Thursday, January 19, 2017
OFF THE WIRE
Last Friday Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, a Republican from Wisconsin, reintroduced the ATF Elimination Act. The bill would dissolve the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and merge its exclusive duties into existing federal agencies.
Sensenbrenner introduced the act for the first time on March 4, 2015. The bill has languished in the circle of bureaucratic hell called the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations until its reintroduction.
Scandal And Waste
In May 2015, the Center for American Progress, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington, D.C., estimated that folding the ATF into the Federal Bureau of Investigation would save taxpayers $58.7 million a year. The ATF has also been at the center of numerous scandals in the last quarter century: The most notable of which have been the Ruby Ridge siege in Idaho in 1992; the raid on the Branch Davidian compound near Waco in 1993; and the so-called gunwalking scandal which became public in 2011. During that quarter century, the ATF has been the primary federal police force that infiltrates motorcycle clubs.
ATF investigations are notorious for the unethical behavior of the Bureau’s undercover agents. In May, 2014, in discussing an ATF drug entrapment, Federal District 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.”
Immediate Hiring Freeze
Sensenbrenner’s act calls for an immediate hiring freeze at the Bureau and requires the Department of Justice to eliminate and reduce duplicative functions and waste, as well as report to Congress with a detailed plan on how the transition will take place. Further, it would transfer enforcement of firearms, explosives and arson laws to the FBI and illegal diversion of alcohol and tobacco products would be transferred to the Drug Enforcement Agency.
Under the bill, the DEA and FBI would be required to submit to Congress a plan for winding down the affairs of the ATF after no more than 180 days, and field offices, along with other buildings and assets of the ATF, would be transferred to the FBI. The ATF would have one year to report excess property to the General Services Administration.
In a press release announcing the reintroduction of his bill, Congressman Sensenbrenner wrote: “Despite our country being trillions of dollars in debt, government spending continues to rise. Common sense budgeting solutions are necessary, and the ATF Elimination Act is one measure we can take to reduce spending, redundancy, and practice responsible governance. The ATF is a scandal-ridden, largely duplicative agency that has been branded by failure and lacks a clear mission. It is plagued by backlogs, funding gaps, hiring challenges, and a lack of leadership. These facts make it a logical place to begin draining the swamp and acting in the best interest of the American taxpayer.”