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February 9th, 2006
In August of 2005, participants at gun shows in Virginia were shocked to discover that while they were purchasing perfectly legal firearms, BATFE agents visited their homes and their neighbors' homes (1), asking questions like, "Do you know your spouse/neighbor is buying a gun? How do you feel about that?" Agents obtained the residence information from purchase forms that buyers are required to fill out … a clear violation of federal law.
Now, seven months later, the U.S. House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security will hold an oversight hearing to investigate apparent wrongdoing by BATFE. The hearings will be held on February 15, at 4:00 p.m. While we applaud the fact that someone is looking into the issue, we remain skeptical as to the outcome.
For one, the hearing is being chaired by James M. Sensenbrenner. Despite the (R) after his name, Sensenbrenner has shown multiple times that he is no friend of gun owners. Author of the Real ID act (2), Sensenbrenner vigorously defended the BATFE after the John Glover travesty (3). Not content with that, he has also refused to allow HR 1603 -- the "Fairness in Firearms Testing" bill (4) -- out of the same committee now conducting these hearings! With Sensenbrenner's record of support for the State over the individual, how impartial can the hearings be? That it was scheduled for 4pm -- too late for it to be part of the evening news -- is equally telling. Are gun owners being set up for betrayal yet again?
There's no dispute that the Virginia incidents were completely unacceptable violations of individuals’ rights (as well as violations of federal law!). But we must ask, what about all of the innocent gunowners current rotting in prison or left financially destitute as a direct result of BATFE’s capricious and arbitrary actions (5)? Will the hearings address those who are falsely accused based on dubious informant tips, set up by "experts" who don't bother to examine the firearm in question (6), and convicted on the subjective opinion of those same "experts" (7)?
The BATFE has been known as a rogue agency for decades, yet no one -- neither Democrats nor Republicans -- has attempted to rein them in. The few investigations into this organization has netted at most a few slaps on the wrist. Why? Because they are useful to those who wish to gather and maintain power. A police state, after all, must have its police force.
We must continue to educate everyone -- even those who neither own nor like firearms -- about the dangerous power of the BATFE, and the precedent it sets. If one agency can arbitrarily decide whether an object is "legal" (without any standards or documented testing procedures), than ANY agency can. After all, if the BATFE can decide a shoestring is a machine gun (8), what is to prevent the DEA from declaring your greenhouse a "drug manufacturing plant"?
This issue affects all Americans, regardless of political affiliation. Please, please take a moment to join our "Boot the BATFE" campaign. We must continue to make noise about this issue and demand our representatives do whatever it takes to put the BATFE genie back in its bottle.
With all of the documented abuses the BATFE has indulged in, there is NO excuse for defending this agency gone mad. Anyone who defends, condones, or apologizes for the BATFE is either willfully ignorant … or maliciously power-hungry. Boot them out of your lives, and tell them why. The American people have tolerated this monstrosity for far too long.
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