ATF Or AEF? Trump Budget Proposes A Realignment Of Agency

“Senior administration officials” have told the New York Times that the Trump Administration plans to strip out the tobacco and alcohol enforcement roles from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. These functions would be returned to the Treasury Department as BATFE has ignored cigarette smuggling and bootlegging in favor “fighting violent crime”.

Under the Trump administration’s plan, the Treasury Department would inherit the authority to investigate tobacco and alcohol smuggling. The A.T.F. would need a new name. One possibility: the Bureau of Arson, Explosives and Firearms, or A.E.F.

The move would resolve a bureaucratic split that has existed for years. Treasury collects the taxes on cigarettes and liquor, but A.T.F. investigates efforts to evade those taxes.

The change is included in a draft of President Trump’s coming budget proposal, according to two senior administration officials. The plan envisions hiring roughly two dozen Treasury agents, plus auditors and support staff, the officials said. Congress would have to pass a law to reorganize the agencies.

The officials who discussed the proposal did so on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss it in draft form. Though budget plans can change, the officials said the A.T.F. language has remained in place through multiple revisions.

Spokespersons for BATFE and the Treasury Department did not respond to requests for comments.

A quick check of CleanUpATF.org shows no comments on the proposed change.

I’m sure this proposal will be the source of some speculation at this coming week’s SHOT Show. If I pick up anything juicy or earth-shattering, I’ll share it here as an update.

H/T Stephen Wenger’s DUF list

Reclassification Of Bump Stocks By BATFE – Comments Due By January 25th

As many already know, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives anticipates opening a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking with regard to bump fire stocks to clarify whether or not they meet the definition of a machine gun under the National Firearms Act of 1934 and the Gun Control Act of 1968. Before they release any proposed rule, they are seeking comments from manufacturers, retailers, and consumers. These must be received by midnight EST on January 25, 2018.

The Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking with the questions to be answered is here. All comments must include this identification number – 2017R-22. Comments can be submitted online, by fax, or by US Mail. So far, 2,309 comments have been received. Here is the link to submit them online. It also allows you to upload a document.

These are the questions that they have for consumers:

Consumers

21. In your experience, where have you seen these devices for sale and which of these has been the most common outlet from which consumers have purchased these devices (e.g., brick and mortar retail stores; online vendors; gun shows or similar events; or private sales between individuals)?

22. Based on your experience or observations, what is (or has been) the price range for these devices?

23. For what purposes are the bump stock devices used or advertised?

 Gun law attorney Adam Kraut had these suggestions for responding to the ANPRM. Adam has more on the notice here.

Comments vary in form, length, and specificity. However, there are some things that a person submitting a comment will want to consider. Specificity is key. Providing a basis for the support or opposition to a proposed rule is crucial. Citing to studies or other evidence-based information is useful to show the agency why or why not a proposed rule is useful. In the instance of an ANPRM, responding to the specific questions posed by the agency is a particularly good strategy (not to say a commenter could not and should not go broader in their response). Regulations.gov has some more tips.

As important as comment “dos” are, there is one comment “don’t” that should be avoided: the Form Letter. As comment periods are not a measure of “popularity”, flooding the agency with form letters do not serve a useful purpose in the rulemaking process. A comment that is well reasoned is a much better avenue to pursue and not very difficult.

David Codrea has his take on the notice of rulemaking here.

The danger in this anticipated rulemaking is the same as it is with the proposed bills banning bump stocks before Congress:  where does it stop? With the Slidefire Bump Stock or will it go further to mean any modification that could increase the rate of fire of a semi-automatic firearm? Because of this, it is important that we comment.

While it might feel good to tell the BATFE to just f*#k off, go away, and mind the letter of the law, that will get us nowhere. It will be expressly ignored as it includes profanity. I think Adam’s approach to address some part of the questions asked is a good one. These cannot be ignored as readily. I think the key thing is to kill the attempt to issue a rule before it gets off the ground. That is better than having to respond to an actual proposed rule which is more likely to be adopted.

Why Bump Fire Stocks Were Approved

Rick Vasquez was the Assistant Branch Chief of the Technology Branch of BATFE. He has now retired and owns a firearms firm in Virginia. Before he retired from the BATFE, analysts under his management did the research and technical evaluation of the bump fire stocks submitted for approval. Rick reviewed their results and approved their evaluation. Moreover, he makes no apologies for it as it follows the law as written by Congress.

