I don’t usually write gun stuff on Medium, preferring to post that kind of content on my gun blog. But since the issue about which I’m going to make some comments is a political issue that goes far beyond the issue of guns, I’ll post my comments here.
What I am referring to is the decision by Joe to withdraw the nomination of David Chipman to be the new Director of the ATF. Not only was his nomination opposed by every single member of the Senate GOP caucus, but he also was having a tough time getting past some of the Senate Democrats who, like Joe Manchin and several others, represent states where lots of people own guns.
Walk into a gun shop and say, “I love the ATF,” and there’s a good chance you’ll be asked to leave. Maybe you won’t be asked. Maybe you’ll be told to ‘get the hell out!”
The ATF has long been a favorite target of the so-called ‘gun rights’ community because the legend about the agency is that it exists to make life difficult for ‘law-abiding citizens’ and ‘law-abiding gun dealers’ to help Americans maintain their so-called ‘2nd-Amendment rights.’
Now in fact, there is no such thing as ‘2nd-Amendment rights.’ The 2nd Amendment isn’t a ‘right.’ It’s an amendment, okay?
Want to know the entire scope of gun ‘rights’ as they exist under the Constitution? Read the four laws passed by Congress in 1934, 1938, 1968 and 1994 which define gun ‘rights’ in terms of right versus wrong. Get arrested for violating one of those laws and see what happens when you tell the Judge in your case that you were simply exercising your Constitutional gun ‘rights.’
And if you decide to make that little speech the day you are sentenced and your sentence is going to involve spending some time away from home, make sure to bring your toothbrush to court, okay?
But I have to give Gun-nut Nation credit for never really being concerned about whether what they believe and what they say has anything to do with facts at all. On the other hand, whenever my friends in Gun-control Nation start pushing the idea that we need a strong and reliable individual committed to gun control who will run the ATF, I’m not so sure that this narrative is necessarily aligned with all the facts.
First of all, the ATF spends most of its time regulating dealers by walking into gun shops and examining what is known as the A&D Book, which is a chronological listing of every gun which comes in and out of the shop, along with examining the 4473 forms, which is what the dealer fills out every time he sells a gun to a customer and runs a background check.
There’s only one little problem with this procedure. And the problem has to do with the fact that the ATF, being a federal agency, has absolutely no jurisdiction over the movement of guns from one person or location to another once those guns have arrived and were shipped to that dealer from some out-of-state source.
So, for example, the last time my shop was audited by the ATF, they examined more than 1,000 4473 forms, all of which represented the intra-state transfer of guns. They also looked at both the Acquisition and Disposition sides of my A&D book, even those virtually every gun listed on the Acquisition side of the boom came either as a trade-in from some local customer or were purchased by me from a wholesaler whose warehouse happens to be in the next town.
Sorry, but not one of those listings had anything to do with inter-state commerce at all. So, why were these records being examined by a three-man team of ATF agents who made a point of treating themselves every day to a lovely lunch at a gourmet deli up the road, the payment for which I am sure was reimbursed as a ‘business expense?’
If you go to the ATF website, this is how they explain what they do: “The mission of ATF is to protect communities from violent criminals, criminal organizations, the illegal use and trafficking of firearms, the illegal use and storage of explosives, acts of arson and bombings, acts of terrorism, and the illegal diversion of alcohol and tobacco products.”
Forget all that stuff about explosives, arson, alcohol, and tobacco which, incidentally, has to do with making sure that excise taxes are paid on those products, which is why the ATF was set up in the first place. Let’s just focus on the ‘illegal use and trafficking of firearms,’ which is what they are allegedly doing by inspecting the A&D book and 4473 forms in my shop.
How can the ATF know that a gun which I bought from someone was illegally trafficked from another state unless the guy who sold me the gun was someone known to be trafficking in guns? They can’t know. In fact, if someone sneaks into my house when I’m not around and steals one of my guns, even if I call the cops to report the theft, they are under no obligation to report this information to the ATF.
As for the illegal use of guns, pardon me, but I thought that any behavior which is considered illegal is something that’s dealt with by the local police. I mean, isn’t that why we have police departments whose job description includes not only directing traffic and getting the cat down from a tree, but also arresting people who commit crimes, right?
Now there may be times when a local police department finds itself in an investigation which involves something having to do with guns and the investigation can use an extra pair of hands. So, this department may decide to pick up the phone and ask the local ATF agents to help out. But guess who shows up if it’s an investigation of criminality what foes across a state line? A little-known federal police agency called the FBI.
The Federal Government currently has three, separate law-enforcement agencies — FBI, DEA, and ATF. The ATF is not only the weak sister in this group but created one of the worst and most senseless law-enforcement scandals known as Fast & Furious because the agency was desperate to get its first Federal wiretap approved so that it could be seen as one of the ‘big boys.’
If Chuck Grassley and a couple of other GOP Senators hadn’t decided to use the hearings that were held on Fast & Furious to take down Eric Holder and maybe even Obama for lying about their knowledge of this stupid and senseless affair, they might have actually behaved like responsible public servants and looked at what needed to be done to clean up the ATF mess. Unfortunately, the phrases ‘GOP Senators’ and ‘responsible public servants’ happen to be a contradiction in terms. Oh well, oh well. Back to Square One.
We have a serious public health problem in this country called gun violence. It creates somewhere around 120,000 dead and seriously injured individuals every year, a number which of late has been going up. Gun violence may not be a pandemic, but the numbers certainly qualify it either as an epidemic or as a condition which has become endemic over the last twenty-five years.
Over that entire quarter century, there has not been one, single Congressional hearing which has attempted to figure out: a) what kind of role the ATF should be playing to deal with this public health threat, and b) how is the agency dealing with this threat right now?
I can bet you dollars to doughnuts that not one single member of either Senate caucus who took the trouble to interview David Chipman (who happens to be a nice, intelligent, and experienced guy, by the way) asked him either of those questions. Which is what happens when choosing an agency head has nothing to do with anything but how that choice will play to the voters back home.
Frankly, I’m surprised that we ever get any capable individuals to work for Uncle or Aunt Sam.