ATF Declaring War on Honest Gun Owners

— Time for Congress to rein in this rogue agency

— Time for Congress to rein in this rogue agency
Tuesday, February 8, 2011

They are coming for your guns any way they can.  

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is waging a war on innocent gun owners, and not surprisingly, the Obama administration has done nothing to keep them in check.

You are no doubt aware of how the agency has been going after honest gun dealers in recent years.  Combine that with byzantine federal laws and regulations — subject to BATF interpretation — and it’s no wonder the number of FFL holders has decreased almost 80%.

Then there was former National Guardsman David Olofson. In 2008, Olofson’s loaned AR-15 malfunctioned at a range — firing a three-round burst with a single trigger pull.  The ATF could only replicate the malfunction after experimenting with different types of ammunition behind closed doors.  Having achieved the result they wanted, the ATF labeled Olofson’s gun a machine gun, and he was sentenced to three years in prison for an illegal “transfer.”

The agency also put millions of gun owners in its crosshairs when it reclassified shotguns that are equipped with pistol grips.  By decreeing in 2009 that such firearms are not “shotguns,” the ATF acted as a de facto legislative-making body… quietly turning millions of gun owners into potential criminals overnight.  

If the weapons are not “shotguns,” then what are they?  The NFA Owners Association suggests the only logical alternative is that such firearms are now “destructive devices” — in the same category as grenade launchers, which require owners to register their weapons and pay a $200 tax.

Of course, failure to register such weapons and pay the required tax would result in the same treatment that David Olofson received.

One Senator on Capitol Hill is looking into the agency’s contemptible practices and asking pointed questions of ATF Acting Director Ken Melson.

In late January, Senator Charles Grassley (R-AL) questioned Melson about abuses stemming from Project Gunrunner, a program the ATF started in 2005 to stop US guns from getting into the hands of Mexican drug cartels.  In order to track illegal gun running, the ATF engages in (and approves of) illegal gun purchases made at gun shows and stores throughout the southwest.  

The word is starting to leak out that the ATF has its fingerprints on many of the strawman sales that are grabbing so many headlines.  On January 30, newspaper headlines in El Paso, Texas, stated that:  “US agency intentionally permits arms to be trafficked into Mexico.”

So the ATF is actually helping to move illegal guns across the border.  To make matters worse, says Sen. Grassley, one of the sales the ATF sanctioned went to suspected straw purchasers who later shot and killed Customs and Border Protection agent Brian Terry.

But when Sen. Grassley asked the ATF head for an accounting, the agency instead cracked down on the internal “whistleblowers” who supplied him with the information.

Imagine that… if the agency is willing to put the squeeze on its own agents, what are they willing to do to the rest of the population?

This lack of integrity on the part of ATF management is reminiscent of a 1993 60 Minutes feature story.  In it, ATF agent Bob Hoffman stunned interviewer Mike Wallace by saying that “the people I put in jail have more honor than the top administration in this organization.”

For over three decades, the ATF has had a record of abuse — not only in its treatment of the few honest agents that work there, but also in their treatment of law-abiding gun owners.  Even as far back as 1982, the Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution found that 75 percent of ATF gun prosecutions were aimed at ordinary citizens who had “neither criminal intent nor knowledge,” but were “enticed by agents” into unknowing technical violations.

ACTION:  Ask your Representative to urge the Chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee to hold hearings on the ATF.  This agency needs to be on top of the Chairman’s list of government abuses to investigate.  You can click on the Gun Owners Legislative Action Center to send your Representative a pre-written message.