Like Obamacare, proposed magazine ban exceeds power of Congress
Will the ATF Gunwalker Scandal Take Down President Obama?
Posted on February 2, 2011 by Brad Kozak
Wow. Its déjà vù all over again. The Gunwalker scandal – in which the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) stands accused of smuggling guns into Mexico, arming the drug runners that murdered Border Patrol Agent Terry – is one of those seemingly innocent little land mines that blows up big. Contemplating the chain of command that must have authorized this profoundly illegal program, considering the administration’s response to the growing scandal, the hairs on the back of my neck stand at attention, and I’m taken back to the decade we called the 70s. Let’s take a closer look at this latter day potentially presidential scandal…
The ATF has long been an “also-ran” federal agency. As RF has pointed out on many occasions, their work overlaps that of the FBI, DEA, DHS, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, state and local police and others. Since the ATF’s elevation to federal agency status (July 1, 1972), the ATF has been struggling to justify their existence.
When Mexican President Felipe Calderon took America to task [falsely] for arming the Mexican drug cartels, it was Christmas at the ATF. Finally, they had a reason to live. They secured a “mandate” (read: a fully-funded $160m budget) from the Obama administration to curb the so-called “Iron River” of guns flowing from the U.S. into Mexico. It was the first expansion of the ATF in decades.
Here’s the crux of the problem and the setup for the coverup: there IS no river of guns flowing into Mexico. While a few hundred firearms might cross America’s southern border on a annual basis, the Iron River is but a trickle. Not surprisingly, given the lack of a problem to solve and at least five federal agencies attempting to solve it, the ATF managed to apprehend only a few small time gun smugglers. And…that was it.
In November, The Inspector General issued a report condemning the ATF’s Project Gunrunner program in no uncertain terms. Specifically, the IG excoriated the ATF for bureaucratic inefficiency and failing to nab the gun-smuggling “kingpins.” Well duh. There ARE no kingpins.
The pressure for results increased dramatically. Like a gunfighter under pressure, the ATF turned to its core competency: entrapment. As TTAG has reported numerous times, the ATF has a long and ignoble history of using “sting” operations to catch illegal firearms purchasers. There were a few not-so-notable gun running busts, including an Arizona plumber.
As part of this Project Gunrunner effort, the ATF “allowed” straw purchases headed for Mexico to go through. This information first broke cover when a Houston gun dealer told the world that the ATF had green-lighted illegal rifle sales to [alleged] Mexican gun runners. In and of itself, the practice was both ineffective and reprehensible. If it could be proved that the ATF had actually put the buyers up for the deal, well, nothing. Again, quasi-legal ATF “stings” are background noise.
Only these authorized straw man purchases didn’t really work. Not on the scale that the IG and the ATF’s collective ego demanded. It’s a lot harder to sneak IN to Mexico than it is OUT of Mexico. (A one-way, revolving door. How nice.) And so the main accusation: ATF agents escorted said straw purchasers – and their “assault rifles” – across the Rio Grande and into Mexico.
When Agent Terry was killed by drug smugglers, the net was immediately abuzz with the possibility that he was shot with one of the weapons “eased” into Mexico by the ATF. At first, the notion seemed incredible. But it was soon clear that the feds went into full disaster containment mode over Agent Terry’s murder, giving credence to the rumors.
The intrepid Janet Napolitano, head honcho of Homeland Security and former Arizona Governor, raced to the scene of the crime. Since then it’s been radio silence. The FBI has refused to provide the names of the men arrested for Terry’s murder. They also put a lid on any and all other investigative findings. The Agency “declined” to honor a Freedom of Information Act request to provide information on the weapons found at the crime scene.
Meanwhile, the ATF has already decided on its defense, as illustrated by a story at usatoday.com
Bill Newell, ATF special agent in charge for Arizona, said the five separate cases, all part of Project Gunrunner, demonstrate the corruptive reach of Mexican cartels using straw buyers to acquire guns in Arizona for illegal shipment south.