In the video below, Rick is interviewed for a Vice News/HBO report. While Vice TV often has a leftist slant, they played it straight on this one and let Rick explain things. He also shows the reporter how you can bump fire without a device or special stock.

Judicial Watch Goes To Court Against The BATFE

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives just can’t seem to keep themselves out of the news this week. The watchdog group Judicial Watch sued BATFE because they still have not responded to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for documents relating to the attempt to ban 5.56×45 “green-tip” ammunition. The FOIA request was made made in March 2015.

From Judicial Watch on their suit:

Judicial Watch filed the lawsuit after the agency failed to respond to a March 9, 2015, FOIA request seeking information on the ammo ban effort:

  • All records of communications, including emails, to or from employees or officials of the ATF related to the decision to revise the ATF 2014 Regulation Guide to no longer exempt 5.56 mm. SS109 and M855 (i.e., “green tip” AR-15) ammunition from the definition of “armor-piercing” ammunition.



The precise statutory definition of “armor-piercing ammunition” can be found in 18 U.S.C §921(a)(17).


“This is yet another example of how Obama’s wanton use of the ‘pen and the phone’ attempted to undermine the constitutional rights of all Americans, as opposed to upholding the rule of law,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “The Obama ATF simply ignored our request on their ammo ban. Let’s hope the Trump administration finally brings transparency to this out-of-control agency.”

Reading through the complaint, it appears that BATFE just blew off this FOIA request and didn’t even assign it a control number. The complaint asks the District Court to order BATFE to search their records for the requested documents, to order them to hand over all non-exempt documents, and to enjoin them from continuing to withhold any of the requested documents. Judicial Watch is also asking for attorneys’ fees.

Judicial Watch is known for its success in these types of lawsuits. It will make for interesting reading what they uncover.

The Difference Between Stupid And Really Stupid

Stupid is blowing off a “request” to appear before the House Oversight and Government Affairs Committee. The committee was investigating the death of a Federal law enforcement officer, ICE’s Jaime Zapata, by Mexican cartel members using firearms BATFE allowed to be “walked” to Mexico.

This is what BATFE’s Associate Deputy Director Ronald B. “Ron” Turk did on Thursday, March 9th. In response, the committee chairman, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), issued a subpoena for Mr. Turk.

Now that was stupid. Really stupid is what happens next.

Turk did finally appear on April 4th at another House Oversight hearing at which his earlier absence was noted. After getting into it with Rep. Chaffetz about why he didn’t appear when “invited”, Turk made this accusation as he really starts to go off: “You want to get your 15 seconds of YouTube minute time to challenge my honor.” You can see this starting at 4:56 in the attached YouTube video.

It takes Rep. Chaffetz another minute or so of questioning before he really lights into Turk for blowing off the committee and for his YouTube comment. That starts at 7:12 and runs until about 8:04. At this point Turk realizes that he has screwed up and starts to grovel for the remainder of the time.

Bear in mind that Turk is not only the number two person at BATFE but he is also a Brigadier General in the Maryland Air Nation Guard where he serves as Chief of Staff. He didn’t get to those two positions by being a good street agent or a good airman. He got there by being a good politician and a good politician should know when to shut up. That he had that lapse of judgement was a bit surprising given the political astuteness of his leaked white paper. It was really stupid on his part and cements the impression that BATFE is out of control.

H/T CleanUpAtf.org

Couldn’t You Just Imagine John Ross As Head Of BATFE?

I saw reference to this on Facebook earlier this evening and now have found the original letter. John Ross, author of Unintended Consequences, has volunteered to be Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives for a salary of $1 per year. If you are unfamiliar with the book, it is a 1996 novel of the gun culture (one of the earliest uses of that term) and the jack-booted thuggery of the BATF.

If you don’t want to pay over $100 for a used hardcover version of the book, I suggest going to the publisher who reportedly still has paperback versions of the book available. While I don’t want to suggest gypping an author out of his well-deserved royalties, you can find PDFs of the book on the Internet if you look hard enough.

Ross’ letter and an introductory letter by T. J. Mullin are posted on the Subguns.com NFA forum. I have taken the liberty of reproducing it below.

John Ross volunteers for ATF Director position


Posted By: stfram
Date: 1/2/17 05:38


Copied from conservativetreehouse.com:


January 2, 2017 at 12:26 am


Another Dollar-A-Year Man for the Trump Administration by Timothy J. Mullin and John Ross


Treepers: I’ve been urged to volunteer to be a part of the Trump Administration, and need a good place to publish these letters, that supporters can link to. I’d like that place to be CTH.


