Shining the Light

Ever since I read David Brin’s book A Transparent Society, I’ve become a big advocate of more transparency in government, and a big advocate of proliferating the tools that allow it. I’m going to second David Codrea’s call for more of that, in regards to the activities of the BATFE. More light shining in the crevices of government is nearly always a good thing. We can’t remain a free society without an active citizenry scrutinizing government.

But that said, I think we need to be careful about how we go about it, and with that in mind, I do take exception with some of David’s rhetoric:

I repeat my call for a rapid response team of “minuteman” volunteers to make themselves available via a phone tree to go to gun stores being audited, and audit/document/photograph the auditors. Don’t let creatures of the shadows hide there–expose them to the light and make them live there–or cravenly slink back under the baseboards where they belong. You can also help by spreading the link to this post to fellow gun owners and letting them know what is going on. BATFU is relying on people remaining uninformed and apathetic.

I don’t disagree at all with the sentiment, but minuteman evokes images of people showing up with guns, ready to do battle. It’s important to note that the problem at the ATF is cultural, and it goes beyond those on the ground, or any one agent or auditor. The ATF, as an organization, is broken, needs to be abolished or reformed, and the agents who fail to respect the kind of power they wield, need to be moved to other lines of work. But we should treat individuals in the ATF as just that. They may be part of the cultural problems, or they may just be doing a job. I would not discourage anyone from shining the light on their activities; that’s important to maintaining a free society.

I’ve always liked this advice on how to deal with the ATF:

Under general principles of law a compliance inspection must be “reasonable” in terms of time, duration, scope, number of inspectors, lack of disruption to your business, etc. If the inspector is reasonable and professional, you should be too. The process does not have to be adversarial or antagonistic. If the inspector is not reasonable or professional, keep in mind that your license does not require you to talk to him, or to provide him access to your copy machine, rest room, etc.

If you decide to peek in on a compliance inspection, introduce yourself. Be civil. Explain yourself to them if they ask. Sure, they might be boneheads back to you, but let them, and then let everyone know about it. That’s the big reason I have Red’s on the blogroll. His story needs to be out there, and I think he’s doing us all a service by telling the world about his experience.

That many ATF auditors and agents are decent people doing a job shouldn’t excuse the vendetta against Red’s. That’s part of the cultural problem. But if we’re to achieve a political solution, we must be careful about how we proceed. We must seem reasonable, and interested in a political solution. I’d rather fight the ATF politically in Congress, and people on the ground will be invaluable in that struggle. But for the people who have to deal with the ATF on a regular basis, I’d worry that turning up the rhetoric too much would just make things worse, and make us look like a bunch of pissed off miscreants to Congress, not to be listened to, or considered.

8 thoughts on “Shining the Light”

  1. You’ll note “minuteman” is in quotation marks, which is meant to bring to mind the ability of ordinary people to muster and assemble for action at a moment’s notice–the activities I describe in this post and the previous one where I introduced the idea make clear the activities are to observe and document, which are legitimate and necessary activities, especially for an organization that has intimidated a family business into ceasing such activities so they can operate free of scrutiny–even to the point of discouraging members of the “recognized” press.

    They want to operate in the darkness without accountability. Andf there’s more, Sebastian, stuff I know and haven’t yet shared. I talked briefly about Ryan being hesitant to blog because of threats to bring it to the judge and further complicate the case–an agreement was reached and then unilaterally reneged on, and the complaint was filed anyway. They are trying to destroy this family business.

    I don’t have a problem with “rapid response team,” another term I suggested. But I do think we needn’t be overly sensitive about terms like “minuteman,” which also brings to mind the wonderful statue of the armed farmer by his plow–the very symbol of the American freeman. If that has a negative modern connotation, perhaps we need to work harder at reclaiming words in the popular lexicon–whcih means working harder at communicating with our freinds, neighbors and countrymen, something too few of us are engaged in.

    I’m not aware of decent people violating our unalienable rights–I’m sure there were plenty of “decent” Germans just doing their jobs in the Third Reich. they are all, without exception, enabling tyranny in exchange for a paycheck.

    If you want to label my rhetoric extremist or me a miscreant,so be it. From what I’ve seen, the problem in the gun rights movement is not that we lack too many spokespersons trying to appear “reasonable.”

    I don’t put down people who take a moderate approach–where I take exception is the idea that there is no room in the debate for a more radical approach. If the middle of the road is the farthest we’re willing to push the envelope, the center line is a place me and people like me are unwilling to settle for.

    And I intend to get as lot more “personal” with the thugs in question in the days to come.

  2. I disagree with your following statement in particular and your call for more “moderation”(my interpretation) in general.

    “…….the problem at the ATF is cultural, and it goes beyond those on the ground, or any one agent or auditor.”

    It does not go beyond those on the ground, if they refused to engage in illegal, immoral, and unconstitutional actions, they may well lose their jobs, but I know of nowhere in the law or the constitution that excuses lawlessness because the perpetrator was being paid.

    If enough refused and were fired the resultant scrutiny would do much to rid the agency of the upper hierarchy that requires the citizen be subjugated illegally.

    So, not only no, but HELL NO! It does not go beyond them. It is precisely because of them that these depredations are possible. It may not be at their behest, but their compliance with these crimes is.

    As to how reasonable we should be. I am perfectly reasonable. I am the most reasonable human on the planet, not solely, there are many of us most reasonable people on the planet. Each and every one of us understands what “…..shall not be infringed.” means.

    “Reasonable” has come to mean incremental surrender of our rights to the point that we now have agencies telling citizens not to even write about their experiences under threat of financial and other types of ruin. That they expect to be able to do so without censure is the direct result of “reasonable” over the decades.

  3. I don’t put down people who take a moderate approach–where I take exception is the idea that there is no room in the debate for a more radical approach. If the middle of the road is the farthest we’re willing to push the envelope, the center line is a place me and people like me are unwilling to settle for.

    You bring up an interesting point here, and something to think about. I’m certainly not arguing that you should be a moderate. There’s certainly plenty of room under the tent for a lot of different views.

  4. Also, I wasn’t suggesting you’re a pissed off miscreant, I was suggesting that certain ways of proceeding could certainly make congress, and large segments of the public think that. I wouldn’t read you if I thought that :) My objection to the more radical approach isn’t that I necessarily disagree with the radicals, but mostly because I don’t think it’s effective at persuading people and affecting political change. Most of the successful political movements were relatively incremental. It took progressives the better part of a century to build leviathan, and probably will take twice as long to dismantle it, if that’s even possible, sadly.

  5. You raise a point, but consider: they will do what we let them get away with. If it takes a minuteman who also has a camera, then so be it. We are not pushing the envelope; we are pushing back.

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