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ATF’s Epic Fail In Milwaukee

Screen Shot 2013-01-31 at 11.29.54 AMAs Harry Reid bolts from Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s renewed push to ban so-called assault weapons, other senators, including Pat Leahy and Al Franken, may politick their way into killing the bill in committee.  As Ed Morrissey of Hot Air posted yesterday,

No one thought Reid would be excited to support a new assault-weapons ban.  He didn’t support the last one, and he’s been non-committal over the last several weeks even while his fellow Democrats have publicly demanded a new ban.  Leahy’s reluctance should probably not be surprising, either; Vermont has a lot of gun owners, and voters there support nearly unrestricted gun rights.

However, Leahy chairs the Judiciary Committee, which is where Feinstein’s bill will have to find approval to reach a floor vote — or more likely, a filibuster.  That committee also includes Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken from Minnesota.  Klobuchar easily won re-election and might vote to pass a ban out of committee, but Franken has to face Minnesota voters next year — voters who are also gun-rights supporters.  Franken has said little about Feinstein’s proposal except that he supports a renewal of the assault-weapons ban “in principle.”  If Leahy is not on board, Franken might protect himself with a no vote (or perhaps an abstention).  Assuming the Republicans on the committee oppose it, Feinstein’s bill may never get out of committee at all.

Morrissey concluded that we may have dodged a bullet (sorry for the pun) with the failure of this new anti-gun push since the constitutionally questionable ATF would’ve enforced it.  Let’s see what their latest efforts into gun control yielded in the streets of Milwaukee.

…the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports, they [ATF] seem to have enough trouble handling the laws they enforce now:

A store calling itself Fearless Distributing opened early last year on an out-of-the-way street in Milwaukee’s Riverwest neighborhood, offering designer clothes, athletic shoes, jewelry and drug paraphernalia.

Those working behind the counter, however, weren’t interested in selling anything.

They were undercover agents from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives running a storefront sting aimed at busting criminal operations in the city by purchasing drugs and guns from felons.

But the effort to date has not snared any major dealers or taken down a gang. Instead, it resulted in a string of mistakes and failures, including an ATF military-style machine gun landing on the streets of Milwaukee and the agency having $35,000 in merchandise stolen from its store, a Journal Sentinel investigation has found.

When the 10-month operation was shut down after the burglary, agents and Milwaukee police officers who participated in the sting cleared out the store but left behind a sensitive document that listed names, vehicles and phone numbers of undercover agents.

And the agency remains locked in a battle with the building’s owner, who says he is owed about $15,000 because of utility bills, holes in the walls, broken doors and damage from an overflowing toilet.

So, this is an epic fail. It’s no wonder people have t-shirts, bumper stickers, and internet memes that say Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms should be a convenience store, not a government agency.

ATF has a hazy history.  Besides Ruby Ridge, Waco, and its controversial gunwalking operations into Mexico, ATF’s operations have been criticized as excessive and unconstitutional.  Before the 1986 Firearms Owners Protection Act, 75% of the bureau’s prosecutions were “constitutionally improper,” according to an official Congressional investigation. As David Kopel, who recently testified for the Senate Judiciary Committee on gun violence this week, wrote for National Review back in 2009, as a response to The American Prospect’s blog about his use of the 75% statistic:

The 75-percent figure comes from a unanimous 1982 report of the Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution. After detailing a litany of statistics and case studies showing extreme and extensive abuse by BATF, the subcommittee’s reportturned to BATF’s counterarguments:

The rebuttal presented to the Subcommittee by the Bureau was utterly unconvincing. Richard Davis, speaking on behalf of the Treasury Department, asserted vaguely that the Bureau’s priorities were aimed at prosecuting willful violators, particularly felons illegally in possession, and at confiscating only guns actually likely to be used in crime. He also asserted that the Bureau has recently made great strides toward achieving these priorities. No documentation was offered for either of these assertions. In hearings before BATF’s Appropriations Subcommittee, however, expert evidence was submitted establishing that approximately 75 percent of BATF gun prosecutions were aimed at ordinary citizens who had neither criminal intent nor knowledge, but were enticed by agents into unknowing technical violations. (In one case, in fact, the individual was being prosecuted for an act which the Bureau’s acting director had stated was perfectly lawful.) In those hearings, moreover, BATF conceded that in fact (1) only 9.8 percent of their firearm arrests were brought on felons in illicit possession charges; (2) the average value of guns seized was $116, whereas BATF had claimed that “crime guns” were priced at less than half that figure; (3) in the months following the announcement of their new “priorities”, the percentage of gun prosecutions aimed at felons had in fact fallen by a third, and the value of confiscated guns had risen. All this indicates that the Bureau’s vague claims, both of focus upon gun-using criminals and of recent reforms, are empty words.

Yeah, I don’t think nominating a director to head this bureau is a national priority.

(H/T Ed Morrissey)

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  1. Jan Brown says:

    Over overstocked with czars, agencies, committies & all of their aides running around & doing little, unless diminishing established agencies count. Wanna reduce the debt? Personnel is a good place to start. It’s a proven largest expenditure of any business

  2. L.E. Liesner says:

    All of these government agenciesc are run by political appointees and therefore all operations have a political agenda instead of a clear cut objective. As we all know, politics can screw up the simplist tasks and political correctness is a recipe for disaster. The BATF was never a agency with merit, but under DHS it has lost all credibility.