Gun control advocates
have called for prohibiting possession of AR-15 rifles — a ban that could create five million new felons overnight, since most owners would not meekly surrender their firearms at the nearest federal office. Others advocate outlawing all semi-automatic firearms — an edict first floated by the Clinton administration that would create tens of millions of new offenders.
But before vesting vast new power in federal enforcers, the record of the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) agency must be considered. A 1982 Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution report on ATF concluded, "Enforcement tactics made possible by current firearms laws are constitutionally, legally, and practically reprehensible.” Outrageous abuses have continued to the present day. An analysis conducted for the University of Chicago found that ATF heavily targeted racial minorities in its entrapment operations. And across the nation, ATF has been caught using mentally handicapped individuals in sting operations.
Sweeping new firearms prohibitions would enable the feds to selectively target unpopular offenders. The biggest debacle resulting from prior such targeting occurred 25 years ago last week outside of Waco, Texas. The federal Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) agency saw the Branch Davidians — a fringe Protestant group that quickly became maligned as a cult — as the perfect patsies for a high-profile raid that would make G-men look like heroes.
Gun control advocates may shrug off ATF misconduct at Waco as a once-in-a-bureaucratic-lifetime fluke. Tell that to Mexicans – 150 of whom died because of the ATF’s Fast and Furious gun-running scheme that illegally sent thousands of firearms into Mexico during Obama’s presidency.
Gun owners fear a revival of 1990s federal enforcement efforts that endlessly vilified them. In a 1994 Supreme Court case, the Clinton administration argued that gun owners are the legal equivalent of drug dealers who should be presumed guilty. The Justice Department solemnly told the Court: “One would hardly be surprised to learn that owning a gun is not an innocent act.”
The case of Harold Staples vs. U.S. involved an AR-15 that the ATF had tampered with after seizing to convert it into an illegal automatic weapon. Justice Clarence Thomas, writing for the 7-2 court majority rebuke of the Clinton administration, declared, "The government's position, is precisely that 'guns in general' are dangerous items. (For) the Government ... the proposition that a defendant's knowledge that the item he possessed 'was a gun' is sufficient for a conviction." If the White House is occupied by someone who derides the Second Amendment, scores of millions of gun owners could be victimized by similar or worse toxic legal nonsense.
“Show us the gun and we’ll find a crime” crackdowns work out great for bureaucrats but ravage citizens and the Constitution. There are already sufficient laws on the books to disarm people who pose stark public threats, such as alleged Florida school shooter Nikolas Cruz. Sweeping gun bans multiply the number of criminals while doing little or nothing to reduce violence.