According to an article in yesterday’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, a Republican from Wisconsin, will introduce a bill that will eliminate the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Sensenbrenner is quoted in the article and it is reproduced on his official website.
The ATF is the federal police force tasked with ensuring that taxes are collected on alcohol and tobacco products and that firearm sales are regulated according to law. The ATF is also the fireworks police. In the last two decades, the ATF has engaged in numerous infiltrations of motorcycle clubs, militias and other nonconformists groups and has carried out numerous drug entrapments.
Last May, in discussing the federal case born of one of those entrapments, federal judge Manuel L. Real wrote: “It is unclear why the ATF, which has no authority over illicit drugs, is trying to ensnare citizens in its fictitious stash house robberies. Further, the government has provided no evidence that there have been any stash house robberies in Southern California nor any evidence of the necessity of trolling poor neighborhoods to ensnare its poor citizens.”
In 2012, the ATF became the subject of adverse media and Congressional scrutiny when it was alleged that the Bureau was allowing firearms to be smuggled into Mexico.
A Government Accounting Office study released yesterday found that: “Beginning in 2010, ATF made criminal organization investigations one of its highest priorities, similar to firearms investigations, and deemphasized alcohol and tobacco investigations that do not involve violent crime. ATF data show that alcohol and tobacco investigations decreased by 85 percent (from 168 to 25 investigations opened) from fiscal years 2003 through 2013.” The GAO declared that the ATF was unable to “assess how effective its investigations are in addressing violent crime.”
The study also portrayed ATF agents as aging and overpaid. “ATF reported facing funding and hiring challenges. ATF’s number of special agents generally increased from fiscal years 2004 through 2010, but decreased by about 6 percent (from 2,562 to 2,399) through fiscal year 2013, which represents the lowest number of special agents in 8 years. According to ATF management officials, ATF was unable to hire agents because its funding did not keep pace with the cost of employee salaries and benefits. According to ATF data, the average salary and benefits costs for ATF employees increased by 55 percent from $100,000 in fiscal year 2003 to $155,000 in fiscal year 2013. Further, about a quarter of ATF’s on-board special agents were eligible to retire as of the end of fiscal year 2013, with an additional 20 percent becoming eligible to retire through fiscal year 2018.”
Sensenbrenner told the Journal Sentinel, “By absorbing the ATF into existing law enforcement entities, we can preserve the areas where the ATF adds value for substantially less taxpayer money. While searching for its mission, the ATF has been plagued by decades of high-profile blunders….We cannot afford to ignore clear changes that will greatly enhance the government’s efficiency.”
Sensenbrenner is a political conservative but the Journal Sentinel found that support for eliminating the ATF is strong among liberals as well. The paper quoted Arkadi Gerney, a senior fellow at a “left-leaning” think tank called the Center for American Progress who believes the ATF should be absorbed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
“The FBI already has a significant role in violent crimes,” Gerney said. “Firearms are not a foreign concept to them.”