“Oh my fucking God. Hearst’s fucking PR flack for the ATF is at it again.”

Hand to God, that was my completely involuntary reaction when I saw this story plastered across the middle of the front page of the Express-News this morning:

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is an agency under siege, a hostage of sorts in the long war over guns and their proper place in America’s social fabric. It is the federal agency that National Rifle Association members and other gun enthusiasts love to hate.

There’s nothing really revelatory or earth-shaking here; it’s mostly the same gripes talked about here — the NRA always on the poooooor ATF’s back, how those poor ATF agents are just so overworked and under-funded, and on and on and on. This did catch my eye, though:

The resource issue raises the question: Is the agency capable of fulfilling the NRA’s mantra invoked to prevent new gun legislation – “Enforce the laws already on the books”?

“The short answer is yes,” said Vivian Michalic, the bureau’s chief financial officer. “Can we be more effective with additional resources? I think the answer to that is also yes.”

More effective? Since ATF agents seem to be into things like harassing FFLs for customers abbreviating state names on 4473s, then they’re already far more “effective” than they need to be.

And then there was dutiful flack Freedman bemoaning the lack of a national gun registry:

The NRA’s efforts to control the ATF have ended up costing the bureau millions. An NRA-supported congressional appropriations provision prevents the agency from building a national gun registry. As a result, the 375 contract employees at its National Tracing Center in Martinsburg, W.Va., work largely without computers, relying on phone calls and scanned or microfilmed paper records to connect crime gun serial numbers to original purchasers.

William Earle, who retired in 2004 as the agency’s chief financial officer, said the failure to computerize the registry had cost the bureau “hundreds of millions of dollars” it could ill afford to lose.

My response? “Shit happens. Deal with it.” The ATF as a whole isn’t an agency that acts in good faith with what it has at its disposal now. I really shudder to think of what they’d do with a national gun registry. Sure, it might not be another Waco (at least one would hope not) — but even so, the prospect of ATF agents visiting gun owners’ homes for whatever reason is a rather frightening one.

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