First, an introductory letter from Timothy J. Mullin, then my own to President-elect Trump.
JR


===================================================


To all Trump Administration supporters:


I suspect that most of you reading this are like me, and figure that anyone who wants to get a government job is likely one of two types: First, there are the lazy and stupid, who can’t compete in the private sector, but still want to get a high-paying job with good benefits. That’s okay, I suppose, as such people are not dangerous, just a drag on everyone else. Worse are those who want to get the job to exert power over other people, but who know that with their own skills and abilities alone, they could not do it. However, if they have the weight and power of the government at their command, they will be able to rule over others. Then, of course, there are those who are both things, the lazy & stupid who also want to control the lives of other people.


Alternatively, there are a few citizens who are willing to make sacrifices of both money and, more critically, time, to take a government position because they think it is the right thing to do. They know that they can bring insight and ability to a position that will make the country a better place–a better place not for themselves, but for others who will come after them. People like this get little value for themselves from their efforts, for they have already managed to structure their lives so that the reforms that they will encourage have little impact on them, but will benefit others.


Among this group of people who volunteer to sacrifice their own best interests, much the same as a soldier will do for the country’s best interests, is my friend, John Ross.


John has agreed to offer himself up to serve in the new Trump Administration as the Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. This Agency is one riddled with scandal and is certainly one of the least admirable of our existing federal agencies, considered by most as the “F Troop” of federal law enforcement.


Why, then, would anyone who has everything going for him, as John does, be willing to take on such a position? It is because he is the man for the job, and realizes that his country desperately needs his abilities and insights at this so-very-critical time.


For those who may have come in late to the subject of the BATFE and its interaction with the citizens and civil rights of our country, John Ross is the author of UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES, the definitive book chronicling the gun culture of our country, and the attacks on it by our own government. This book has risen to as high as No. 7 on the Amazon hardcover sales chart, and is now in its eighth printing. It has sold an astounding number of copies, but more critically, it has achieved world-wide fame and been lauded by many readers (too many to count) as the best book they have ever read, excepting the Bible.
Not only is John Ross an accomplished author of great renown familiar with the BATFE and its many issues, he has been an active participant in the field for over 40 years, holding BATFE-issued federal licenses at a variety of levels, so he has had plenty of interaction with that Agency.



Of course, merely being the single most influential chronicler of the gun culture and holding licenses issued by the BATFE would hardly be sufficient to administer an Agency like the BATFE if he did not also have the intellect and managerial skills needed for such duties. His many articles in a variety of publications, like The American Thinker, as well as graduation from Amherst College, with BA degrees in both English and Economics, all give strong evidence of his intellectual capabilities. A successful quarter-century career managing others in the securities field, forty years and counting in Aspen real estate, and being an entrepreneur who developed and promoted a specialty handgun (the massive Smith & Wesson Ross Model 500 revolver), clear up any questions about the latter point.


Cleaning up an Agency like the BATFE, which is riddled with mismanagement, has been exposed numerous time for engaging in criminal behavior, and has a history of civil rights violations such that the honest citizenry of our country distrusts them at a level unreached by any other government agency, calls for a man like John Ross to take control and, to quote the new President, “Drain the Swamp.”


At my urging, John has written a letter to President-elect Donald Trump, following Mr. Trump’s example by offering himself as a “Dollar A Year” man. Such opportunities to get talent and skills like his are almost unheard of at the Federal level when accompanied by the correct attitude and philosophy. With his permission, I am attaching a copy of his letter offering his services.


I would encourage all who read this, and would like to see a rogue agency be brought back into the mold of an organization that can be trusted by those who applaud what our country was founded to achieve, to join me. Please contact the President-elect and ask him to take advantage of this superb opportunity for our nation.


Timothy J. Mullin is a 1973 graduate of the University of Chicago Law School and has a private law practice in St. Louis, MO. He has written over a dozen books on firearms-related topics, with emphasis on their history, cultural significance, and tactical use. He has also published scores of firearms-related magazine articles, many on the legal realities of protecting oneself from an overreaching Federal Government.


==================================================


From John Ross:


Dear President-Elect Trump:


It is Christmas Day as I write this, and I have been watching the things you have been doing as President-Elect with ever increasing admiration. I would like to be a “Dollar a Year Man” in your administration—that is to say, to follow your example and eschew a government salary.


