Is it Time to Eliminate the ATF? Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner Says Yes

Picture is of Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner

In early 2012, Milwaukee, Wisconsin resident Chauncey Wright—a man suffering from brain damage, mental disabilities and with half that of a normal IQ level—saw some men handing out flyers in a Walmart store parking lot. Wright approached the men and asked them for a job. They employed him to promote their out-of-the-way clothing shop by riding his bike around town distributing fliers. In the past, Wright had found it difficult to keep a job—along with his disabilities, he has a criminal record, including a felony. Determined, Wright was devoted to the shop and for a little over six months, did what his employee asked him to do—including buy guns and drugs for them. The owners of Fearless Distributing paid Wright in cigarettes, product and a little cash for his work. Without warning, after six months of employing Wright, Fearless Distributing closed abruptly. Shortly after the shop closed, Wright was arrested and charged with seven drug and gun offenses.

It sounds like a front for a criminal gang, taking advantage of a mentally impaired man to be the middleman for illegal gun and drug deals. However, in fact, it was an undercover sting operation operated by the ATF, called Operation Fearless.

Picture is of Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner
U.S. Representative Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) says eliminating the ATF will save taxpayers money.
The last few years have been rough for the regulatory and law enforcement agency responsible for the illegal use, transfer and sale of firearms. Besides the botched Milwaukee sting and Operation Fast and Furious, the agency went seven years without a permanent director. In fact, in 2013 a group that studied the ATF’s effectiveness and efficiency wrote that the “ATF lacks a clear mission and sense of purpose…” Now, a Congressman from Wisconsin is currently working on a bill that would eliminate the agency. U.S. Representative Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) says eliminating the ATF and having other departments, like the FBI, take on its responsibilities would save taxpayers money and make the government more efficient.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) says he will support the bill, calling the ATF “unaccountable,” a “debacle” and an “embarrassment.” Other supporters include the Center for American Progress, whose members called out for an elimination of the ATF right after the shootings at Sandyhook. A spokesperson for the organization stated that giving the ATF’s responsibilities over to the FBI made sense, because the FBI is not as susceptible to politics as the ATF has been.

There is no copy of the bill yet, but Sensenbrenner says” By absorbing the ATF into existing law enforcement entities, we can preserve the areas where the ATF adds value for substantially less taxpayer money. While searching for its mission, the ATF has been plagued by decades of high-profile blunders….We cannot afford to ignore clear changes that will greatly enhance the government’s efficiency.” The elimination of the ATF has been suggested by lawmakers quite a few times in the past—most notably once during the Reagan and then again during the Clinton administrations.

So far, the NRA has made no official statement on the supposed bill, but the National Shooting Sports Foundation, Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety and the Brady Campaign oppose the bill.

What do you think about eliminating the ATF? Share your thoughts with us in the comment section.

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Comments (105)

  1. Absolutely get rid of the ATF but don’t stop there,get rid of the DEA as well. Both are sucking up valuable resources that the true law enforcement agencies of our government need… like the Sheriffs departments of every state, the FBI and the CIA. We don’t need no stinking ATF or DEA, They are used by the IRS, the NSA and the DOJ to FLEECE We the people to justify building more prisons and finding the most insignifcant BS to fill them, I have seen it first hand with my son and am adamate about seeing ALL those agencies listed here abolished. a FLAT TAX gets rid of the ‘real’ problem.

  2. We have duplicate agencies and in addition Homeland Security. It is ridiculous to have all of these overlapping departments.
    It is really way past time to get rid of at least two of them But, alas, has the government ever built an agency and then eliminated it. NO. So keep dreaming on this one.Oh, just keep on sending them your hard earned dollars till further notice. Do you really think hell is going to freeze over?

  3. Alcohol and Tobacco are DRUGS and should be covered by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). That alone will eliminate 1/2 of the Bureau of Another Total F-ups and Excuses (BATFE).

    THEN, transfer total responsibility of Firearms and Explosives to the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI). This will completely eliminate the Bureau of Another Total F-ups and Excuses (BATFE).

    The problem that WE have is that there are TOO MANY agencies and “Bureaus” with overlapping duties and responsibilities.
    When that guy set off a botched car-bomb in New York City, the NYPD Bomb Squad; FBI Explosives Unit; and ATF retards argued for what seemed like hours over WHO had jurisdiction and authority over the crime scene.

    Eliminate the ATF and have their roles absorbed by the other agencies. This will reduce the number of personnel and associated costs for an OVER-redundant system. I would also say that this should REDUCE the tax-payers burden of supporting the government, but Congress and President don’t know ANYTHING about saving money. They’ll just use the money that USE to go to the ATF on some OTHER money wasting cause or endeavor.

