Fighting ‘Tyrants’: Paxton Announces Suit Against Biden ATF

Kansas Attorney General Chris Kobach speaks at a press conference with Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Texas Director of Gun Owner of America Wes Virdell
Kansas Attorney General Chris Kobach speaks at a press conference with Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Texas Director of Gun Owner of America Wes Virdell | Image by Kellen McGovern Jones/The Dallas Express

FRISCO — Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach met up in North Texas on Wednesday, appearing at a local gun club to announce a new lawsuit against the federal government.

The lawsuit challenges a new rule being imposed by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) that makes many firearm trades unlawful. Paxton said the rule “would curtail our Second Amendment rights to private firearm ownership” and that “President Biden is using an executive workaround to subvert the Second Amendment.”

“We will not let Biden continue this tyrannical use of power,” Paxton said. “My message today is the same as ever: “Come and Take it.”

The latter part of the AG’s statement was an overt reference to the Texas Revolution, specifically, the Battle of Gonzalez, wherein a flag bearing that phrase beneath an image of a cannon was flown as the Mexican Army unsuccessfully attempted to seize a cannon from the Texas militia.

Where Paxton concluded his remarks with a reference to history, Kobach began his. The Kansas AG remarked on Texas’ and Kansas’ “long historic era together” and noted how cowboys driving cattle from Texas carried and traded firearms in Kansas on their way to meat packing plants in Chicago.

He noted that while Paxton would bring his case in Texas, Kansas would bring its case in the Eastern District of Arkansas. The reason for this difference is likely due to the fact that Kansas and Texas are in different federal circuits and will involve a variety of different interested parties from each area.

Kobach said the Biden administration was trying to close the “gun show loophole” that was allowed by Congress. He noted that if “Ken and I went shooting, and I shot his gun, and he shot my gun, and we both said “I like your gun better, let’s trade”… we could not swap guns if one’s sum value was even $50 more [than the other gun.]”

“This is illegal; Congress has already defined what it means to sell firearms –– and it wasn’t this,” Kobach said. Then, he laid out the legal grounds on which he and Paxton would sue. Each legal objection they made was rooted in a constitutional question. First, they would challenge the law on Second Amendment grounds, then due process, and then unconstitutional vagueness.

The Dallas Express asked the AGs and Wes Virdell, Texas Director of Gun Owner of America (GOA), who also spoke at the press conference, what they thought of pending legislation in Congress to abolish the ATF. Given the recurrent nature of these lawsuits, DX asked if they thought this would be the only way to prevent further action like this from the ATF.

“That would resolve our problem,” Paxton observed. He noted that the ATF could not bring challengeable actions against gun owners if it did not exist.

Kobach agreed. However, he elaborated further. “[The ATF] is not the only agency to go beyond the law,” Kobach said, adding that even within the ATF, this is a “historical problem.” He clarified that he did not believe abolishing the ATF would resolve anti-gun issues “[if the president then moved the ATF] into another agency given that same authority.”

Virdell said the ATF has “not been respectful of citizens” and that he believes “the ATF is an unconstitutional organization.” Virdell recalled numerous instances of the ATF conducting raids that he believed to be unlawful and targeted toward law-abiding gun owners, noting that he believes such actions are inherent to any organization exercising the ATF’s functions.

Kobach concurred, recalling similar stories. The Kansas AG commented on the recent killing of an Arkansas airport director who opened fire when his agents raided his home early one morning in March. Kobach was suspicious of this event and implied it was demonstrative of ATF behavior during raids, citing the fact that “[none of the agents] had vest cams [on]” and “there was no evidence to indicate what they did [inside the home].”

Arkansas state police who investigated the shooting stated that they would leave the matter of whether to charge the agents involved to a prosecutor, according to KARK, a local media outlet.

“We do not have the authority to address methods and tactics used or whether agency protocols and policies were followed,” ASP Colonel Mike Hagar said in a news release.

“As is standard practice, this matter is under review by state and local authorities in Arkansas,” an ATF spokesman told the outlet. “The Department of Justice does not comment on pending matters.”

The Biden administration has remained steadfast in its support for the president’s executive order that provoked this change in federal gun rules. A statement from the White House previously explained that the administration seeks to “move as close to universal background checks as possible within existing law.”

“This is going to keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers and felons,” President Joe Biden said in a statement reported by PBS. “And my administration is going to continue to do everything we possibly can to save lives. Congress needs to finish the job and pass universal background checks legislation now.”

Eliminating the lawful transfer of firearms through private non-dealer sellers would require firearms to be exchanged through licensed sellers and subject the parties to background checks.

The AGs said their cases were filed this morning in the respective courts. They told reporters they were seeking a preliminary injunction against the ATF, which would halt the administration’s rule while it wound through the federal courts. If there was any daylight between the speakers at the May 1 press conference at Frisco Gun Club, it was on who would get the injunction granted first.

“We are gonna try to beat them,” Paxton joked, with a friendly nod toward Kobach.

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