Asked whether agents purposely allowed firearms to enter Mexico as part of an investigation, Newell answered, “Hell, no.” But, he said, suspects under surveillance sometimes elude agents, which could result in guns winding up in Mexico.
So it was an “accident.” Unless the ATF agents did, in fact, walk the guns into Mexico. In that case, there will be hell to pay.
Let’s pause for a moment and consider the implications. The ATF allowed perhaps even transported weapons into Mexico. Two of those weapons may have been used to murder a federal officer. If true, the head of the ATF knows this. The head of the FBI knows this. The head of the Department of Homeland Security knows this. Did anyone bother to tell the President of the United States? One can only assume so.
So what did President Obama know about Project Gunrunner’s criminal conspiracy to murder and when did he know it?
Enter Sen. Charles Grassley, who, By God, is Going To Get To The Bottom Of This. He’s written a letter to acting ATF head Kenneth Melson. Melson is stonewalling. Meanwhile, Grassley says the ATF has read the riot act to the ATF whistleblower who provided evidence of the connection between Project Gunrunner and Agent Terry’s murder.
The administration hasn’t come clean, and shows no inclination to do so. Their instinct is to circle the wagons, damn the torpedoes and stonewall, stonewall, stonewall. But all that stonewalling leads to wretched excesses, where one question ducked leads to a misinterpretation, never corrected, which festers and boils, until you have a real, honest-to God cover-up on your hands.
I don’t want to come across as a nattering nabob of negativism. I’m deeply skeptical of the idea that the President of the United States knew that the ATF was smuggling guns into Mexico – at least until this scandal broke. I think this was a bottom-up job. Clumsy? Yep. Criminal? Definitely. But Obama’s fault (other than failing to keep a watchful eye on the ATF)? Nope. However…
The cover-up is a genuine concern that could well be laid at the feet of the president. Ask yourself a couple of questions…Why did a cabinet-level chieftain fly down to personally oversee the…the…what, exactly? Investigation? Stonewalling? Cover-up? I dunno.
And nobody else outside of the Administration knows either. If the instructions came from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue (and that’s a big IF, at this point), then Houston, we have a problem. If the White House ordered Napolitano to put a lid on this thing, that constitutes obstruction of justice. And that’s a big-time crime.
Now you’d think they’d know better. Something like this happens the first thing Obama should do is go on national TV and say something like “We don’t know what happened – yet. But we will. I am dispatching a team to the scene to get the facts. We will report on our findings every step along the way. And just like we had embedded reporters on the front lines of the war, we will embed reporters here, to make certain that there is no coverup.”
Case closed. Problem solved. The MSM gets their red meat. The damage is controlled, and limited to a black eye or a fat lip. Not a fatal wound. The way they’ve played it, we’ll have to wait and see who gets thrown under the campaign bus to prevent Obama from taking a Humpty-Dumpty-like fall from grace.
This is a really bad time for the Obama administration to have its focus diverted to matters of self-preservation. Egypt’s going up in flames. Obamacare’s been shot down in flames. The President is already facing an uphill climb for a second term. Is Obama fiddling while his administration burns?We shall see.
But as we watch the Gunwalker-gate events unfold in the Senate and on TV, remember that the Watergate scandal that destroyed a presidency started with a piece of duct tape on a door. And never forget that a brave border agent, a former Marine, may have died for the ATF’s sins.
[Click here for RF's post Gunwalker Scandal Set to Blow]
UPDATE: The LA Times confirms that the drug gang that murdered Agent Terry used ATF-enabled rifles. The ATF is in full damage control mode, blaming low funding for their inability to “monitor” the guns. Click here for more.
Mayor Bloomberg's Arizona Gun Show P.R. Stunt
By John Lott
Published February 02, 2011
New York City's murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault rates rose last year according to preliminary FBI data, with murders alone increasing by more than 12 percent. But instead of concentrating on crime in New York City, Mayor Bloomberg just spent $100,000 of the NYPD's budget sending police to Arizona to buy guns at a gun show.
The "sting" was a waste of money that misleads Americans and did nothing to reduce crime. Talk about an aggressive publicity stunt. Arizona officials had not been informed of the operation, which meant that any potential crimes uncovered by the New York City officers could not be prosecuted.
