You've probably heard the old joke about how the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms should be a convenience store not a federal agency, but the latest ATF screw up in Wisconsin proves they aren't even capable of doing that properly. From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
A store calling itself Fearless Distributing opened early last year on an out-of-the-way street in Milwaukee's Riverwest neighborhood, offering designer clothes, athletic shoes, jewelry and drug paraphernalia.
Those working behind the counter, however, weren't interested in selling anything.
They were undercover agents from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives running a storefront sting aimed at busting criminal operations in the city by purchasing drugs and guns from felons.
But the effort to date has not snared any major dealers or taken down a gang. Instead, it resulted in a string of mistakes and failures, including an ATF military-style machine gun landing on the streets of Milwaukee and the agency having $35,000 in merchandise stolen from its store, a Journal Sentinel investigation has found.
When the 10-month operation was shut down after the burglary, agents and Milwaukee police officers who participated in the sting cleared out the store but left behind a sensitive document that listed names, vehicles and phone numbers of undercover agents.
And the agency remains locked in a battle with the building's owner, who says he is owed about $15,000 because of utility bills, holes in the walls, broken doors and damage from an overflowing toilet.
The sting resulted in charges being filed against about 30 people, most for low-level drug sales and gun possession counts. But agents had the wrong person in at least three cases. In one, they charged a man who was in prison - as a result of an earlier ATF case - at the time agents said he was selling drugs to them.
Other cases reveal that the agency's operation was paying such high prices that some defendants bought guns from stores such as Gander Mountain and sold them to the agents for a quick profit. The mistakes by agents are troubling and suggest a lack of planning and oversight, according to veterans of the ATF, who learned about the operation from the Journal Sentinel. The newspaper combed through police reports, court documents, social media and materials left behind by the ATF, all of which provide a rare view inside an undercover federal operation.
No wonder the Milwaukee Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. is telling people to learn how to protect themselves, after all, ATF just lost track of an automatic machine gun which ended up in the hands of criminals in a city where crime is a huge problem. It should be noted that for a regular citizen to own any type of automatic firearm lawfully, they must go through extensive background checks, pay a ton of fees, give up their Fourth Amendment rights so ATF can come to their home or business at any point to do an inspection and if they get approved (which many people do not), they must keep their registration papers for the firearm with them at all times.
ATF is the agency in charge of enforcing President Obama's 23 new executive actions and the people who will enforce any new gun control measures passed through Congress. What could go wrong? Oh just about everything.
After Operation Fast and Furious, the Department of Justice and ATF have zero credibility when it comes to enforcing gun laws and this situation just further proves that point.
|Katie Pavlich is the News Editor at Townhall.com. Follow her on Twitter @katiepavlich. She is also the author of Fast and Furious: Barack Obama's Bloodiest Scandal and the Shameless Cover-Up.
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Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography