Are they being weaned?

Paul Helmke whines:

Two years ago, I never would have guessed that the sharpest focus of the ATF
under President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder would be cigarette
smuggling.  I guess that’s what happens when the Administration refuses to say
or do anything about guns.

He fails to make note of the fact that gun ownership is a specific enumerated right of individuals. Tobacco use is not. If the people of the ATF are to keep their jobs then they need to have at least some support of the people they are supposedly serving. They get beat up pretty bad when they mess up with gun owners. Cracking down on cigarette smuggling is politically safe. It may even be revenue positive.

I would like to think weaning the ATF off of guns on keeping them on a diet of tobacco and alcohol might be a partial solution to our problems with them.

Eventually they should be weaned of the government teat entirely and forced to get productive jobs in normal society like everyone else. But I don’t see a big downside them focusing on the cigarette black market in the short term.

12 thoughts on “Are they being weaned?

  1. Send ’em to the Arizona-Mexico border. We’ve got to keep al those guns from flowing into Mexico…

    /sarc

    And while their at it, maybe they can assist the CBP and LEO’s in stopping the flow of people and drugs into Arizona…

    Hmm… Maybe I should have had a /sarc after the last one too, given this administrations’ activities so far…

  2. The ATF helped get rid of these two neighborhood gangs: http://www.justice.gov/usao/cac/pressroom/pr2008/088.html
    http://www.atf.gov/press/releases/2009/09/092209-la-88-indicted-for-racketeering.html

    For that alone, I’m glad they exist.

    I know you believe in arming yourself so you don’t become a victim, but that doesn’t work so well against criminal street gangs. They’re like roaches. If you kill one, five more show up in his place. The only way to get rid of them is to take them all down at once — and that is what the FBI and the ATF are good at.

  3. I’ve sometimes thought about the situation with gangs or mafia based crime against individuals or even large businesses. I think you are right in that it requires a larger force of good guys to deal with them. There may be some ways for an individual to deal with them with acceptable risks but it wouldn’t be legal with our current laws.

    But that doesn’t require a law enforcement agency solely devoted to restricting firearms. The crimes of murder, extortion, etc. can be investigated and prosecuted. And it can be done by local law enforcement with intra and inter state collaboration. In the specific case you linked to what did the ATF do (ballistics testing, was there something else?) that local law enforcement or even a private lab could not have done?

    In my Utopia world the Feds would only have power to enforce laws against external criminals (including countries who attacked us in acts of war) and state/local politicians and law enforcement who violated the rights of the people. Hence the only job a Federal agency dedicated to firearms law enforcement would have would be to arrest and prosecute local politicians and law enforcement who infringed upon the specific enumerated right to keep and bear arms.

    Instead of my Utopia we have, essentially, a double jeopardy situation where for any given act (including victimless crimes of possession of banned substances or objects) you have to be concerned about both local and Federal law.

  4. Well, ubu, we have regular law enforcement. I don’t know when the BATFE (originally a tax authority, as part of Treasury) became the BATFEG – the bureau of alcohol, tobacco, firearms, explosives and gangs.

    All that, and without our various prohibitions and onerous taxation, gangs would have far less reason to exist. Certainly they’d have less motivation, wealth and power. Now, with the giant tobacco taxes, we’re handing to the gangs new and lucrative market in tobacco smuggling. Yippy Skippy. At least it’ll keep some more people employed in interdiction. We’ll call it a jobs program – create more smuggling by raising taxes, and create more enforcement jobs along with it. Both the gangs and the enforcement people benefit from it. Everyone else loses. Yea for the nanny state.

  5. Heh. You guys don’t know anything about Drew Street/the Avenues so I’ll hook you up with a series of articles LA Weekly ran. (I believe this is the first one: http://www.laweekly.com/2008-03-06/news/bleak-house/ . Additional stories are located on the sidebar or you can search the site for “Drew Street” or “The Avenues.” These are well-written and well-researched stories.)

    As noted in this story: “before heading back to Drew Street, where a series of gang-controlled homes and apartments are situated, almost mockingly, a couple of hundred yards across the the train tracks from the LAPD’s Northeast Station.”

    The back door to the LAPD station was literally about 500 feet away.

