ATF vs the Amish

We’re totally just here for the livestock auction.

In case you were living in a news blackout the other week, we have a new reason to think of the ATF as complete jackbooted government thugs.

The bad news is that a Pennsylvania Amish man was recently raided by the ATF for selling firearms without a license. The good news is if this plays out in the best of possible ways there “could” be grounds for a SCOTUS challenge.

Articles about the story here and here.

Now, I don’t know how much “history of religion 101” you can stand in a short article about gun rights, but a brief explanation will help with understanding the whys and wherefores of this particular situation. The short of it is that the Amish have a long history of religious persecution. They even have their own Book of Martyrs.

The Amish and Mennonites were both part of the Anabaptist movement in  Europe in the 1600’s and 1700’s , which was itself part of the larger Protestant Reformation.

One of the tenets of their faith is the rejection of infant baptism. This resulted in much religious persecution in Europe. Another tenet is separation from the rest of society and non-involvement in government affairs. Yet another is conscientious objection to military service.

When these Anabaptist sects immigrated to North America it was largely because they were fleeing religious persecution and were seeking the freedom to believe and practice their faith as they chose.

Enter the US Constitution and the First Amendment. Despite their general non-involvement in governmental affairs, the First Amendment  guarantee of free exercise of religion allowed the Amish and Mennonites to fight for themselves in court many times over the last couple centuries. These battles have taken place everywhere from local school boards to the draft board, to the Supreme Court. The Amish are no strangers to defending their rights.

One of the fights the Amish have won in some states is over photo ID. Several states allow Amish to have photo-less ID cards, and they are permitted to have photo-less passports to travel to settlements in Canada.

Why is this an issue? Many Amish sects have a prohibition against the taking of photographs. This belief is apparently rooted in the biblical admonition against the making of graven images. It also goes against the religious admonition against being prideful.

So if your religion prohibits you having a photo ID, and the government requires you to have photo ID in order to purchase a firearm, then the government is violating BOTH your First Amendment AND Second Amendment rights. Do you see where we’re going here?

If the Amish are pacifists and reject military service, why do they need firearms you may ask?  Well, firstly, because it’s a RIGHT and not a “need”. But it’s also because the Amish hunt. And since many of them farm, they also need to keep their farms clear of varmints. A groundhog hole can break the leg of a valuable plow horse or mule. Raccoons raid henhouses. Deer raid cornfields. Coyotes prey upon lambs and newborn calves. Amish need firearms to help protect their livelihoods and feed their families. For the slow kids at the back, once again, the 2A is NOT about the “national guard”.

Apparently the ATF rules on personal firearm transfers are notoriously vague when it comes to just “how many” personal sales one can do before being required to have an FFL. This could be SCOTUS Gold if this fellow proves to have been just trying to help his church brothers and sisters eliminate farm varmints and bag a deer or two, without having a religiously prohibited photo ID.

That part isn’t yet clear and will have to come out in court – if formal charges are filed, rather than the ATF just harassing this American citizen and taking his guns. At the very least, firearm sales don’t seem to have been this dairy farmer’s principle occupation. In addition to dairying he also apparently operates a foundry.

Don’t these three letter agencies (well, technically 5 letters these days) have anything better to do than suppress the rights of Amish dairy farmers? Apparently not.

IF the ATF and DOJ decide to charge this guy in an attempt to sacrifice him upon the altar of Grampa Gropey’s gun agenda, the optics are going to be really terrible. The only reason to hope that they DO is for the court challenges that will inevitably arise. The Amish and the gun community both know how to fight in court. This could be an interesting intersection. We should all watch this closely.

Dr LateBloomer
Dr LateBloomer is a female general pediatrician who bought her first firearm at the age of 46. She now enjoys many different shooting disciplines including self-defense, IDPA, Steel/Rimfire Challenge, Sporting clays, and even tried 3-Gun for several years. She has gotten started in hunting and has expanded into crossbow. She is a staunch supporter of the Second Amendment and works to enlighten her medical colleagues whenever possible.