Welcome to Common Gunsense

I hope this blog will provoke some thoughtful reflection about the issue of guns and gun violence. I am passionate about the issue and would love to change some misperceptions and the culture of gun violence in America by sharing with readers words, photos, videos and clips from articles to promote common sense about gun issues. Many of you will agree with me- some will not. I am only one person but one among many who think it's time to do something about this national problem. The views expressed by me in this blog do not represent any group with which I am associated but are rather my own personal opinions and thoughts.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The NRA's questionable influence on the ATF

It has long been known that the ATF is underfunded and can't do its' job effectively for lack of funding for staff and other resources. The agency has gone without a Director for at least 6 years now. Why? Follow the NRA. Last night, Jon Stewart, host of the Daily Show, used props to help his viewing audience understand the problem. Words can't say it much better than he did so here is the video from the show:

The Daily Show with Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
There Goes the Boom - ATF
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

What has happened defies common sense. When the NRA hypocritically says that we should enforce the laws already on the books, look no further than the NRA lobbyists and leaders for the reasons why that is so difficult. Also look at the bought and paid for members of Congress for cynically going along with this dangerous agenda. Lives depend on getting this right and supporting the ATF. As a country aren't we better than this?


  1. Why didn't Pres Obama even attempt to nominate a director until 2010? Wasn't the president elected in 2008? Why wait two years to name someone to fill the role?

    Then, after waiting two years, why name a controversial pick who could not be confirmed by the Senate twice rather than a competent and capable non-partisan administrator who could win bipartisan support?

    1. Can you answer those questions, Chris? Everyone knows that even President Bush couldn't nominate anyone who "passed muster" with the NRA so the position went unfilled even in the Bush administration.

    2. Just as I am sure that you would oppose Wayne Lapierre for director of BATF gun owners tried to block Sullivan's appointment because his behaviour while he was acting director.

      According to Wikipedia the NRA didn't block Sullivan who was Bush's choice. From that site

      Sullivan's confirmation was opposed by gun rights groups such as the Gun Owners of America,[10] Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms[11] and Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership.[12] The NRA did not categorically state its opposition to the confirmation of Mr. Sullivan but expressed its concern over the ATF's "overly restrictive legal interpretations" and "overly zealous enforcement activities".[13]

      Sullivan's nomination was blocked by a Senator from Louisiana and both Senators from Idaho because he was trying to take away the license of the oldest gun dealership in the state because customers used post office approved abbreviations for states on the 4473s. BTW, guess what the new BATF approved software for filling out 4473s uses?

      Besides, you have repeatedly stated that the NRA has no power. How could they have blocked the nomination?

    3. " The NRA did not categorically state its opposition to the confirmation of Mr. Sullivan but expressed its concern over the ATF's "overly restrictive legal interpretations" and "overly zealous enforcement activities".[13]"
      The NRA opposed it and their bought and paid for Congressmen did their bidding plain and simply Robin. There is no dispute about this fact. The NRA has never wanted the ATF nor a Director for the organization. The NRA is a paper tiger but that message hasn't been delivered to many in Congress. The NRA is part of the far right extremists of the Republican party who are fast losing all credibility as well they should. The false reason given for blocking Sullivan is nonsense. We all know the real reason Sullivan was blocked- the NRA hates the ATF.

  2. Correct me if I am wrong but wasn't Bradley Buckles head of the ATF from before Bush took office until 2004 when he was followed by Carl Truscott who was head until 2006? So the Directorship was only vacant the last two years of Bush's presidency? I suspect that was less than half as long as the current occupant of the White House has left the post unfilled. Especially since the position is confirmed by the Senate and who has held the majority there for his entire term? You have to wonder just how bad Andrew Traver was if not enough of the Democrats would vote to confirm him. Just saying.

    1. O.K. Here goes, Robin- http://tv.msnbc.com/2012/12/26/atf-handicapped-by-laws-and-a-lack-of-leader/

      " It’s easier said than done. In 2010, Obama nominated Andrew Traver, head of the A.T.F.’s Denver division, to fill the top spot, but the Senate is yet to hold his confirmation hearings. What may seem like procrastination by the Judiciary Committee is actually business as usual when it comes to its dealing with the A.T.F.
      The bureau functioned as an arm of the Treasury for most of its history, until the September 11th attacks persuaded President George W. Bush to bring it under the jurisdiction of the Justice Department. One consequence of the shuffle was a requirement that the A.T.F. director be confirmed by the Senate. Since then, no director has been confirmed.
      In 2007, Bush nominated Mike Sullivan for the position, a U.S. Attorney from Boston with a good reputation, but Republican Sens. Larry Craig and Michael D. Crapo, both from Idaho, blocked his confirmation after complaints from an Idaho gun dealer.
      “People said to me at the time that if Mike Sullivan can’t be confirmed, then no one was going to be confirmed,” Sullivan himself said in 2011, adding: “The agency needs a full-time leader.”
      “The bottom line is the gun lobby will oppose any nominee who promises to be a strong and effective director of the A.T.F.,” said Dennis Henigan, vice president of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
      Indeed, it was persistent lobbying by the N.R.A. that helped to get the confirmation requirement instated."

  3. The challenges of the ATF are great, though many are of it's own making. In the 80's,
    "A Senate Subcommittee report stated that, based upon these hearings it is apparent that ATF enforcement tactics made possible by current federal firearms laws are constitutionally, legally, and practically reprehensible."

    These abuses brought about the rule changes in the Gun Control Act of 1986 that Mr. Stewart comments on in his video.

    In the 90's,
    Ruby Ridge, "ATF passed on false information about Weaver to other agencies that became part of a misleading file that profiled Weaver as having explosive booby traps, tunnels and bunkers at his home; growing marijuana; having felony convictions; and being a bank robber."

    Waco, "The Branch Davidians were alerted to the upcoming warrant execution but ATF raid leaders pressed on, despite knowing the advantage of surprise was lost. (ATF Director Steve Higgins had promised Treasury Under-Secretary Ron Noble that the Waco raid would be canceled if the ATF undercover agent Robert Rodriguez reported that the element of surprise had been lost.)"

    In the 2000's,
    "Between May 2004 and August 2005, ATF Agents, in conjunction with Virginia State and local police, conducted an operation at some eight gun shows in Virginia. With special attention to female purchasers, many gun show attendees were stopped by agents as they returned home, then detained while being interrogated, and many had their purchases confiscated by ATF agents. The purchasers were compelled by an ATF letter to appear at ATF offices to explain and justify their purchases."

    "A September 2008 report by the Department of Justice, Office of the Inspector General, determined that 76 firearms and 418 laptop computers were lost, stolen or missing from ATF, after a 59 month audit period between 2002 and 2007."
    "This ATF operation was the subject of a Congressional hearing where witnesses testified of harassment, intimidation and verbal abuse by ATF Agents, and ATF Agents actively dissuaded customers from purchasing firearms."

    And then of course came the gun walking operations during the Bush and Obama administrations. How these will turn out is anybody's guess since the President has invoked Executive Priviledge to keep investigators from examining evidence.

    The troubling part is that the organization seems to have developed a history of making bad decisions that has spanned both decades and administrations. And this would raise the question of can anyone already there be trusted to make the changes needed. And can anyone competent on the outside be found brave enough to be willing to stick his neck out and accept the challenge.
    I will concede that they do seem to have a manpower issue when you look at the number of inspectors versus number of FFL's.


    1. No more excuses, Mark. You guys cannot defend this crap so I don't know why you keep trying. There is no reason the ATF should not have a permanent director. It is the the fault of the gun lobby and their extremist supporters in Congress.