We are often critical of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the BATFE often deserves it. Its lowlight roll ranges from Waco to Fast & Furious, with botched investigations, political prosecutions and false testimony all along the way.
But when the agency does what it should be doing, fairness dictates we take note of it and give credit where due.
In what appears to be a clever move, ATF bought a barbershop in a blighted neighborhood of Detroit and put the word out that guns could be sold there.
Soon the haircut shop was thronged with sellers, many of them retrieving long guns from the baggy pants popular in the ‘hood.
The sting brought in dozens of illegal guns, mostly stolen, and stiff charges for their enterprising sellers, mostly career criminals.
Now, we may yet find out that ATF somehow bollixed this one, too. But it looks like the sort of operation we’d like the feds to be doing—nabbing actual criminals committing actual crimes. This in contrast to enmeshing gun dealers in paperwork violations or letting thousands of guns be illegally exported to Mexico.
We all know that politics and law enforcement are, and should be, entwined. What we choose to make illegal or not is part of how we define our society, and that’s a political process. If it weren’t political, we could program computers to be cops, prosecutors, judges and juries.
Given the sources of ATF’s political support in Congress, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the agency feels the need to balance efforts like the Detroit sting, which target black urban criminals, with prosecutions like the one against the gun dealer Reese family of Deming, N.M., that target rural white folks.
Gun owners applaud the former and condemn the latter, and it’s very easy for our opponents, in today’s debased climate of debate, to chalk that up to racism. Saying that a small-town gun dealer making a paperwork error is the equivalent of a convicted criminal walking down the streets of Detroit with a Hi-Point carbine in his trousers takes the special ability at mental gymnastics so many antis manifest.
So let’s give one cautious thumbs-up to the BATFE. This is what we actually want them to be doing.