I normally don’t write a Friday column but the news out of Washington yesterday is so distressing that I can’t let it go through the weekend without a response. What I am referring to is the decision by the House Appropriations Committee to increase the ATF budget by $122 million, money evidently earmarked “to improve the agency’s oversight of Federal Firearms Licensees (FFLs) and operations.” The quote is from a press release issued by our friends at the Brady Campaign.
The Brady release quotes a committee member, Grace Meng, who states: “Gun dealers who are knowingly breaking the law need to be held accountable, and I am firmly committed to ensuring ATF has every resource necessary to do their jobs.” Congresswoman Meng represents a large swatch of the New York City borough of Queens, which includes what used to be a high gun-violence neighborhood known as Jamaica. The committee chair, Jose Serranno, represents The Bronx as well as upper Manhattan, neighborhoods which also used to experience epidemic-like rates of gun violence year after year.
Note the fact that both Meng and Serrano represent districts which “used to’ suffer from gun violence. Know why I put it in the past tense? Because all of New York City has, of late, seen an unbelievable decline in gun violence, at a time when many urban centers throughout the United States continue to see gun violence rates going up. In 2018, the NYPD recorded 753 shootings and 289 homicides. The gun-violence numbers for 2018 in Chicago, respectively, were 2,948 and 561. New York City has three times more residents than Chicago and suffers 1/4th the number of shootings that occur in the Windy City and half as many violent deaths. Get it?
Does this comparison in any way, shape or form have anything to do with how many gun dealers the ATF inspects every year? Not one bit. And the idea that the bumbling idiots who work for the Industry Operations division of the ATF make any difference in gun-violence rates as they bumble around various gun shops is a complete and total joke.
I went through an ATF inspection in 2013 which took somewhere around three months. After examining close to 5,000 transactions, I could not produce the requisite paperwork to account for a whole, big, three guns. I was also cited for several thousand infractions, each infraction defined as a possible ‘threat’ to public safety. Know what these public-safety threats consisted of? I had forgotten to list the FFL number of the wholesaler from whom I purchased most of my new guns. The wholesaler happens to be located thirty miles from my shop and sends a daily feed to the ATF of all guns it ships to retailers like me.
My gun shop represented such a source of crime guns that, on average, I received two trace requests every – year! Not every week, not every month, every year. The ATF says it doesn’t employ enough inspectors to conduct sufficient audits to insure public safety? The public needed an audit of my shop like the public needed a hole in its head.
I’m not opposed to the regulation of gun dealers by the ATF or anyone else. What I am opposed to is the idea that politicians like Grace Meng and Jose Serrano can make it appear (to an unsuspecting public) that their response to gun violence is the proper way to go. What they should be asking themselves is how to use their legislative and fiscal authority to really make an impact on gun violence throughout the United States. And the answer is very simple.
Why doesn’t Congress fund a program which will help other police departments in high-crime cities develop and maintain the kind of policing that has basically made New York City a crime-free town? With more resources and better training, NYPD’s ‘precision policing’ and more effective community relations could easily be replicated anywhere and everywhere.
Reducing gun violence isn’t rocket science, okay?