But, instead of spending $100,000, Bloomberg could have learned what he did for the price of a phone call or an Internet search. Arizonans, like residents in 31 other states, can buy guns from private individuals without a criminal background check, just an Arizona driver's license to demonstrate residency. However, if they sell a gun to someone who they suspect will use it to commit a crime, they risk becoming liable for that crime.
John Feinblatt, a Bloomberg adviser, asserted: “The background check system failed in Arizona, it failed in Virginia and it fails in states around the country. If we don’t fix it now, the question is not whether another massacre will occur, but when.”
Nevertheless, background checks on the private sales of guns would have failed to stop the Tucson, Arizona shooting because the killer, Jared Loughner, passed his background check at a gun store. He had never been convicted of a crime, never been adjudicated as being a danger to himself or others, and he had not been involuntarily committed for mental illness. Thus, he would have been able to get a gun in any state, including New York, where he had been a resident.
Background checks do not stop bad guys from getting guns. Instead, the Brady Act background checks for gun purchases, in place since 1994, are a problem for law-abiding citizens. Hardly ever do background checks deny guns to criminals. Over 99.9 percent of purchases initially flagged as being illegal under the law were later determined to be misidentified.
Take the numbers for 2008, the latest year with data available. The 78,906 initial denials resulted in only 147 cases involving banned individuals trying to purchase guns. Of those 147 cases, prosecutors thought the evidence was strong enough to prosecute only 105, and they won convictions in just 43. But few of these 43 cases involved career criminals or those who posed real threats. The typical case was someone who had a misdemeanor conviction for an offense he didn't realize prevented him from buying a gun.
It is hardly surprising that not a single academic study by economists or criminologists has found that the Brady Act or any state background checks has reduced violent crime. Even those who aren't prevented from buying a gun face delays in getting approved. Eight percent of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System checks are "not resolved immediately."
Five percent of those checks take up to 3 business days, and 3 percent take even longer, though these further delays can't stop one from obtaining a gun at that point.
For gun shows, such background checks would be more than a nuisance because gun shows usually only last for a single weekend. Preventing the sale for that long often means that the transaction will not be able to take place.
According to my research, imposing this requirement cuts down the number of gun shows by about 20 percent. The incorrect denials and delays could be a real safety problem for those who are being stalked or threatened and need protection quickly.
Contrary to public perception, very few criminals obtain their guns from gun shows. This was shown in an extensive survey conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics in 1997, with interviews of 18,000 state prison inmates. Only a trivial 0.7 percent indicated that they had obtained their guns at a gun show. Including flea markets, the total rises to just 1.7 percent.
Instead, the overwhelming majority of guns that criminals obtain come either from "friends and family" (40 percent) or "on the street or from illegal sources" (39 percent).
The undercover operation run by Mayor Bloomberg also plays into the entire mythology that has developed around the 33 round magazine based on the claim that Loughner only had to reload because he ran out of bullets.
In fact, the killer’s gun jammed precisely because he used such a large capacity magazine. The long spring used in this high capacity magazines simply didn’t have enough force to properly push the last couple of bullets into the gun. Given that it can take just a couple of seconds to replace a magazine, the killer would have likely been able to fire more rounds if he had brought several smaller magazines.
Mr. Bloomberg makes a big deal about the guns purchased at the guns shows as having characteristics desired by criminals: great stopping power, light weight, concealable. But those are all characteristics that law-abiding citizens value. A small, 120 pound woman will value stopping a 200 pound male criminal before he can grab her.
The 6.2 million Americans who legally carry concealed handguns value light weight concealable guns.
Mr. Bloomberg's P.R. stunt did nothing to stop crime. Wasting $100,000 is bad enough. Today he demanded that the federal government itself spend even more money enforcing these laws.
Hopefully, Americans won't follow his policies and end up wasting lots more money on policies that divert police resources and time from things that do work.
