Banning the ATF not guns

There are rumors the ATF is about to be thrown under the bus. Although there are people calling this rumor “a bombshell” (via Say Uncle and son-in-law John) it isn’t really all that new (from almost three months ago):

The unfolding scandal over a gunrunning investigation allegedly botched by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives could do what years of criticism of the long-beleaguered agency never quite accomplished — result in its demise.

People on both sides of the issue commented on it:

“I think something like that is likely to happen,” said Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

Christopher Cox, legislative director for the NRA, the agency’s longtime nemesis, also said arguments for shuttering or breaking up ATF are building.
“Their criminal investigation tactics are going a long way to proving that point,” Cox said. “If they cease to be an effective law enforcement organization, they will cease to be legitimate, and the calls for restructuring or abolishing of ATF are going to become more and more valid.”

Sebastian says, Careful What You Wish For and he has some good points. The concern that the FBI has credibility and respect the ATF doesn’t and we would rather have a money starved easily demonized bunch of screw ups instead of the FBI, the Secret Service, or the U.S. Marshalls enforcing the regulations has been the whisper from behind the scenes since as least the Regan years when the first serious thoughts of disbanding them came up.

Things have changed with the FBI since the 1980’s. Remember Ruby Ridge and Waco? The ATF created the messes but it was during the FBI “cleanup” that the FBI shot the woman holding the baby and burned down the church with the women and children in it. The FBI has it’s own public relations issues to be concerned about.

I’ll leave making a recommendation on this specific topic at this specific time to others more politically savvy but if we are to make progress trimming down the size and scope of government agencies need to start disappearing. Why is now not as good a time as any to get rid of the ATF? The ATF is heavily involved in a major scandal, the Heller and McDonald decisions imply that many of their duties are constitutionally suspect if not right illegal. Because they are so weak this might be the time to get rid of them simply because it is politically possible.

If now is the time then to “avoid overloading the FBI” with either new tasks and/or the training of large numbers of new personal Congress should simultaneously cut back on a lot of the obsolete laws. Here is my list of gun laws that could be put on the chopping block along with the ATF:

  • The ban on interstate gun sales. We have NICS, run by the FBI already, which covers the concerns put forth for the original proponents of the law.
  • The registration and tax on suppressors. Make a NICS check on them a requirement with 4473 like paperwork shouldn’t be that much of a political sell because all the functionality of the existing system would still exist except for the tax revenue which almost for certain doesn’t pay for itself as well as being constitutionally suspect.
  • The laws against on short barreled rifles and shotguns. This only made sense when there were plans to ban handguns (originally part of NFA 34). That didn’t happen and isn’t going to happen (see Heller).
  • Postal restrictions against mailing of firearms. We can ship them via UPS, FedEx, etc. Why not USPS?
  • The classification of some 12-gauge shotguns as “destructive devices”.
  • The “sporting purpose” tests for firearms. The Heller decision makes it very clear that the Second Amendment isn’t about duck hunting. This particularly affects imports. Unless it as part of some trade war it makes no sense that guns and ammo which are perfectly legal to manufacture and own inside the U.S. cannot be imported. Either ban them as part of a coherent (as if trade wars can make sense but that is another topic so please don’t get into it at this time) trade policy or get rid of the bans.
  • The ban of sales of firearms to citizens who have no U.S. residence. Just because someone has been living and working in another country for a few months or even years does not mean they should be prohibited from exercising their specific enumerated right to keep and bear arms when they return for a visit.

I’m sure there are lots of other nonsensical laws and regulations that could be cut at the same time which our opponents would be hard pressed to defend. And with all the grief the ATF has had because of their “mistakes” perhaps the agencies that take on the remaining functions will “play nice” compared to the ATF.

If we could ban the ATF and “ease the burden” on the FBI at the same time would it be worth taking the risks associated with having the remaining ATF functions divided up among other agencies? I’m thinking it might be.

11 thoughts on “Banning the ATF not guns

  1. I agree largely with what you’ve said.

    However, I think it might be an easier sell to move the ATF back into treasury and clean up the NFA registry. Make the entire suppressor and MG, SBR, SBS buying process consistent and less burdensome by continuing the transfer and making taxes, but remove the pointless and time consuming paperwork and wait time. Make the tax payable at point of sale for transfer and potentially point of sale for making (a tax stamp similar to a migratory bird federal hunting stamp). In talking with other similar minded folks, we know we’re not going to remove the NFA or GCA ’68 right now. We also know that more people would likely buy suppressors, SBRs, and SBSs if it weren’t for the slow turn around time from the ATF. In other words, more tax revenue would be generated by reducing the bureaucratic burden.

    Moving the ATF bureaucratic function back into treasury means that the law enforcement piece would need to go somewhere. While I’m distrustful of any governmental law enforcement organization, the FBI is probably the right organization at this point. While they have had more than their fair share of screw ups, their not nearly as numerous as the current BATFE.

  2. @AntiCitizenOne, I think machine guns would probably be a political deal breaker. Now if we started out with them as part of the deal and we could insist they compromise and give us everyting else. Then we come back for machine guns next year.

  3. +1 to Joe. I’m all for 100% repeal of the NFA. You can get handguns more powerful out-of-the-box than most rifles, and Pistols built out of popular rifle actions. Also with guns like the Taurus Judge and the various .45/.410 Derringers on the market SBS are just as foolish.

    Of course Suppressors are safety devices, and we REQUIRE the same technology for cars on public roads.

    That being said Machine Guns are the ONLY guns that are functionally different than their non-NFA counterparts. Now I think the argument about why one is restricted, and the other isn’t is one I think we can win….but let’s get the small potatoes down first.

    Same goes for Constitutional carry. Yes I shouldn’t need a permit to KEEP or BEAR arms. That being said we should first get rid of the states that require owner’s permits, May issue permitting system, and the excessive and prohibitive training requirements FIRST then go for the big win.

    The slippery slope goes both ways.

  4. Just an informational point – I filled out a 4473 and went through a NICS check for every suppressor I’ve purchased. They are already treated as firearms, so bullet point #2 is already in place.

    Otherwise, I pretty much agree with all your other points, Joe.

  5. @The Packetman, Yes. But this is politics. Not reasoned argument. They are completely different things. We need to get what we can while we can.

    @Defens, But you also went through a bunch more paperwork such as creating a trust or getting local LEO sign-off. That part should go away.

  6. I would love to see all this come to pass; elimination of the ATF, repeal of these insane laws, etc. What I am really concerned will happen though, is some “event” (most likely orchestrated BY the ATF) occurring and then having the ATF say “see! you need us” and even MORE restrictive laws being passed.

  7. I think Fast & Furious was supposed to be that event, except people turned up dead and then the public found out about what was actually going on behind the scenes.

  8. Publius, are you of the now defunct blog of the same name? I miss that blog almost as much as Kim Du Toit’s blog.

  9. I’ve seen pictures AR-15 pistols, and I think they are extremely stupid. They smack too much of Mall Ninjury to me.

    Having said that, the laws that try to make a distinction between are *far* more stupid. A “receiver” that has a long barrel is a “rifle” unless you put a short barrel on it first? And if you even *think* of swapping parts without getting Official Government Approval, you are Evil? That kind of stupidity makes my head hurt!

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