  4. We are being asked to support a largely hidden turf war. Between CIA, FBI who are acting as point men for NSA , versus the ATF.
    At stake is a lotmore than just !1.3 billion budget and some smal dept with less than 4000 as weapons and explosives field agents you are taliking of destroying the only bureau that Justice Dept has which can investigate any illegal activity within its borders.
    I brain bloc cannot remeber its program for working within communitys using community activist is the most succeesful program ever for lowering crimes both viscious and thefts.
    FBi has area of Domestic security but in las few years it has more agents overseas and domesticly eorking under NSA.
    FBI HAS ARMED PROS WORKING OFF OF INTERNATIONAL WEB OF CIA which is supposed to , under the Patrio Act become part of CIA.
    The NSA is now only State Department and tells pres what to say as congress is non existent and Executive office holder has no power in itself leaving power in a few interconnected Wealthy corporates and international CArtels, Kissinger and associates , Albright and others including your elected who are associates of groups.
    The record keeping of weapons will be privatized easily and Senators like Sensenbrenner who recieve Koch Dark Funds will disclaim real reasons ATF was torn apart.
    ATF was only independent investigative agency that continnually bumped against illegal FBI and CI A operations working against US people.

    IT knows no state versus fed city county borders nor and limitations by agencys once it has been determined a criminal violation is present.

  5. I think that it is time to close down this agency. We have other departments that could take over these responsibilities. Besides, we need to slim down the size of government. We need to cut government spending.
    We also need to abolish the NSA and the IRS well.

    1. We shouldn’t replace this agency with a more centralized agency like the federal bureau of investigations. Our founding fathers intended government to have separation of powers to allow for a system of checks and balances. I concede that this system may be ineffective with money, it is effective at preventing cronyism and a monopoly on our gun rights. Government is a necessary evil. Although we cannot allow it to grow too big, we cannot just eliminate it all together. One side of the spectrum leads to a totalitarian police state, and the other leads to anarchy. Neither are desirable and so we must look for a balanced medium.

    2. @ John: I am not certain as to how your mention of the “separation of powers” was intended to come across in your comment.

      By this do you mean that you view separate law enforcement agencies as being a form of the “separation of powers” as intended by the Founding Fathers? If that was your point, you are very mistaken.

      The separation of powers applies to the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial powers of government, ensuring each possess separate bodies of equal power for checks and balance over one another.

      So forgive me if I am confused when you appear to apply the “separation of powers” across law enforcement agencies. All of these federal agencies fall under one branch of government; that being the Executive Branch. So given that all federal enforcement activities fall under the purview of the Executive Office of the President, this makes the President the sole chief law enforcer of the land.

      So while the Legislative Branch makes the laws and the Judicial Branch interprets the laws, the President through his Executive Branch is given authority to enforce the laws. There is no balance when the President allows his enforcement muscle to get out of control or take on a purpose outside of its original scope of existence. And that is precisely what has happened with the ATF.

      So when a President fails to get it under control, now is when the “separation of powers” is meant to kick in and Congress should use its authority to cut funding and abolish such a rogue agency.

      As for the rest of the federal agencies under Obama, the best balance we could hope for is to put them back to pre-1930’s procedures by removing all their powers to arrest. Back then they did investigations and then had to request local law enforcement to affect the final arrest. When it is done in this manner there is a process that forces other agency involvement and thus better scrutiny prior to each arrest.

  6. Why move anything that they do anywhere else? Repeal the National Firearms Act of 1934 and the Gun Control Act of 1968 and replace them with nothing. America was doing just fine before either of these nanny-state bills were passed. Allow those who lose value on their items (suppressors and machine guns) to write it off over 10 years like they do with counterfeit money.

    Trusting God and living in Freedom are what has made this country great. Why not just go back to that?

    1. Trusting your God is folly I will trust legislation and logical government who thinks before reacts and leave the magic man for church.

    2. I’m going to have to go with kiljoy616 on this one. It is quite apparent that God was not “thinking before he reacted” when allowing the creation of kiljoy616 into this world.

      And depending on when he was born, kiljoy616 may have been one of the fortunate babies that was obviously spared death brought on by our illustrious “trustworthy legislation and logical government” passed Roe v. Wade.

      Oh yes by all means place every bit of your trust in mere man; after all with all the balance, majesty, miracle, and perfection of the earth, sky, space and beyond, it all simply has to begin and end with man… and then we just die.

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