The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has long been viewed as the “red-headed stepchild” of federal law enforcement, and now a veteran member U.S. House is attempting to disband the corrupt and unaccountable rogue agency.
For more than three decades, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has gotten a reputation as something of a cowboy operation or even a rogue agency over such incidents as Waco and Ruby Ridge, and operations Fast and Furious and “Fearless.” Now, veteran Wisconsin Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner is working on legislation that would dissolve the agency, merging its operations into other federal law enforcement entities, an aide confirmed in a telephone conversation with TGM.
The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel first reported the congressman’s proposal which came months after that newspaper did a scathing expose of an ATF storefront sting operation in three states, including Wisconsin that used at least one developmentally disabled person.
Sensenbrenner’s office said the bill is still being crafted. He also suggested that ATF functions could be absorbed by other agencies such as the FBI and US Marshals or DEA.
It seems doubtful that the proposed legislation will become law.
Both gun control groups and firearms groups have united against the bid to disband the agency for the same reason: a weak but unified ATF is malleable and can be shaped by lobbying efforts. These groups are concerned that if the agency is disbanded, that ATF’s regulatory functions will go to more credible federal law enforcement agencies that are harder to influence.
The ATF suffers from an internal culture that eschews accountability, rewards incompetence, and ignores corruption. Many had hoped that the appointment of B. Todd Jones to head the agency after it was essentially leaderless for seven years would start to change the culture with the agency. Jones’s testimony in front of Congress regarding the Fast and Furious debacle—in which he was tangentially involved—has shown that he is more interested in protecting a dysfunctional ATF culture than changing it.