The ATF has been the bane of many a gun owner’s existence. The massive bureaucracy has been the most visible embodiment of the gun control agenda imposed on Americans in the last century, a huge hulking mass of inefficiency and sloth which makes arbitrary judgements and seldom gives the little guy a break. According to at least one Congressman, though, the time has come for the ATF to go and he’s introduced legislation to make that happen.
Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner reintroduced the ATF Elimination Act, legislation that would dissolve the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and merge its exclusive duties into existing federal agencies.
Additionally, the Act calls for an immediate hiring freeze at the agency and requires the Department of Justice (DOJ) to eliminate and reduce duplicative functions and waste, as well as report to Congress with a detailed plan on how the transition will take place. Further, it would transfer enforcement of firearms, explosives and arson laws to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and illegal diversion of alcohol and tobacco products would be transferred to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).
Under this bill, the DEA and FBI would be required to submit to Congress a plan for winding down the affairs of the ATF after no more than 180 days, and field offices, along with other buildings and assets of the ATF, would be transferred to the FBI. It would have one year to report excess property to the General Services Administration (GSA).
Those most knowledgeable about U.S. gun laws generally agree that the functions of the ATF would be better and more efficiently run by the FBI, as it was briefly in 1933. Originally housed under the Department of the Treasury to enforce the various taxes on tobacco and alcohol (especially during prohibition), the ATF was additionally charged with enforcing taxes under the National Firearms Act in 1934 which is where their involvement with firearms began. Their role would gradually expand to include regulating the firearms industry as a whole and performing investigations, roles they are most known for today.
Does Sensenbrenner’s bill have a chance? Maybe hope and change are still on the agenda after all.