ATF is MIA in NYC

February 21st, 2006

by and

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Thank God for the NYPD and its Commissioner, Ray Kelly. At least someone is doing their job.

Last week, New York’s finest concluded an 11-month undercover operation by smashing the largest illegal gun running ring in the history of Big Apple law enforcement. 116 guns were confiscated – from AK-47s to handguns –and gun trafficking arrests were made in some of America’s top gun running states of Virginia, Georgia and Ohio.

But where was the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms? Cracking down on the illegal trade in guns is supposed to be their job. After all, illegal guns move across state lines – this is the very definition of a job for the feds.

But this orphan agency has been traded around from one federal department to another and threatened with extinction. And it’s been beaten down by its political enemies. By now ATF has starred in so many NRA conventions in the role of “jack-booted thug” that it’s a shell of its former self.

Today, ATF is so cowed that it no longer publishes the Youth Crime Gun Initiative reports that showed where and how criminals got their guns. ATF used to provide comprehensive gun trace data to police departments – where the gun was purchased, who bought it, the number of other crime guns associated with the buyer, and the number associated with the seller. Now even police departments get a truncated report that is almost useless in tracking down the origins of crime guns.

It shouldn’t be up to the NYPD to send its officers a thousand miles south to figure out who’s shipping dirty guns to New York. After all, they have their hands full in their own city, fighting crime and trying to prevent another terrorist attack. It’s the job of the federal government – specifically ATF – to fight gun trafficking, and despite the President’s campaign promise to “enforce the laws on the books,” as we have shown conclusively, they just aren’t doing it.

ATF agents are brave and dedicated public servants. Its leaders are finger-in-the-wind, CYA bureaucrats.

ATF should be embarrassed that the biggest gun running bust in the nation had nothing to do with them. Progressives should make clear that they WOULD enforce the federal gun laws, and they would make sure that the NYPD could keep doing what they do best – fighting crime in New York City. See our Message Memo on guns for more on the enforcement issue.