Careful What You Wish For

Katie Pavlich reports on a rumor that the DOJ is considering elimination of ATF. As I’ve stated previously on here, I think it would be a bad idea. The country’s gun laws are not going away, and someone is going to be charged with enforcing them. That agency is likely to be the FBI. While the FBI would certainly do the enforcement part far more competently, you’d be giving the FBI an incentive to lobby Congress for more gun laws.

The problem with that is that people in Washington have a high degree of respect for the FBI, and they are listened to. ATF is the bastard step-child of federal law enforcement, and Congress and the other D.C. powers that be don’t really take them too seriously. It’s also worth noting, because of the FBI’s other missions, you’re not really going to have much luck threatening the FBI’s funding in order to keep it under control.

Given all that, I’m in favor of keeping ATF in place, and replacing its leadership, including the guys at the very top in 2012. Getting rid of ATF is a feel-good measure. Strategically, I think it would be a disaster to give FBI and incentive to lobby Congress for more gun laws, and be able to raise the specter of terrorism every time we try to threaten their funding in Congress for misbehavior.

26 thoughts on “Careful What You Wish For”

  1. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head.

    There are good ATF agents and there are bad ATF agents but the leadership of that agency seems to be uniformly bad. A change in leadership would be far better than abolishing ATF.

    We are much better off with the devil we know and can somewhat control than with the supposed angels of the FBI or something cobbled together out of Homeland Security.

  2. Sorry, can’t agree with you on this one. ATF should be de-funded and/or disbanded. FBI should be radically reduced in size and authority. Both solutions should be part of our mantra.

    Fragmenting these bozos is a rear guard action, it means that you are willing to accept that the scenario that they will inevitably have ever greater amounts of power than they now hold. This is a strategy that is doomed to eventual failure.

    Remember in the ’80s and ’90s how we used to try to ‘pick away’ at the gun-grabbers on small points, on the assumption that there was no way to attack the fundamental erosion of 2nd amendment rights? And look where we stand now. Once we began attacking the core problem, the lack of respect for the constitution, the problem started getting solved.

    The US does not need a paramilitary national police force. The States do not need paramilitary State police forces. The county and local police only need limited authority and funding to keep the peace. We do not need SWAT teams in every village, and we do not need the FBI enforcing the potpourri of ridiculous and blatantly unconstitutional federal laws at the national level.

  3. ATF never should have been moved out of the IRS in the first place. That’s what led to the cowboy agency that got so out of hand in the ’70s that they were investigated by a Democrat-run Congress.

    Take away their guns and badges and send ’em back to Treasury.

  4. J. Edgar was a horrible person and an exceedingly effective marketer. We can put political pressure on ATF. I doubt seriously we can put the same pressure on the FBI. Just about the time we start making headway, the FBI will save a cute young female kidnap victim. We’re used to the ATF’s version of that which instead includes shooting infants….


  5. While I see the strategic argument you’re making, I think the goodness of eliminating a redundant law enforcement agency with a proven track record of deadly incompetence trumps any bad potential from handing the job to the FBI.

    The problem with ATF leadership is that it’s a single-purpose agency whose mission naturally attracts big-government types looking to ride roughshod over the bitter clingers, because they hate them. These appendage-challenged folks are also prone to get involved in amateur foreign interventions such as the instant case. The answer (besides blacklisting any ATF employee above about a GS-9 from all law enforcement agencies) is to get rid of ATF and send any reliable field agents to the FBI to continue their work under better bosses.

    And by the way, I don’t assume anyone at ATF is reliable. The suits in DC didn’t walk the guns themselves. Someone was out in the field making it all happen, and those people are just as guilty – maybe more, since federal agents are sworn to uphold the Constitution, not C the A of the political appointee above them.

    No, it’s not fair that one bad apple spoils the barrel, but it does, and you do have to throw the whole barrel out at that point.

  6. Considering ATF has, as one of its primary missions, infringing the human right to self-defense, I cannot agree with keeping it in existence. I’ve read that it would take a massive revision of federal gun laws to change over the authority for enforcing them from an abolished ATF to FBI, for example.

    We simply need to make it clear that the 2A means what it says, no matter the unit of government trying to rape it, through court wins, statute-repealing, and maybe even a constitutional amendment that defines self-defense infringement that only protects criminals, as treason. If Alan Gura is not afraid of a Constitutional Convention, neither am I.

  7. While I see why you would be concerned, I think you worry too much about the FBI jumping on the gun law train. While there is reason for concern, they have other less politically hazardous missions to push for. BATFE, on the other hand, essentially has only firearms law enforcement to justify its existence (alcohol, tobacco, and explosives have basically devolved to almost purely administrative functions).

    Essentially, BATFE has a strong motivation to push for more gun laws, and to distort reality to support those pushes, whereas the FBI would have very little motivation to do so.

  8. If you think FBI won’t ride roughshod over your rights, you’re kidding yourselves. They will just be far more competent at the job, and will be more likely to evade congressional scrutiny and consequences. They will have all the same incentives ATF has now, only they will be far more difficult to control.

    I’d also note that it’s pretty clear at this point that the deadly incompetence in the F&F debacle originated in DOJ, and quite likely the White House.

    It won’t take a massive change in our federal gun laws to have FBI take over. The Gun Control Act vests it’s power in the Attorney General in most cases. Having FBI take over and eliminating ATF could be done with very little change in the US Code.

  9. Take away their guns and badges and send ‘em back to Treasury.

    Ideally, I’d like there to be one agency responsible for federal law enforcement… and since the US Marshal service is the oldest, let it be them.

    The rest of the agencies would be bean counters, and when the bean counters find a crime that requires law enforcement muscle, they can either use the local yokels, or call in the federal Marshals.

