by William Grigg
Acting on its unerring instinct for expanding its own power while exacerbating the suffering of its subjects, the federal government, at the request of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and with the approval of President Trump, is planning to deploy a contingent from the entity known as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (commonly called the ATF) to Chicago.
This will do nothing to abate the problem of violent crime in the Second City, but will provide the agency with continued rationale for its misbegotten existence – which, as it happens, began in that same city decades ago.
The ATF was born as the Bureau of Prohibition – a brief experiment in federal behavior control that was made possible by the 18th Amendment to the US Constitution. Chicago native Elliot Ness, an inveterate self-promoter, headed much-celebrated bootlegging task force that spent six months raiding Al Capone’s breweries, which was in effect a price-support program for one of the gangster’s few morally sound enterprises.
Ness and his underlings eventually compiled a 5,000-count bootlegging indictment against Capone, which the US Attorney politely ignored as he filed tax-evasion charges that eventually brought about the gangster’s imprisonment – and enhanced the power of the immeasurably deadlier criminal syndicate called the IRS.
When the 18th Amendment was repealed, the Prohibition Bureau lost any rationale for its lawful existence – yet rather than being abolished, it was rechristened and given an even more expansive mandate.
Over the past 25 years, the ATF has been consistently mired in misconduct, often of a murderous nature. The April 1993 slaughter of the Branch Davidians in their sanctuary outside Waco, Texas began with an unnecessary ATF armed raid called “Operation Showtime” – which was staged to deflect attention from an internal corruption scandal. More recently the agency was involved in the “Operation Fast and Furious” imbroglio, in which it pressured federally licensed gun dealers to sell weapons to agents of Mexican cartels in a supposed sting operation.
In ways both grand and petty, the ATF has plagued and persecuted its betters. In one telling but long-forgotten episode more than a decade ago, a college student in Georgia found himself surrounded by a thugscrum of ATF chair-moisteners – one of whom planted his knee upon the victim’s neck, placing the full measure of his tax-enhanced girth behind it – because he was seen wearing a ninja costume as part of a campus event. Unfortunately for the victim, that campus was temporarily infested by ATF hirelings who – no doubt between visits to the local brothels – were undergoing “Safe Streets Training.”
The ATF is an appendage of the Leviathan that exists without so much of an echo of a whisper of a hint of constitutional legitimacy, for the sole purpose of providing secure, albeit socially useless, employment for reprobates, criminals, and degenerates. No provision of the US Constitution authorizes any agency of the federal government to regulate alcohol, tobacco, or explosives, and the Second Amendment explicitly forecloses federal infringement of the right to own and carry firearms. This means that the ATF is literally a bastard agency carrying out an illegitimate mission.
The only useful activity for federal legislators consists of repealing existing statutes and abolishing federal agencies. Wisconsin Republican Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, in defiance of all rational expectations for denizens of the political class, has made himself modestly useful by proposing a bill called the ATF Elimination Act that would impose an immediate hiring freeze at the agency and order its administrators to prepare a report on transferring its existing functions to the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and other departments.
“The ATF is a scandal-ridden, largely duplicative agency that has been branded by failure and lacks a clear mission,” declares Representative Sensenbrenner. Abolishing the ATF would be “a logical place to begin draining the swamp and acting in the best interest of the American Taxpayer.”
Regrettably, Sensenbrenner’s bill would merely channel the institutional feculence of the ATF into two other federal agencies that are badly in need of abolition. Agencies of that kind will endure while there are lives to ruin and liberties to infringe — and those on the receiving end of its malign attention are willing to countenance their continued existence.