ATF's oversight limited in face of gun lobbyYep, because God forbid gun owners have an organization that looks out for their interests and defends them against those who would crack down further on a right that so many people have fought and died to protect. Everyone knooows, after all, that the press is and has been a stalwart defender of the Second Amendment from the time there was a press AND a Second Amendment, correct?
Here, researchers with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives make phone calls and pore over handwritten records from across the country to track down gun owners. In contrast with such state-of-the-art, 21st-century crime-fighting techniques as DNA matching and digital fingerprint analysis, gun tracing is an antiquated, laborious process done mostly by hand. The government is prohibited from putting gun ownership records into an easily accessible format, such as a searchable computer database.
For decades, the National Rifle Association has lobbied successfully to block all attempts at such computerization, arguing against any national registry of firearm ownership.
The ATF is supposed to regulate the gun industry, but many within the bureau say it is the industry that dominates the agency. Unlike the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Secret Service or the U.S. Marshals, the ATF must contend with a powerful lobby that watches its every move and fights its attempts to gain resources and regulatory power.
You know why we have the "problem" the Post laments here, right? Because we insist on doing things within the warped, dysfunctional paradigm that says "certain people are fine in free society, but they just shouldn't be trusted with guns." Ultimately all of this goes back to several things -- Prohibition, the powers that be in America being afraid of armed black people (see: Gun Control Act Of 1968), and the War On Some Drugs.
Prohibition and the War On Some Drugs, I think, pretty much explain themselves: the roots of the ATF as an agency go back to Prohibition, because, of course, somebody had to enforce the Volstead Act. And of course the War On Drugs has led to the black market, turf wars over which fuel a rather large portion of the violence in the inner cities.
You might be asking where the ATF comes into this; well, you know somebody's gotta enforce all those unconstitutional laws, right? And of course they're hamstrung by the NRA, as they damned well should be. It's really not any secret that a frighteningly large chunk of the people we elect to Congress want to at least make it more difficult to get guns and own them, if not outright TAKE them from us.
And I'm sure you're asking, "what about American politicians' fear of armed black people?" Well, as it happens, that was a major reason for the passage of the Gun Control Act of 1968. If you don't believe it, consider this:
The Gun Control Act of 1968 was passed not to control guns to but control blacks, and inasmuch as a majority of Congress did not want to do the former but were ashamed to show that their goal was the latter, the result was that they did neither. Indeed, this law, the first gun-control law passed by Congress in thirty years, was one of the grand jokes of our time. [ Robert Sherrill, The Saturday Night Special , (New York, Charterhouse: 1973), 280-91.]And Sherrill was one of the people who SUPPORTED GCA '68. You know it has to be bad when the law's supporters admits its racist origins.
But you won't hear the Washington Post talking about any of that. Oh no. They just squawk about how "a government agency tasked with the enforcement of laws can't do its job because of the eeeevil gun lobby! Who CARES about the fact that those laws are unconstitutional and that criminal justice in this country works within a fatally flawed framework?"
And to think that once upon a time I thought the press was supposed to be a watchdog over the government, not a lapdog that does its bidding...