    But this idea isn’t going to fly in Congress, so I’m not kidding myself it would ever happen.

  10. Hmm….seems like treating the symptom rather than the disease. I think Tam is on the right track with performing “badgectomies” and sending them back to Treasury. The logic there is supported by Sebastian’s strong argument against handing the whole affair over to the FBI.

    One thing wrong with that is FBI will issue a call for additional manpower to cope with their new gun responsibilities, and guess where manpower – already trained in the task – will be available? I can foresee a couple to several hundred F-Troopers headed to 9th and Penn, which will both perpetuate the problem we face now and contaminate the FBI beyond redemption as they worm their way into the FBI’s political structure. It’s said that the greatest threat in the world is a bored bureaucrat, but that comment came before anyone met a group of fully-politicized FBIATF hybrid agents who command the full respect of Congress. Given the respect FBI has all the way down the law enforcement chain it’s not unreasonable to speculate that they could engineer a form of grass roots support among local LE agencies that supports expansion (and increased funding) of FBI/DOJ activities using terrorism and national security as mantras. But, we’re still in symptom territory.

    The disease is the plethora of federal gun laws. I’m quite aware of the size of the problem in eliminating the majority of them, and I recognize there’s not a simple solution to that task, but not having a simple solution doesn’t mean the task should not be undertaken.

    Using the Constitution as leverage and the added weight of citizen outrage against government overreach will, eventually – assuming we can maintain that slow, steady pressure – lead to substantial statutory reform. Over the next decade the citizenry will be calling for massive reductions in federal regulations and statutes, with an attendant downsizing of federal manpower; if we’re positioned correctly we can accompany and participate in that mission to the advantage of freedom and liberty.

  11. Someone’s going to handle the law enforcement functions, however. You can send the bean counters back to Treasury, and I would agree with Tam on that, but who’s charged with enforcing the criminal provisions of the Gun Control Act is where the worry is.

    Even if you do send them back to Treasury, and strip them of their badges. How long will it last? They can argue if the Department of Education needs a tactical team, why can’t they have one? And they would have a point.

  12. “Anything I don’t know how to do must be easy.” Pretending that armed government agents don’t do anything good, just because you have no idea what they do, is childish.

    If you get cancer, do you want drugs from an FDA-inspected facility, or are you ok with drugs from a third world country? Because China would be happy to undercut the US companies by watering down the product, or cutting corners on quality.

  13. I’m not sure the FBI would be better or worse, seeings how their hands, as well as DHS’s seem pretty dirty on the Fast & Furious fiasco and the ongoing coverup. I think the lack of cooperation that Issa’s committee has been able to compel from all the agencies, most of all DoJ point to the real problem being that oversight of these groups is a joke. Better oversight and transparency across government is needed regardless of which agency is charged with what mission. I think as well that much of the erosion of our civil liberties, included gun rights, really has its heart in prohibition, and the huge boon that’s been to the law enforcement and prison industries. (Ironically, the most competent field agents I’ve ever met come from the DEA, whose core mission I disagree with completely.)

  14. Another thing to take into consideration is that it was an FBI sniper that shot Vicki Weaver and her baby, and got away with no consequences as a result of it.

    Competence is a two edged sword. They may be less likely to violate your rights, but when they decide to, they are a lot more likely to get away with it.

  15. The clear answer is to use the bad rep this has given BATFE to try and take as much of their authortiy away as possible. Perhaps we can’t – yet – repeal the GCA but we should be able to strike out a clause here or a jot there.

  16. If it makes such a difference which bureaucratic unit enforces the laws and it makes a difference whether we have a good ATF or a bad ATF then the problem is that the laws themselves need to be scrapped.

  17. Seriously after reading how this all started pretty much every Fed agency has had their fingers in this operation. It cast serious doubts now for me on them all. So getting rid of one sounds good but it might just be sweeping the garbage under the rug of another agency. Honestly name one agency that didn’t get linked in some way to this mess. DOJ I think headed it, and now is trying to do a controlled burn to save its butts.

  18. Sebastian,

    Another thing to take into consideration is that it was an FBI sniper that shot Vicki Weaver and her baby, and got away with no consequences as a result of it.

    And what agency dumped that mess and the subsequent one at Waco into the FBI’s lap in the first place?

  19. Progressives never stop what they are doing, they rebrand, repackage, rename.

    We need to put up a wall around our rights, bolstered by the supreme court, and then win the hearts and minds of the general populace. We need the gun grabbers to look as foolish as Archie Bunker was to race relations.

    Only then, do I think we will prosper in this battle.

  20. Fix laws, don’t duct tape around the problem. No matter who enforces the laws, the laws themselves are the problem. From a strictly tactical view, the BATFE folks are less competent in the courtroom than FBI…

  21. Strategically, this is dumb. We want to force the government to recognize our rights as inviolable. Shuffling the deck isn’t gonna do that. The argument that the Feebs won’t respect our rights any better applies redoubled in no-trump to the ATF. We need to move toward a rights protocol that prevents ANY Federal agency from infringing. Period. End of discussion.

    And, if it won’t fly in Congress, change Congress.

    Tactically, this may be necessary, and the doctrine encapsulated in the toast: Confusion to our enemies.


  22. Something I think people have missed is that most of the people in the ATF would simply be administratively moved over to the FBI.

    The Bureau of Prohibition wasn’t disbanded when prohibition ended, it was simply renamed the Alcohol Tax Unit. Same people, different name. (In case you are not sure what that has to do with this, the ATU was later tasked with enforcing Tobacco taxes/regulation and renamed the ATTU, then later Firearm taxes/regulation were added and was renamed the ATF).

    We already know that the FBI was involved with F&F so frankly I don’t see how getting rid of the name ATF and simply moving the employees under the FBI would change anything at all for the positive. The negatives would be plenty.

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