Earlier today I saw this Tweet from @ATFHQ:
PHOTO: ATF & local partners take 73 illegal firearms off the streets of Bridgeport and New Haven CT.
The first thing that crossed my mind is that if those guns had been lying around on the streets near where I lived I would have been happy to pick them up without charge.
But that’s not what they meant by “firearms off the streets”. They actually forcibly took them from the people in possession of them.
The deceptive wording of taking them “off the streets” is intentional and serves a political purpose. Imagine the different political implications if were true and they instead said they took the “guns away from gangs.” Or they took the “guns away from violent felons.” Or they took the “guns away from white trash.” Or they took the “guns away from African-Americans.” Or they took the “guns away from Tea Baggers.” Or they took the “guns away from Jews.”
Some of those actions would not get a rise out of me. Others would have me calling for them to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
Sure, Twitter isn’t an environment where the nuance of the operation can be explained. But even in their press release it is ambiguous how many of those guns were in the possession of violent felons when they took them:
The operation, headed by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), resulted in the seizure of more than 73 illegal firearms and is expected to result in the prosecution of 154 individuals on federal or state charges.
By their own words not all of those people could have been illegally in possession of firearms.
And look at the resources invested to get just 73 firearms “off the streets”:
In March 2014, the ATF and the Bridgeport and New Haven Police Departments launched “Operation Samson” a multi-layered initiative targeting violent criminals and illegal firearm possession and firearm trafficking in New Haven and Bridgeport. As part of the initiative, approximately 40 ATF special agents and personnel from Connecticut and across the country were deployed with New Haven and Bridgeport Police to conduct numerous covert operations. The combined law enforcement team brought a range of expertise to the operation, including tactical, technical, analytical, undercover skills and supervisory experience.
Several other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies supported the initiative as investigations expanded into other cities and towns in Connecticut and across state lines.
The initiative employed intelligence-led policing to determine where to place resources in order to have the greatest impact. During Operation Samson, law enforcement personnel conducted approximately 425 operations, which included undercover meetings, controlled purchases of firearms and narcotics, and the execution of search and arrest warrants. As a result, a total of 80 individuals have been charged, or are expected to be charged, with a variety of federal firearms, narcotics and robbery violations.
40 ATF people, plus local cops, executed 425 operations over the course of three months to confiscate 73 guns? Assuming those guns were taken from violent gangs how long do you think it takes for the gangs to replace them? Maybe a week? Or is a day more realistic?
Another thing that pushed a button for me was what the U.S. Prosecutor said:
There is no higher calling in law enforcement than preventing violent crime,” stated U.S. Attorney Deirdre M. Daly.
Perhaps she would understand my concern if the force of government were to be used to prevent her from committing an act of prostitution or adultery by requiring she wear a chastity belt remotely controlled by government morality officers. Government has no business preventing crime through the arrest and prosecution of people when there are no victims. They should only be allowed to punish those who have victimized others.
But most importantly who were those guns really taken from? They don’t really say. The words they use appear to be deliberately ambiguous. Were these firearms taken from people who had not victimized anyone?
Taking guns “off the street” is deliberately deceptive. It makes it easy for everyone to be accepting of what may be totally inappropriate behavior. We shouldn’t let them get away with it. Make them be specific about their actions so people can better judge their actions and hold them accountable.