Fast And Furious: Isn’t the ATF just the Government’s Appendix?
Throughout this Fast & Furious mess, nearly everyone has paid attention to just Darrell Issa and Eric Holder squaring off in a Congress committee room. But there’s another thing that should be focused on, that being the agency at the heart of this disgrace. But I surely cannot have been the only person to ask this question:
Why do we even have ATF around anymore?
Well, maybe I have. Bear with me as I try to answer it.
Let’s read their mission statement:
A unique law enforcement agency in the United States Department of Justice that protects our communities from violent criminals, criminal organizations, the illegal use and trafficking of firearms, the illegal use and storage of explosives, acts of arson and bombings, acts of terrorism, and the illegal diversion of alcohol and tobacco products. We partner with communities, industries, law enforcement, and public safety agencies to safeguard the public we serve through information sharing, training, research, and use of technology.
A “unique” agency? How can unique can that be?
“protects our communities from violent criminals” – Doesn’t every law enforcement agency do that?
“criminal organizations” – Sounds more like an FBI job or something for the gang squad of a local PD
“the illegal use and trafficking of firearms” – Okay, I can sorta see this one
“the illegal use and storage of explosives” – This one too, sort of, but I would think that other agencies could also handle explosions quite readily
“acts of arson and bombings” – Two words: fire department. Okay, four more: Federal Bureau of Investigation
“acts of terrorism” – Otherwise known as “the purview of every other security agency ever
“the illegal diversion of alcohol and tobacco products” – Now what the hell is that supposed to mean?
As you can see, there is nothing really unique about ATF, aside from the firearms and possible explosives. So far, I cannot think of any other agency that specializes in those two things.
Now think about how big a problem these three things are. We can say, with some certainty, that firearms are a problem—nowhere as big as the left likes to claim, but we can’t say that they can be ignored either. Even so, “Fast & Furious” has shown that the agency can’t be trusted to do its job in this regard, so that isn’t a plus for it—it’s just the first strike.
Alcohol is just not a big problem, and the biggest problem that alcohol creates (or, at least, the perception of such) is drunk driving. But the ATF doesn’t investigate inebriated drivers behind the wheel. That’s a duty for local law enforcement. Other matters on alcohol, such as serving to underage minors, or not paying the local booze tax, are still handled by local or even state agencies.
As for tobacco, I don’t even know what to say. Again, most of the problems with selling tobacco are dealt with by local cops or perhaps a state office, not a federal bureau. There’s really no cause for ATF to get involved.
Therefore, what is the ATF? Why do we have it? Why does such an agency—which has had no permanent leadership since 2006—even exist? That goes back to one of the great failures of the Nanny State: the 1920s experiment in Prohibition. Yup, the ATF’s origins lie in the boys who were sent out to destroy illegal distilleries and any amount of booze they could find. But last I checked, the only Prohibition currently going on in America is the War on Drugs—and that’s largely being fought by the DEA.
So while Republicans and Democrats tussle in Congress over this upcoming contempt vote on Attorney General Holder, I think another question that Americans should be asking themselves is whether the federal agency that purposefully let over 2,000 guns walk into the hands of Mexican drug cartels, then kill thousands of Mexicans and two United States Border Patrol officers, should even have any right to exist today.
At least with the DEA and FBI, you could potentially make arguments for it. Of course, for the DEA, there’s also the fact that the War on Drugs is just wrong, so it shouldn’t really exist either. But there’s not even that for the ATF. Literally, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms is the government’s appendix. Obviously, cutting it will not make a real dent in the budget—it takes just over a billion dollars per year—but since it has no purpose, why have it anyways?
Republicans almost always talk about stripping “waste, fraud, and abuse” and “duplication” from the federal budget. Here would be an excellent opportunity to put those words—which for so long have been nothing more than empty rhetoric—into action.
While you hold Holder in contempt of Congress, let’s also ditch the ATF and start ourselves back on the road to a reasonable law enforcement paradigm. That’s the real thing to take away from this debacle.