The position I’d like to fill is Director of BATFE. This would dovetail well with your policy of appointing established critics of various troubled agencies (EPA, HUD, etc.) as the people to best lead them, reform them, or, in some cases, oversee their dissolution.


The experience and attitude I would bring to BATFE would focus on four areas, all consistent with your philosophy of “Make America Great Again”:
Restore an environment in which the weapons invented by America’s individual small arms designers were the best in the world, with the attendant benefit to the U.S. Military;



Nurture an environment of innovation in all disciplines regulated by BATFE;


Preserve and advance the current and historic knowledge and techniques that are slowly being lost here in America;


Increase legal commerce (and the attendant tax revenue) in ways consistent with your strong pro-business platform.


Many of these goals can be attained with policy shifts within the BATFE which I would initiate, and would not require Congress to pass new legislation.


My Credentials:


While I have never managed a group of people as large as a Federal Agency, I spent over 25 years running offices and training departments in the Securities industry. I was successful enough at these endeavors that, like you, I can afford to work for free to help put our country back on the right track so that it will be stronger and more free for our descendants.


Of equal importance is my 40-year background in firearms and explosives. These fields are unlike most segments of American commerce in that they generate tremendous passion among their participants. More than one American firearms company, looking to improve its market position, has hired a Chief Executive who was a great success at running a company that made washing machines or some other common manufactured product, only to discover that consumers don’t think the same way when buying guns as they do when shopping for appliances. The same is true for explosives, particularly in the growing fireworks industry.


Business in this industry is bigger every year, and we are currently seeing over $1 Billion in domestic annual revenues. The BATFE should be directed by someone who understands these market realities with every fiber of his being.


The fact that I have zero experience in the manufacture, importation, sale, or distribution of alcohol or tobacco products is not, as it might first seem, a negative in regards to heading this federal agency. According to the General Accounting Office, BATFE spends 76% of its annual budget on firearms-related operations, and 22% on explosives and the attendant arson investigations.


Despite having “Alcohol” and “Tobacco” in its name, only 2% of BATFE’s budget is spent on alcohol and tobacco issues. The lion’s share of that tiny budget percentage is dedicated to thwarting illicit smuggling operations involving the movement of cigarettes from Virginia, where the state excise tax is 30 cents per pack, to New York and Chicago, where state and local tax rates are $5.85 and $6.16 per pack, respectively. See this article for documentation:


https://www.nap.edu/read/19016/chapter/8#142


These statistics clearly show that it is imperative that a BATFE Director be intimately familiar with the areas where BATFE spends 98% of its budget, namely Firearms and Explosives. Even more importantly, the new Director must be sensitive to the legal and cultural issues that exist in the interplay between the Agency he directs and the citizens with whom it interacts.


I am that person. I will bring experience to the job, and restore credibility to this tarnished Agency.


Sincerely yours,


John Ross

“Suspected Of Impersonating A Police Officer”

The Anchorage Police Department received complaints about an obnoxious driver last weekend. They were very concerned as the vehicle involved had flashing red and blue lights and thought they might be dealing with someone impersonating a police officer. They asked the public for help in identifying the driver.

The driver in question, a white male in his 30s with short hair, came up behind multiple cars, flipped on his flashing lights and then would speed past them when they yielded. Oh, and he would laugh at them while flipping them the middle finger.

One of the motorists who had been pulled over took a picture of the license plate of the vehicle in question. This is where it really gets interesting. The APD went to run the plate against the DMV database and came up empty. Thinking it might be an undercover car of the Alaska State Police, they contacted them and also came up empty.

After a few days of detective work by APD, the car and unidentified driver were traced to a federal law enforcement agency – the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. In a later release, APD said they were informed that this employee of BATFE was “on official business at the time of the incident”.

ATF’s Seattle office, which also oversees operations in Alaska, declined to answer questions Tuesday about the bureau’s policies regarding unmarked vehicles or whether any disciplinary action had been taken. The office released a brief statement from special agent in charge Doug Dawson.

“ATF is aware of the allegations made in the complaint and is investigating the incident,” Dawson said. “Further, as a matter of policy, ATF does not comment on personnel matters.”

I’m guessing the BATFE agent in question was confused by his agency’s directives on trafficking. He must have thought it had something to do with traffic enforcement as opposed to trafficking in guns, dynamite, moonshine, or cigarettes.

