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.