Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Time to Cut Federal Spending:
ATF, An Antiquated Agency

As our federal government continues to grow and the private sector scales back, we begin to realize how critical it is for certain agencies to cut their budgets drastically or be eliminated entirely. For example, the Department of Education and Department of Energy are overpowering the states’ rights and should be eliminated, returning the power to the states and reducing the tax/debt burden needed to keep these bureaucracies. Unfortunately this is not enough. We need to dig deeper and cut out redundant and antiquated agencies. One such agency is the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (more commonly known as ATF).

ATF was originally created under the Department of Treasury as the “Revenue Laboratory” within what is now known as the IRS. This agency was created to collect fees from those who produced and sold alcohol illegally (i.e. moonshine), and later became a collections agency during Prohibition. ATF was created to generate revenue for the federal government. It was not created to protect us from terrorists and definitely not created to give firearms to drug lords in order to push the agenda of gun control. However, as we have seen with many agencies, once they are created, not only do they grow exponentially, they also try to control more and more aspects of our lives.

As someone who was in law enforcement for 29 years: a cop, homicide investigator, special agent and most recently a Sheriff, I can illustrate how ATF’s role is redundant and many times, overreaching. Many of the current duties of ATF also fall under the responsibility of other federal agencies. Consequently, we could eliminate ATF and let the other agencies manage these duties sufficiently, causing less confusion and redundancy over whom is the leading agency.

Illegal production and sale of untaxed liquor is virtually non-existent, law enforcement can locally manage these violators. As for unlawful sale or transport of tobacco and firearm, FBI, Border Patrol, Commerce and others already intercept and prosecute these criminals. When it comes to terrorism and illegal trafficking of firearms, the FBI additionally has jurisdiction over these matters and has many well trained officers to manage these situations.

One example of how ATF’s redundancy prevented the appropriate agencies from doing their job was in the case of the Branch Davidian cult in Waco, TX. In an attempt to seize illegal weapons and possibly capture media coverage, ATF arrived at the scene with the media to serve a search warrant. Branch Davidian was tipped off and the operation was severely compromised. Contradicting every law enforcement rule, ATF went ahead with the raid. It was naïve of them to think that a cult would actually cooperate without resistance once a search warrant is issued. If this investigation was left to the appropriate agency, we might not have had the blood bath that soon followed. 

Now we are seeing another power grab by ATF. In order to push the agenda of federal gun control and the Obama Administration’s alleged attempt to vilify domestic gun sales, this agency allegedly gave guns to Mexican drug lords that we now know were later used to kill Americans. In order to survive, ATF continues to overreach and find ways to expand. With the current Administration’s transparent agenda to limit, and possibly eliminate our 2nd Amendment rights, they have found a partner with ATF. This is evident by viewing Attorney General Holder’s lack of cooperation with Congress and the “Fast and Furious” scandal.

If elected to Congress, I will work diligently during my first term to eliminate this agency and collaborate with other like-minded Members of Congress to eliminate other redundant agencies. We cannot continue to chip away slowly at the huge pie of debt the government needs in order to keep all these agencies and pet projects going. We must cut out whole pieces to stop the spending and aggressively reduce our deficit.

Photo: Columbia County Observer; all rights reserved


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