Are We Better Off Without ATF?

Robert Farago of Truth About Guns thinks ATF has seen better days. I think a lot of gun owners would come to regret this, to be honest. Why? Let me outline some points to think about:

  • We’ve gone through the trouble to get ATF appointment to be subject to Senatorial confirmation. We’ve been able to block Andrew Traver as a result of that. If ATF is eliminated, enforcement of gun laws will fall to the FBI. Our ability to block an anti-gun FBI Director will be nearly non-existent, because FBI has such broad responsibility. There’s no special interests that are too worried people will start moonshining and smuggling cigarettes in the absence of an ATF Director. Lots of other interests are going to get real uppity if you hamstring the FBI.
  • ATF are the Barny Fifes of federal law enforcement. The media doesn’t take them too seriously, or pay much attention to them. Congress does not take them very seriously. Other federal law enforcement doesn’t take them very seriously. On the other hand, the FBI has a very good reputation. Congress will listen to the FBI.
  • ATF is stretched thin on resources, and have been for some time. This limits their ability to harass otherwise law abiding people with federal gun laws. Sure, ATF does this sometimes, but the FBI currently views guns as an ancillary mission. We’re not going to screw with FBI’s funding like we can ATF.
  • Remember that the FBI was secretly keeping NICS data for years during the Clinton Administration. They are probably still doing it. Usually when ATF makes an aggressive move, it’s done with such bumbling incompetence that a scandal usually quickly ensues. The FBI will screw us in ways we probably won’t even realize, and even when we do realize, they’ll probably get away with it.

So this is another bandwagon I’m not going to get on, at least not unless we can seriously repeal a lot of federal gun laws. It might not seem like it sometimes, but the ATF wolf has largely been caged over the past couple of decades, mostly through appropriations riders, the agency’s own poor reputation, and subjecting the director to confirmation by the Senate. The FBI is a wolf we’re not going to cage, and that wolf has enough fox in him to be dangerous.

15 thoughts on “Are We Better Off Without ATF?”

  1. They need to move Alcohol and Tobacco to the IRS since that enforcement is pure revenue generation. Firearms regulation enforcement is about trying to balance our rights with controls that, while established under the theater of revenue enforcement, are born of fear.

  2. The whole situation is a bit pathetic. Kind of reminds me of a guy whose uncle worked at NASA and said one of the engineers kept screwing things up, so the rest of the engineers promoted that guy to management so he’d stay out of the way of the important work.

  3. So strip all the ability for the BATFU to create law by the stroke of the pen. I’ve been saying that for years. All power to make law is solely in the hands of Congress, (according to article 1 section 1), and I don’t see Congress being granted the power to delegate it anywhere.

  4. Has a federal agency ever been stripped of its power to promulgate regulations? I have a suspicion that if that ever happened, all the other agencies would take note and rally around the target agency to try to head off a precendent that would set up a threat to their own power.

  5. It’s got to freak one or both of you out…

    Sebastian and Vanderboegh have found common ground!

    See “One Very Bad Idea” over at Sipsey Street

  6. As much as I’d like to see a Federal Bureaucracy die, Sebastian has a point: having an extra bumbling bureaucracy may waste resources, and so forth, but it also divides up the power of the Federal Government into pieces that are more manageable.

    Now, if we could just get the FBI as well…

    (I’m one of those freaks that believe we’d be better off if the States were expected to enforce Federal law, rather than the Feds.)

  7. Rebuttal: let the ATF die

    1) If the ATF dies, and the NRA is given responsibility for that I think pro-gun influence will matter more when it comes to who the FBI director is. In the past gun-rights were in a ghetto and no one cared other than pro-gun and anti-gun factions who the head of ATF was.

    2)It is not a good thing to have incompetents enforce the gun laws, because incompetents are more likely to violate due process and commit unlawful violence. And so what if Congress listens to the FBI. Does the FBI really want to get dragged into an unwinnable war against the American gun culture? Is that how the FBI wants to waste it’s reputation? I doubt it.

    3)Yes the ATF is pathetic compared to the FBI. But since the FBI does have responsibility for enforcement of higher profile and more respectable laws than gun control, the FBI would still give gun law enforcement low priority. Whereas for the ATF gun control IS it’s biggest job. The iron law of bureaucracy suggests less effort from the FBI than from the ATF when it comes to enforcing gun laws.

    4)Yes the FBI got away with murder in the past. But that’s the past. Part of normalizing gun-rights means that today the FBI can’t get away with anti-gun abuses that were excused in the past. And any anti-gun actions that the FBI attempts in the future might gain us allies to the cause of gun-rights who in the past didn’t care; because, as the most powerful Federal law enforcement agency, what the FBI does to us the FBI might also do to them.

    Conclusion: Time to act like winners

    Keeping the ATF around just because they are the littler Big Brother is advice from a mindset of fear and doubt about the future. But if gun-rights are to finally triumph we must not cower in the shadows; instead we must demand our rights are legitimate and respectable. Meaning even the mighty FBI must tread carefully if given responsibility for enforcing the Federal gun laws.

  8. Markie Marxist sez: “That’s politically correct! We can’t get rid of ATF! They’re our national gun police! We’ll need them when they can go house to house searching for guns and gun owners and shooting anybody who resists, or owns a gun, which is the same thing really. The FBI wouldn’t want to get its hands bloody doing that, but our ATFers are sleazy enough to have no qualms about it. They don’t even mind shooting women and children and dogs. Ask Randy Weaver. Our guys are cold-blooded killers and they’re proud of it. They didn’t raise their flag over the Davidian complex because they were ashamed that 76 men, women and children died as a result of their raid – they were proud of their deadly work, and proudly ran up their flag accordingly.
    The FBI would likely be too principled to do the necessary work of going around slaughtering American gun owners by the thousands. That’s why we need a sleazy outfit like ATF. They’ll make a great einsatzgruppe for disposing of private gun owners who resist the authority of the Marxist state. They already have some experience at it, and while there’s still a lot of room for improvement, they’ll get better at it as they gain even more experience. I’m sure that President Schumer will see to it. His father was an exterminator in Crooklyn you know, so that line of work runs in his blood. He already treats private gun owners like cockroaches, but as President he’ll use ATF to exterminate them completely! Ha! Ha!”

  9. Skulls:

    That’s pretty amusing. This is certainly a first. I figured this post was going to be worth a General Sebastian post on his end :)

  10. Brad:

    FBI will violate your rights just as readily as ATF, they will just do it with considerably more confidence, competence, and with a much higher likelihood of getting away with it.

  11. Better the devil you know than the devil you know? How about better one less devil. Period.

    If we have to compare, the ATF is profoundly anti-2A. The FBI is not. The ATF is in the business of pissing on gun rights. The FBI is not.

    1. If you make it the FBI’s mission to piss on gun rights, then they will. When the FBI has to take over those duties, who do you think they will hire? All of those former ATF agents who you declare to be profoundly anti-2A. Now you’re giving those antis more power, more money, and more credibility. It’s not a matter of the devil we know vs. another devil we know. It’s a devil we can keep a little control over & routinely discredit before Congress & the public vs. the devil with respect, credibility, and much less opportunity for public oversight thanks to their other law enforcement programs, including anti-terror work.

  12. So the ATF is to become the Viet Cong farmer / sniper who worked a field off the end of the runway at a U.S. air base.

    Every time a plane took off, he would raise his rifle from the rice paddy and take a shot at it. In several years, he had scored no hits.

    Everyone knew what he was doing, but nothing was done on the theory that if he was arrested, the V.C. would replace him with someone who was a better shot.

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