Friday, January 24, 2014

Another Unsellable Article

BATF Enforcement Tactics: Are There Not Enough Gun Criminals?

A lot of gun rights activists have developed a rather jaundiced view of the mainstream news media, and I confess that I often share that cynicism.  You can therefore imagine my surprise at this astonishing investigative report in the December 7, 2013 Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel about BATF’s techniques for taking bad guys with guns off the street.  I will not say that I am pleased to read it, because it reveals some really troubling behavior by federal law enforcement, but at least it shows some serious journalistic efforts to bring accountability to an agency that has a really bad history.

This article started out as an attempt to find out if some odd and dangerous behavior by BATF in Milwaukee was really just one rogue operation, or reflected a wider strategy.  Earlier this year, the Journal-Sentinel published a report about how BATF hired a brain-damaged man (with an IQ in the 50s) for an undercover operation, asking him to try and find guns in the neighborhood.  

Not surprisingly, Wright was soon bringing guns to the undercover operation, many of them purchased from gun stores, transferred to Wright, who then sold them to BATF.  Why?  Because BATF was paying twice the retail price for the guns.  Wright, who had a felony conviction in 2007, was therefore a felon in possession of a firearm (even if only for the purpose of selling them to BATF) – and BATF prosecuted him for that reason. Not surprisingly, when it went to trial, Wright received probation because of his mental incapacity.

So, was this just something that the BATF office in Milwaukee dreamed up?  Apparently not.  BATF in a number of parts of the country befriended “mentally disabled people to drum up business and later arrested them.”  In Wichita, Kansas, for example, where BATF referred to such a person as “slow-headed.”  In Albuquerque, where they “gave a brain-damaged drug addict with little knowledge of weapons a ‘tutorial’ on machine guns, hoping he could find them one.”

In a number of places, like Milwaukee, “agents offered sky-high prices for guns, leading suspects to buy firearms at stores and turn around and sell them to undercover agents for a quick profit.”  (And of course, for subsequent arrest.)  Running fake pawnshops in some cities, their “no questions asked” policy of buying electronics and bikes are described as “spurring burglaries and theft.”  In Atlanta, this included guns stolen from police cars just hours before the thieves showed up to sell them.  (BATF: making a crime wave wherever they went.)

Did BATF actually cross the line into entrapment?  I am sure that they were usually careful not to actually suggest that their “customers” go break the law – but not always. In some cases, it appears that they did cross the line: in Wichita, “agents suggested that a felon take a shotgun, saw it off and bring it back – and provided instructions on how to do it.”  Of course, that turned a simple felon in possession charge into many more charges: possession of an unregistered National Firearm Act weapon, unlawful manufacture, and probably a few more charges that I cannot immediately dream up.

All of this leads me to ask: did BATF have that hard a time finding felons already in possession that they had to go to such elaborate steps to get someone to arrest?  Did they really need to take advantage of mentally retarded people, not once, but in several different cities?  Did they really need to provide alcohol in underage youths, and damage buildings that they rented (then stiffed the landlords for the repairs)?  I do not doubt that BATF’s work removes guns from criminal hands in many cases, but reading the above makes me wonder if they are reducing crime as much as they are causing it.  And of course, there is the slight embarrassment that BATF in Milwaukee lost a machine gun.

There is a legitimate function that BATF performs.  But they sure do not seem to be covering themselves in glory or honor with tactics like these.


Jim said...

Nice article and about a very serious subject. If I could critique it, I would have introduced Wright when you started talking about him. I had to read the article at the end of your link (horrors!) which was a good thing. On the other hand, maybe that was part of your design? :-)

mariner said...

I will dispute that BATF performs any legitmate function.

The entire reason for the existence of this organization is to infringe the Second Amendment rights of American citizens.

I realize they don't say it that way, but it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and leaves duck droppings everywhere it operates.

joated said...

So a guy in Milwaukee with an IQ of 50 figured out--all by himself!!--that he could buy guns at a retail outlet (obviously lying on the required background check) and resell thenm to the BTAF agents at a nifty 100% profit? And HE was supposed to be the dummy?

This comes on top of BTAF's fantastic work on Fast and Furious and changing the reporting requirements for multiple firearms purchases along the southern border.

BTAF should be abolished and the acronym passed on to a convenience store.