The Washington Post’s recent expose on “crime guns” argued that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (and Really Big Fires) was underfunded, understaffed and underachieving. Actually, I added that last bit. Here’s what the paper wrote: “The agency still has about the same number of agents it had nearly four decades ago: 2,500.” (They prepared a nice little chart comparing the number of ATF agents to the FBI and DEA’s bloated rosters.) Here’s what the WaPo didn’t write . . .
The former branch of the IRS is now a hugely inefficient agency that continually muscles-in on other law enforcement agencies’ investigations. In terms of funding, the ATF’s annual budget has crested $1.4 billion a year.
Poor relation? When the ATF asked Uncle Sam for more money to create the ongoing cluster-you-know-what known as “Project Gunrunner,” We The People shelled out an additional $81.3 million. To quote one of my old high school pals, my heart pumps piss for them.
Anyway, dotnews.com reports that the ATF’s Boston Bureau chief Guy Thomas held a little hand-holding session with members of Boston’s Cape Verdean population touched by, and concerned about, gun violence.
For Guy Thomas, who recently took over as head of the Boston office of the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, there was a tie beyond his crime-fighting interests that bound him to the 40 or so people who showed up to hear him and several Boston Police commanders speak: Born and raised in the projects of New Haven, Thomas saw one of his cousins killed and two others wounded on the streets of his boyhood neighborhood.
“I know firsthand the pain that comes from losing a family member like this,” he said. “You never get over it.”
In a poignant exchange, Isaura Mendes, who has lost two sons to violence in Dorchester, stood up and, reaching her hand out to Thomas, said, “Maybe together we can find a way, some answer.”
I may seem like a cynical bastard, OK, I might BE a cynical bastard, but there are times that call for a little communal chorus of Kumbaya. And any steps that can reduce gang violence in general, and gun crime in general, are a good idea. Subject to proper oversight and analysis, and as long as they don’t cost too much money or violate the Second Amendment of the United States constitution, or course.
So, Guy, what you got?
Asked how the community might help ATF in striking at the illegal flow of guns into neighborhoods like Dorchester, Thomas pointed to the need for more manpower on his agency’s end. While other federal law enforcement agencies like the FBI have seen their ranks grow dramatically in the last two decades, the number of agents in the ATF remains about the same as it was when he joined 23 years ago – about 2,500 nationwide.
“We are the one agency that goes after guns that cause so much of this violence, and you have to wonder why,” Thomas said. “The problem has gotten bigger, but our numbers haven’t grown.”
He went on to explain how his agency, whose legendary Eliot Ness pursued and brought down the gangster Al Capone [Ed: for tax evasion], has had its abilities to track the illegal sales of guns hampered significantly in two major ways: While licensed gun dealers must notify the ATF of the sales of all such weapons, the agency does not get notified when a weapon is sold on the “secondary market,” that is between two private individuals. And while those with criminal records are prohibited from buying a gun from a licensed dealer, they routinely turn to “straws” to purchase the guns for them.
Meanwhile, the ATF grasps at straws when they’re asked to justify themselves.
Between ATF jefe nominee Andrew Travers cavorting with Joyce Foundation-funded gun-grabbers and Guy Thomas lobbying for increased (and illegal) federal monitoring of gun sales, I get the impression that the ATF are not the American gun owners’ BFF. Just sayin’.