on how to comply with the agency’s regulations, has never worked to help the ATF obtain the resources it needs to ensure compliance from gun manufacturers or dealers.

To support its narrative, USA Today interviewed Richard Marianos, a former ATF official who allegedly claimed NSSF had never sought additional resources for ATF.

“[Marianos] says, in short: The NSSF is like the [National Rifle Association], [NSSF] never once has said the ATF needs more money, help support, or resources,” Penzenstadler claimed in correspondence reviewed by The Federalist.

The notion that ATF doesn’t have the funding it needs to conduct its compliance operations could become a major theme of the Senate confirmation hearing for David Chipman to be director of the ATF. Chipman, a controversial anti-gun activist who works for an anti-gun group founded by the wife of Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Arizona, was nominated by Biden in early April to helm an agency that has not had a full director since 2006, when Congress passed a law requiring the position to be subject to Senate confirmation.

An examination of NSSF’s appropriations request history as well as interviews with former top ATF officials, however, directly contradicts the narrative being manufactured by USA Today and the Bloomberg-funded The Trace. Mike Sullivan, a former federal prosecutor and former acting director of ATF from 2006 to 2009, told The Federalist that Marianos’s claim, as characterized by Penzenstadler, was not true.

“My experience was the complete opposite of what Marianos is suggesting,” Sullivan said. “NSSF regularly lobbied Congress on its own about the need for additional ATF resources.”

“NSSF never once worked against an ATF budget,” Sullivan continued. “They never stood in the way of ATF’s requests for additional funding.”

Sullivan said he viewed NSSF as a partner in ATF’s mission of enforcing firearms laws throughout the country. He cited NSSF’s work in streamlining electronic forms that are used to conduct background checks on gun buyers so the forms would be more accurate and less prone to clerical errors, freeing up ATF resources for more important investigations. Sullivan also cited NSSF’s “Don’t Lie For The Other Guy” program to help reduce so-called straw purchases, in which individuals who can pass a background check illegally purchase weapons on behalf of individuals who are legally prohibited from purchasing or possessing guns.

“Through that program, NSSF and its industry members were key allies in the fight to crack down on straw purchases, especially along the Southwest border,” Sullivan said. “They were a valued partner who absolutely enhanced safety and helped ATF meet its mission obligations.”

Harry McCabe, who worked at the ATF for more than 35 years and served as the ATF’s deputy assistant director for industry operations until 2012, told The Federalist that he also viewed NSSF as an ally of the ATF, not an enemy.

“We didn’t agree on every policy issue,” McCabe, who now works as an independent legal compliance consultant for the gun industry, told The Federalist, “but when it came to legal compliance, NSSF was always an ally.”

“When I worked at the ATF managing inspections and compliance, NSSF and the ATF had the same goal: we wanted gun dealers to understand the law and comply with it.”

Records reviewed by The Federalist also contradict claims by Marianos and USA Today that NSSF never sought funding for the ATF or other law enforcement operations related to firearms law. Last month, for example, NSSF submitted an appropriations request to Congress for an additional $10 million for investigative support services for ATF for the 2022 fiscal year.

“Request is to provide an increase of $10,000,000 above the Fiscal Year 2021 appropriation to support necessary funding for ATF Industry Support Services,” NSSF wrote in a formal request to a bipartisan group of dozens of senators and members of Congress. In its request, NSSF even cited the significant growth of the firearms industry as more and more Americans purchase guns to defend themselves and their families as a reason the ATF needed additional resources.

NSSF similarly requested an ATF funding increase of $3.2 million in fiscal year 2019 for investigative support services, records show, contradicting claims that NSSF does nothing to support compliance with firearms laws in the United States. For fiscal year 2018, NSSF requested an additional $50 million in ATF funding, according to congressional appropriations requests reviewed by The Federalist.

The Connecticut-based firearms industry trade group did not limit its funding requests to just the ATF. The group also repeatedly sought additional funding for the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS, which is administered by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and used by all gun dealers and FFLs to process background checks before selling or transferring guns to private individuals.

“The request would ensure that additional funds requested by the Department of Justice are prioritized to increase the capacity to perform the statutorily required National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) background checks for firearm purchases,” NSSF wrote in a fiscal year 2019 appropriations request to more than one dozen lawmakers. “Federal Firearms Licensees (FFLs) rely on NICS to be effective to ensure the lawful transfer of firearms to law-abiding citizens.”

“The agency has consistently requested more funding and staff positions, which Congress has been responsive to, but critical shortages remain,” NSSF noted in its request for additional NICS funding. “The only way to ensure that firearms stay out of the wrong hands is background checks being run against a complete system with adequate personnel. This funding will increase the effectiveness of the NICS system benefiting the lawful commerce of firearms throughout the country and by helping to prevent prohibited persons from obtaining a firearm.”

USA Today has recently come under fire for peddling fake fact checks and dangerous anti-American propaganda instead of fact-based news.

In 2020, the paper published an absurd fact check claiming the Donald Trump campaign’s depiction on a T-shirt of a bald eagle — a creature that has appeared on the seal of the United States for more than 200 years, long predating the Nazis — was actually a Nazi symbol.

“The claims that a Trump campaign T-shirt has come under criticism for using a symbol similar to a Nazi eagle is TRUE,” the paper declared.

USA Today has also partnered with Big Tech to censor and deplatform news that is inconvenient to China or the Democrat Party. In 2020, the company colluded with Facebook to censor documented and factually accurate reports that a Joe Biden COVID-19 advisor said Americans 75 years of age or older should not have priority vaccine access since they are closer to death than younger people are.

The free national paper also has a history of refusing to allow facts to get in the way of anti-gun propaganda.

In 2017, USA Today infamously claimed AR-15s are often modified to include chainsaw bayonets, a self-evidently ludicrous claim to anyone who knows anything about AR-15s or chainsaws. After getting dragged on Twitter for its fact-free fear-mongering about non-existent firearm accessories, the publication was forced to admit that an AR-15 with a chainsaw bayonet was not used in a 2017 mass shooting that was actually ended by a private citizen who was carrying an AR-15.

Earlier this month, a top editor at the paper published a column claiming that Republicans who voted to remove Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyoming, from Republican leadership in the U.S. House were more dangerous than the al-Qaeda terrorists who attacked the United States and killed thousands of Americans on September 11, 2001.

Sean Davis is the co-founder of The Federalist.

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