Jeff Sessions wants to confiscate your guns. At least some of them.

The U.S. Attorney General announced he plans to step up prosecutions of people who make “undetectable” firearms, such as the 3D-printed guns that have recently received attention. According to the AG’s website:

Statement of Attorney General Jeff Sessions on State of Washington v. U.S. Department of State:

The Department of Justice yesterday filed a brief in opposition to a preliminary injunction in the State of Washington v. U.S. Department of State, a case about 3D printed guns.

After the filing, Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued the following statement:

“Under federal law, it is illegal to manufacture or possess plastic firearms that are undetectable. Violation of this law is punishable by up to five years in prison. Such firearms present a significant risk to public safety, and the Department of Justice will use every available tool to vigorously enforce this prohibition. We will work with federal, state and local law enforcement to identify any possible cases for prosecution.

“We will not stand for the evasion, especially the flouting, of current law and will take action to ensure that individuals who violate the law by making plastic firearms and rendering them undetectable, will be prosecuted to the fullest extent.”

Considering that Sessions has also pledged to step up prosecutions of persons who use marijuana where it is legal under state law, one might be forgiven for coming to the conclusion that Jeff Sessions’ favorite past time is locking peaceful Americans in prison. Sessions was so unhinged in his drive to intervene in state legal affairs that even GOP senators had to intervene to get the Trump administration to back off.

This, however, should not be surprising. As Mike Maharrey has pointed out, the Trump administration has been enthusiastically prosecuting a war on private gun ownership in recent years:

[D]uring Trump’s first term, ATF enforcement of federal gun laws increased in every single category compared to the last year Obama was in the White House.

We can start with the number of firearms cases investigated. 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’s 3,349 more firearms cases than under Obama, a 10.81% increase. (See Footnote 1)

We see similar increases in other enforcement categories during Trump’s first year. There were 786 more cases recommended for prosecution, 789 more indicted cases, and 630 more defendants convicted. (See Footnote 2)

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% of the cases investigated by the ATF involved firearms. It was slightly less under Obama – 90%.

ATF enforcement of federal gun laws under Trump increased at roughly the same trajectory as it did during the last three years of Obama’s second term. In other words, the NRA-backed, GOP protector of the Second Amendment was no better than the Democratic Party gun-grabber,  and continued to ramp up enforcement of federal gun control.

It’s unlikely, however, that Trump will receive any flack for this from Republicans. It’s the usual song and dance: these are “illegal” guns, after all. So, respect for peaceful exchange and private property rights can just go right out the window. It’s the usual blind spot of the “law and order” conservative.

But what’s the difference between a legal gun and an illegal one? It’s the same difference between a legal or illegal drug — or a legal and illegal immigrant. It’s a totally completely arbitrary designation made up by legislators. If an employer wants to offer a job to a worker without the proper government paperwork? Well, that’s “illegal,” and the right of free contract goes right in the garbage. Someone wants to sell you a gun without filling out the proper government paperwork? Well, that’s punishable with years in a government cage. That fact that all parties involved might be peaceful otherwise-law-abiding citizens is meaningless to government prosecutors.

by Ryan McMaken, Mises Institute

Ryan (@ryanmcmaken) is the editor of Mises Wire and The Austrian. Send him your article submissions, but read article guidelines first. Ryan has degrees in economics and political science from the University of Colorado, and was the economist for the Colorado Division of Housing from 2009 to 2014. He is the author of Commie Cowboys: The Bourgeoisie and the Nation-State in the Western Genre.

This post was originally published at Mises.org and is reposted here under a CreativeCommons, Non-Commericial 3.0 license.

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