H/T Sipsey Street

People Ask The Most Embarrassing Questions

Unlike scripted townhalls scheduled for CNN, when it comes to government agencies and social media embarrassing questions do get asked.

A case in point. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives maintains a Facebook page. They posted a number of links late last night to the new rules being promulgated as the result of President Obama’s Executive Actions. There was one about the elimination of the CLEO signoff and another about Rule 41-P and responsible persons needing background checks. My favorite, however, was their guidance about when a Federal firearms license was needed. Someone named Bre Ve asked a question that you know they would rather ignore.

Reading the comments, it appears that a Becky Solis objected to the question. The commenters had good Google-fu and found out that she was none other than an area supervisor in the Denver Field Division. Her comment objecting to Ms. Ve’s question has, of course, been deleted.

Good on Bre Ve for asking the question of the day and for the commenters in exposing Ms. Solis.

Ummm – Not Exactly Correct, Ms. US Attorney For Connecticut

While reading the Book of the Face I was stunned to learn that Stag Arms had just lost their Federal Firearms License for a variety of violations including having 62 machine guns (actually just the receivers) that were registered to another entity or not registered at all. More on this in another post.

What I found very interesting was this paragraph from the joint press release from US Attorney for Connecticut Deidre M. Daly and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.

A receiver is the key regulated part that is considered a machine gun. All other parts necessary to transform a receiver to a fully functional semi-automatic or automatic machine gun can be purchased over the Internet.

On the face of it, this is true. The receiver is the key regulated product of machine guns as well as any other firearm manufactured in the United States. It is the part that is serialized. It is also true that you can get all the normal trigger parts including the auto sear over the Internet to go into a registered machine gun receiver.

However, thanks to ATF Ruling 81-4, drop-in auto sears which allow some semi-automatic AR15s to become fully automatic if they have the other M16 parts are considered machine guns and are regulated under the National Firearms Act.

Regardless of the date of manufacture of a drop in auto sear (i.e., before or after November 1,
1981) the possession or transfer of an unregistered drop in auto
sear (a machinegun as defined) is
prohibited by the National Firearms Act (NFA), 26 U.S.C. § 5861, and the Gun Control Act, 18
U.S.C. § 922(o).

This may be a niggly, little quibble but it was the BATFE’s own ruling that decreed the drop in auto sear a NFA item. Since they wrote the regulation they should be held to a higher standard when it comes to the verbiage used in a press release. (Alinsky’s Rule No. 4) A drop in auto sear is not just something that you can buy off the Internet to make a receiver into a fully automatic firearm.

Malfeasance Rewarded

Imagine if you will that you worked for a large company and were issued both a company car and company-provided credit card. Then imagine what would happen if you decided to use that company car to drive to a casino, to use that company-provided credit card to get a cash advance to buy chips, and you did it all on company time.

You would likely be fired and perhaps even prosecuted for stealing from your employer. Or, at least, that is how it should work in the real world.

However, if you were a BATFE Special Agent and you did this, then you just might get promoted to Special Agent in Charge of a Field Division and move into the Senior Executive Service. According to the summary report from the DOJ’s Office of Inspector General posted to CleanUpATF.org, that is exactly what happened.

Investigative Summary:
Findings Concerning On-Duty Gambling and Related Misconduct by an ATF Special Agent in
Charge While in a Prior Position



The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) initiated this investigation based on information from
the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) alleging that a current Special
Agent in Charge (SAC) gambled on duty and engaged in related misconduct while in a position
with ATF prior to being promoted. The OIG investigation determined that the SAC gambled on
duty, misused his government travel card to facilitate his gambling, and misused his assigned
government vehicle by using it to travel to casinos. By gambling while on duty, the SAC violated
federal regulations that prohibit federal employees from gambling while on duty. In addition,
the SAC violated ATF policy by, among other things, misusing his government travel card to
obtain cash advances to gamble, and using his assigned government vehicle to travel to casinos
to gamble, which is not an “official purpose” for which use of the government vehicle is
authorized.
Prosecution was declined. The OIG provided a report of investigation to ATF for
appropriate action.

So the question remains, which one of the 25 Special Agents in Charge (SAC) on this list is the culprit? Was it Eric Harden in LA, Delano Reid in NYC, Carl Walker in Atlanta, or someone else?

Inquiring minds want to know.