    Also, do you remember the family that took a wrong turn in LA and ended up getting ambushed by a gang? Their little girl was in the car and she was killed? Well that was the Avenues gang. Drew Street is a clique of the Avenues. (Here’s the story: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murder_of_Stephanie_Kuhen. Wow! Hard to believe that was back in 1995.)

    There were also a couple of other smaller gangs that went down too but I think this is enough to show the scope of the problem. The police just aren’t that good at handling long, intricate investigations involving dozens of people. That’s where the ATF and the FBI come in.

    Lyle — you didn’t read the press releases. The Drew Street gangbanger tried to extort $30,000 from a local businessman. The local business would either have to pay up or the gangbanger would “kill him and burn his businesses down.” These gangs aren’t little wannabe criminals you can tell to “Buzz off.” They are organized criminal enterprises that operate more like the Mafia. If you are operating in their territory and you need to pay up for “protection” or they will destroy your business and you.

  6. Joe,

    From my understanding, the ATF has a network that deals with informants and undercover buys of drugs, guns, etc. They don’t bust people immediately. Sometimes it takes a long time to make a case because most of these cases are prosecuted under RICO. I’ve always viewed the ATF as the “down and dirty” division of the FBI.

    Here’s another website that deals more with the Mafia-like aspects of these gangs:
    http://tomdiaz.wordpress.com/2009/03/28/rubbing-out-turf-marks-los-angeles-goes-after-drew-street-clique-of-the-avenues-gang-with-a-big-eraser-part-one/

    http://tomdiaz.wordpress.com/2009/04/01/rubbing-out-turf-marks-%E2%80%94-los-angeles-goes-after-drew-street-clique-of-the-avenues-gang-with-a-big-eraser-part-two/

    The FBI handles guys like Bernie Madoff. The ATF handles the Ted Kaczynskis.

  7. Ubu52,

    I think you are mistaken on the roles of the FBI and ATF. For example, it was the FBI that investigated and caught Kaczynski.

    My understanding is the ATF may only get involved if the crime is associated with A(lcohol), T(obacco), F(irearms), or E(xplosives). Until 2002 the ATF was in the Department of Treasury was essential a tax enforcement organization. See also here. Since 2002 the ATF and FBI frequently get in turf wars but only when arson, and/or A, T, F, or E are involved. Yes the ATF has informants, etc, but so does the FBI and DEA.

    If the city law enforcement wasn’t up to the task of bringing down the gang then they should have gotten help from the state. And if it involved multiple states then they should have coodrinated with those other state organizations.

    Nothing you have told me so far justifies the existence of the ATF.

  8. Joe,

    From your link: “In 1979, an FBI-led task force that included the ATF and U.S. Postal Inspection Service was formed to investigate the case. The task force would grow to more than 150 full-time investigators, analysts, and others. This team made every possible forensic examination of recovered components of the explosives and studied the lives of victims in minute detail.” (UNABOM Task Force)

  9. “The only way to get rid of them is to take them all down at once — and that is what the FBI and the ATF are good at.”

    Except, of course, for how it isn’t; at least three other methods come to my mind without effort:

    1, decriminalize and regulate more of the currently illegal drugs;

    2, increase Citizen carry;

    and, of course, the ugly stepchild proposition that everyone hates and despises, 3 — reverse the current anti-paternal legislation and programs, and instead encourage and reward active, involved fatherhood.

    I’d love to hear what you’re actually doing to actually solve the actual problems about which we can so reliably expect you to complain here. No, wait; are you in fact doing anything more than just complaining about them to a bunch of people who pretty much disagree with and dislike you?

    Or do you just post here out of vanity, for the attention?

  10. “Take them all down at once.” Ah, ubu52, like at Ruby Ridge or Waco? –Government force is a blunt, blunt instrument and the larger and more powerful the government, the blunter it is. Keep using atom bombs on the coyote problem, soon enough you’ll have bigger problems.

  11. “Ah, ubu52, like at Ruby Ridge or Waco?”

    No, not like Ruby Ridge or Waco. The Avenues is part of the Mexican Mafia so it’s more like taking down the Gambino Family or any of the Italian Mafia branches.

  12. The ATF and the FBI are duplicate agencies for the most part. What makes the ATF so onerous to gun owners and dealers are the regulatory powers of the ATF that sometimes get mixed up with their criminal law enforcement activities.

    The ATF needs to be disbanded as it serves no unique purpose to the American Public.

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