Is the ATF Targeting Whistleblowers? Matt Gaetz Drops a Bombshell

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) accuses the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) of retaliating against a whistleblower, Chris Smith, who had previously testified to Congress about alleged ATF misconduct. In a letter addressed to ATF Director Steve Dettelbach, Gaetz stated that after Smith’s testimony, ATF agents unexpectedly visited his business, Gulf Coast Gun, to inspect a manufacturer’s license that Smith had held for only six months but had yet to use.

Gaetz claimed that “ATF agents once again aggressively targeted and harassed one of my constituent federal firearms licensees, Chris Smith .” Gaetz emphasized that since Smith hadn’t utilized the license, the agents found nothing to inspect and had to depart. He pointed out that the ATF had already audited Smith’s retail license within the past year. Given regulations preventing the ATF from auditing the same establishment twice within a year, Gaetz believes the sole reason for the visit was to scrutinize the new, unused license.

Furthermore, Gaetz mentioned that a local ATF agent acknowledged the absence of records indicating Smith’s use of the license. However, the agent had been explicitly instructed to audit Smith’s new license. Gaetz referenced the Firearm Owners’ Protection Act of 1986, which stipulates that the ATF can only inspect a licensed entity once annually and only with justifiable cause or a warrant.

The Congressman also alleged that ATF agents engaged in “stalking” behaviors towards Smith and his business. He detailed an incident where agents appeared unannounced at the residence of Christian O’Brien, Smith’s store manager, even though O’Brien doesn’t conduct any business for Gulf Coast Gun from his home. When they couldn’t find O’Brien at home, they reportedly told him over the phone, “Don’t worry, we know where you work,” which Gaetz described as “unwarranted and creepy.”

Concluding his letter, Gaetz sought answers from the director, posing several questions to shed light on the agents’ actions regarding this matter.