Bloomberg Operating Outside NYC - Again
Submitted by cbaus on Wed, 02/02/2011 - 07:00.
by Jim Shepherd
Seems New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg doesn't much care where he sends his officers outside their jurisdiction if it advances his anti-gun agenda. And it seems federal authorities have very little interest in slamming him for activities that would land a mere mortal in a federal penitentiary for being an accessory in a felonious act.
[Earlier this week] The New York Times reported that Bloomberg had apparently sent undercover investigators to the January 23 Crossroads of the West Gun Show held in Phoenix, Arizona.
Then, at a press conference, Bloomberg showed undercover videotape of three purchases reportedly made at the Crossroads of the West Show. Among those purchases, a "Glock pistol and two high-capacity magazines -like the ones used in the Tucson shooting."
No reference was made to the fact that the Glock model is among the world's most popular pistols -or that magazine capacities vary according to either regulation, or user tastes.
According to Bloomberg, investigators bought guns in private transactions despite their having alluded to their being unable to pass a background check.
Private sales between individuals are not subject to background checks- but private sellers are not supposed to make sales to individuals who might not otherwise be able to pass background checks. That makes the seller - and the purchaser - guilty of a felony. Anyone party to those illegal purchases (as in the mayor who sent them undercover with the intent to make an illegal purchase) an accessory. A fact that seemed to escape the reporters in attendance.
We're not even going to go into the entrapment discussion - the investigators were slightly out of their jurisdiction, and no word -yet- on their having checked in with local authorities before staging their allegedly illicit purchases.
During his photo-op, Bloomberg told reporters that he and the eldest son of Martin Luther King Jr. had tried to convince President Obama to raise the issue of tighter gun controls in his state of the union address. He didn't, and Bloomberg called that a "missed opportunity" although he said he was "encouraged" that some members of the president's staff assured him Mr. Obama would "take the matter up separately."
Bloomberg's a determined advocate for tighter gun controls- and is absolutely willing to do whatever he thinks necessary to crack down on firearms ownership. And, it seems, he has a willing accomplice in the mainstream media.
CNN's online reports highlighted the Bloomberg story with a "new" fact that "87% of guns seized by Mexican authorities and traced in the last 5 years originated in the US."
Sorry, CNN, but that's just not true.
Only a fraction of the guns seized by Mexican authorities originated in the United States. The majority were purchased and smuggled in from other countries or stolen from Mexican police and military bases.
The drug wars aren't being fought with semiautomatic pistols, they're being fought with military-issued fully-automatic weapons.
The small number of guns which could be traced did, in fact, originate in the United States. But...the majority of those had been reported stolen or sold in secondary purchases, not purchased directly from unscrupulous dealers along the borders.
For all intents and purposes, most tracking of firearms ends with a legitimate sale to an individual purchaser. That purchaser was subject to a NICS background checks and the requisite federal form (4473) on which the purchaser states that he or she understands any lies on that form are federal offenses, and they are legally entitled to purchase a firearm.
From that point, the firearm is generally traced from owner-to-owner by old-fashioned police work. Many times, that trail goes cold with a theft report.
Again, it's a case of a lack of familiarity with the facts - or an unwillingness to challenge any anti-gun rhetoric. The half-truths are then quoted as irrefutable fact by reporters who more than likely generally don't have any knowledge of firearms - or firearms regulations. To many reporters, every gun - regardless of its capabilities- is an "assault weapon".
But ignorance is absolutely no excuse for lazy reporting. Even in New York City, there are experts on firearms that can help a reporter, producer or associate producer do some basic fact-checking.
Regurgitation of supplied statistics and "facts" without a basic questioning of their validity is one of the myriad of reasons that CNN is now nowhere near the top of an industry it founded.
But CNN's not alone in the intellectual laziness, virtually all the "mainstream" media has accepted Bloomberg's half-truths with absolutely no question.
Maybe that's why the "mainstream" is no longer the public's primary source for news and unbiased information.
Federal Magazine Gun Ban!
Obama Reverses ATF Cuts. Gunrunner Spared? The Washington Post is Pleased
Posted on February 2, 2011 by Robert Farago
Click to view image: '87951ed4fd51-obama_nixon.jpg'
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