After the Supreme Court’s McDonald decision incorporating the Second Amendment, those who would seek greater restrictions on firearms purchase, ownership, use and sale have retreated on their legislative agenda and moved into the administrative arena. Gun control advocates can see that the chances of enacting new gun control laws are less than the odds of hitting a man-sized target at 400 yards with a 1911. (Consider the high capacity magazine ban bill “the old college try.”) As we’ve reported for some time, they’re looking to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (and Really Big Fires) to git ‘er done. To wit: salon.com’s article What Obama can do about gun control right now . . .
It turns out Obama can make meaningful policy changes withoutCongress.
“There are a lot of things that he could do administratively,” Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, tells Salon.
Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the group founded by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, actually produced a 57-page report outlining the administration’s options back in 2009. Almost all of the specific steps outlined in the report are still relevant. While these ideas can get into the regulatory weeds and don’t attract the same attention as sweeping legislative proposals, gun control groups say they would make a real difference. Many of the ideas have to do with how the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms enforces laws that are already on the books.
The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and their friends at Salon seizes on three main areas where the ATF can put the [jack] boot in: crack down on gun shows (sales to criminals), block AK-47 imports (let the run on AKs begin!) and make sure dealers follow the law (don’t sell to straw purchasers).
In all cases, the Brady Bunch want the ATF to amp-up their undercover ops. That’s code for sting operations or, if you will, entrapment. No change there, per se. The majority of the ATF’s busts come from exactly that type of law enforcement technique, including a recent arrest where the gun store owner involved swears the ATF told him to let illegal sales go through.
This “empower the ATF” strategy has certainly found favor within the agency itself. Why wouldn’t it? The ATF was founded by a bureaucrat with a major hard-on for gun control; the ATF is deeply, culturally opposed to private gun ownership in all its many forms. The ATF also has a chip on its shoulder the size of Milwaukee. The $1.4b per year agency is inherently redundant, engaging in a constant and thankfully fruitless struggle to prove its worth in Washington.
The ATF got fresh wind in its sails when Mexico blamed Bob’s Gun Store for arming his country’s drug cartels with assault rifles (but not grenades). After hitting up Uncle Sugar for four new offices to stem the flow of illegal guns down this mythical “iron river,” the ATF launched it’s most recent and outrageous power grab: an emergency then temporary then trial and definitely unconstitutional long gun registration program for 8500 border-close gun dealers.
Fortunately, our friends at the NRA, GOA and other common sense gun rights groups understand the ATF’s natural desire to regulate the Second Amendment to death (Dan Baum split infinitive altert). They managed to knock the long gun registry into the bureaucratic weeds. But the battle is far from over.
As one of our commentators points out, the ATF is immortal. Unless the president appoints an ATF chief willing to reign-in the rogue agency, the ATF is sure to maintain its misguided crusades (now including imported tactical shotguns).
That ain’t gonna happen. Despite the gun rights community’s howls of protest, President Obama has decided to re-nominate Andrew Traver to head the currently headless agency. Traver is an anti-gun guy who’s cozied-up to gun hating Joyce Foundation.
The fact that Traver is still in the running for ATF Chief probably reflects gun control advocates’ furious lobbying efforts—or Chicago-style politics (i.e. he’s a friends of ours). In any case, Mr. Helmke and his allies want Traver on that wall. They need Traver on that wall. In the post-McDonald world, in the midst of the great gun control roll-back, anti-gunners must achieve by stealth what they can’t by democratic process.
In an ideal world, the feds would shutter the ATF. I mean it. Close the agency, save a billion-and-a-half or so, and let the FBI take up the slack. Or, strange to say, fold the ATF back into the IRS, from whence the ATF came. That said, a flat tax would remove the need for that agency as well. Anyway . . .
The Traver nomination is destined for the Senate. Senators who cherish the Second Amendment should use that opportunity to rip the ATF a new asshole. If the Inspector General can do it, so can the U.S. Senate. Gun rights groups have come too far to let themselves be outflanked. As always, the truth shall set them free.