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As TTAG Commentator Sean D Sorrentino and gun rights advocate put it this morning, “We don’t merely wish to move the ball a few yards downfield. We want to crush our opposition so badly that no one ever tries to screw with us again. I won’t be satisfied until Paul Helmke is reduced to holding a cardboard sign begging for food in Central Park while I walk by open carrying.” But it’s not Paul Helmke and his Brady Campaign Against Gun Violence that present the greatest danger to Americans’ gun rights. It’s not even the coalition of caterwauling cretins at the Mayors Against Illegal Guns. Or the venomous vilification artists at the Violence Policy Center. Or McCarthy the Merciless. It’s the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The ATF as a fully-fledged federal agency was born, Athena-like, from the mind of Rex D. Davis. Right from the git-go, Davis envisioned the ATF as an active crusader against violent crime, rather than a passive processor of federal forms. Setting aside the fact that the United States already had at least one federal agency engaged in this crusade (FBI), Davis focused his sights on the “real” enemy: gunmakers, gun dealers and, by extension, gun buyers.

As the first Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, Rex understood that we need to use every available resource, including strong laws, strong enforcement, and civil liability to prevent dangerous people from getting dangerous weapons. He worked hard to understand how criminals get guns, and how to stop them. Even late in life he fought legislation that protected scofflaw gun dealers from lawsuits, a bill that unfortunately became the law.

That would be the aforementioned Paul Helmke of the Brady Campaign on Mr. Davis’ death, correctly identifying the bureaucrat as an important ally in the ceaseless fight against “easy access” to guns. And the wrong kind of guns (assault weapons). And too many guns (multiple purchases). And guns purchased without the express knowledge of the federal government. Etc.

The ATF’s intrinsic desire to control the American gun industry and its customers still informs the agency’s every move. Their ludicrous play to establish a long gun registry along America’s southern border—currently in limbo—exemplifies their ongoing administrative over-reach. The ATF never met a federal gun law they didn’t like; every one adds to their power and purpose. The resulting regulations fuel their nihilisitc narcissism and enable their bully-boy culture.

When President Obama blamed the U.S. for arming Mexico’s drug lords, ATF acting head Kenneth Melson and his minions saw their chance to drape their NRA-hobbled agency in glory. No matter what. Project Gunrunner and Operation Fast and Furious were characteristically cavalier; the Powers That Be were unconcerned about the predictable carnage resulting from thousands of guns smuggle southwards. This “ends justify the means” strategy is the scandal’s most revealing aspect. Neither the procedure involved (a so-called “sting” operation) nor the consequences-be-damned amorality of the programs are aberrations.

As we’ve been saying since disenchanted agents first “outed” the ATF’s Mexican gun smuggling operations, both programs are a logical extension of the ATF’s poisonous culture, misguided goals and profound disregard for the rule of law. The web is well-stocked with stories of ATF abuses against the citizens it supposedly protects. Even a brief perusal of‘s forum reveals an agency where managers define the term “accountability” in entirely personal terms, without the slightest regard to the Constitution they’re sworn to uphold.

With the National Rifle Association‘s blessing, Reps. Steve King (R-Iowa) and Jason Altmire (D-Pa.) have introduced H.R. 1093, the “Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Reform Act.” It’s yet another laundry list of prohibitions designed to reign-in the ATF’s ambitions, from the broad (“require BATFE to establish clear investigative guidelines”) to the specific (“prohibit BATFE from requiring multiple sales reports on the sale of long guns by limiting BATFE’s authority to collect data that is not specifically allowed by statute”).

It’s not enough. The only “reform” the ATF needs is dissolution. There is nothing that the ATF does—I repeat not one thing—that cannot be done by the FBI or various state or local police. Lest we forget, the ATF was originally a paper-pushing department of the IRS. In fact, removing the ATF from the law enforcement equation would increase efficiency, by removing an over-lapping layer of bureaucracy that leads to duplication, confusion and extra-legal ambition.

Yes, there is that. But how much of that is an open question. One which Congress should investigate. Project Gunrunner and Operation Fast and Furious are but the doorway to an enormous ATF cesspool. Cleaning up the federal law enforcement agency would be a mammoth task. Why bother? By all means, drag those guilty of illegal acts into the cold light of day. Expose the ATF’s thugs and reveal the coverup they triggered. After that, lights out.

If Americans are serious about limiting the size of the federal government, terminating the $1.5 billion ATF is as good a place as any to start. And better than most.

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  1. Anyone who likes Nazis must absolutely adore the ATF. It’s time for the jackbooted thugs to get the boot themselves.

  2. Reform is nice, but like all government programs and agencies, cutting them back only postpones future growth and expansion of their regulatory reach. They must be torn out by the roots. The ATF should be abolished and its worthwhile functions (assuming there are any) should be assumed by the FBI.

  3. I agree, the ATF should go. I’d prefer state agencies to handle their few useful functions.

    However, I’m not a big fan of the FBI, given its decades of dirty deeds against leftist and anti-war groups, among others – – which continue to this day. Remember how upset people on the right were when Homeland Security was going to start profiling “Right Wing Extremists,” presumably Tim McVeigh types? The left has been putting up with exactly that since the FBI’s inception. If it’s bad for the goose, it’s bad for the gander.

  4. No one is going to repeal the federal gun laws.

    Therefore they will be enforced by some agency.

    Which would you rather take the job?

    The FBI? Think Ruby Ridge and arsonists at Waco. Besides, they’re too smart to take it.

    The Department of Homeland Security? Sure, they’d LOVE that.

    Oh, great — secret political policemen with even less oversight than ATF.

    I prefer the devil I know in rehab than the devil I don’t, with the same mission, more power and less oversight. And if you take the time to think it through, so would you.

  5. Why do you think the Obamanoids CHOSE the ATF as their pawn? Because it is expendable to them. You really think they didn’t have a least one thought along those lines? But, OK, fine, give what they aren’t afraid of, if it makes you feel good. Unfortunately that is all that it will do, other than make things worse.

    • You make a sound case. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter which Federal agency has its boot on your neck. Government police overreach is not a right/left issue, it’s an everybody issue.

  6. Remember something called Federalism? The worst part of the Prohibition movement was the desire to have a “National” law, no mere state thing*. There is no reason why tobacco, alcohol and firearms have to be regulated at the national level. The first two have basically been reduced to financial (i.e. tax) problems, the latter is, um, I’m not really sure. This is really the old “bootleggers and Baptists” coalition writ large once again. So a pox on both houses for maintaining an unnecessary permanent employment agency. I believe Oliver Cromwell had a phrase well suited to this.

    *If you haven’t read Okrent’s history of Prohibition, “Last Call”, go buy it now.

  7. You’ve got to love Sean, because the man states the facts and doesn’t take sh!t from anyone.

  8. The last one does have to do with money/revenue. If you buy a National Firearms Act of 1934 registered firearm, you have to pay a tax stamp of $200 above the price for machineguns(anything full-automatic), short-barreled shotguns or rifles,destructive-device(explosives and semiauto/fullauto shotguns,etc.) and a $5 tax stamp for the A.O.W.(Any Other Weapon) classification.

    Basically, all the Randy Weaver case was about $200 that should have been paid for a short-barreled(sawed-off)shotgun. Your tax dollars at work. They sent U.S.Marshalls up to get a man for falling for crap the sting operator who hounded him for I believe a year and a half to hacksaw one or two shotguns. This because Mr.Weaver made the mistake of going to a gov’t informer meeting, my bad.. I believe it was a racist-whatever nation meeting. The general rule of thumb is that half the people at these meetings are gov’t informants. So instead of sending him a bill, they issued a warrant, he said “no,I ain’t going” whatever, they surrounded his shack though they called it his “compound”, they made a big shindig out of it by bringing in the FBI by the end, supposedly according to what circles you are in, had questionable “rules of engagement”, shot his wife with child in her arms. I forgot how much it cost them for all the agents, food, lodging, etc. He sued and won $3 mil I believe it was against them. All this because of a $200 or $400 tax stamp. Just slight overkill I thought.

    • As I recall, Ruby Ridge was over a CI’s successful attempt to have Weaver saw off the shotgun/s, 1/4 or 1/2 inch. The motivation was to have weaver become an informant within the organization he had previously indicated a desire to stay away from. He wouldn’t do it, so the illustrious agents and agency involved, insisted. He still said no, and they did what they were programed to do as an example to others who they are able to maneuver into this position.

      The entire operation started as an intelligence gathering method of long standing use by many different agencies. The obvious difference here is that they are targeting ordinary American citizens, who they have re-classified as criminals, by entrapment.

      The difference between Randy Weaver and you or I, is that the agencies and individuals involved, haven’t yet targeted you or I. And if you choose to quibble about the meaning of 1/4 or 1/2 an inch on a shotgun barrel, you have already conceded that they have the right to direct and control you and to use any means they wish to accomplish that goal. Ultimately that goal is the total disarming of the population of the United States. In direct and deliberate contravention of the Constitution, Bill of Rights, history under preceding English laws, and the stated, recorded, historical records of the founding fathers.

      Think about that word “deliberate” for a second. It means that “they” know what the truth of these matters are, and choose to lie anyway. There is only one purpose served by that and it can only be served by suppressing those truths, histories and available information, which they do, continuously.

      But there isn’t any conspiracy or anything like that. My gut tells me that the actual situation is otherwise…. Then, there’s the evidence which corroborates my gut. That’s all I need. I’m not paranoid but objective and I wish, I was only paranoid. For that, I could take medication/s. The other condition requires different remedies. Because you see, they are now convinced they will win, and are pulling all the strings necessary to make it happen.

  9. As long as we keep thinking about ATF as a Guns Only organization, we will never see it disbanded. Alcohol and Tobacco generate BILLIONS of dollars every year to pay for other government BS ( like S-CHIP) and nobody in Congress will do a thing to eliminate that income.

    Now, if we can find a way to split the F part from the two others, we may have a chance for real reform. Otherwise we are just whistling dixie.

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