Is the ATF Growing Their Own Criminals
In a series of recent news articles, the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives have made some sensational blunders in the way it targets criminals selling guns. Besides the now infamous Windwalker/Fast and Furious saga, there are less well-known instances in which the Bureau seems to be walking a thin line between taking and making illegal gun dealers.
Using the mentally ill
According to an article by New York Now, "In cases across the country, ATF agents recruited mentally disabled men to promote their "businesses" and recruit other illegal gun purchasers. In one case, the paper reports, the agents running Squid's Smoke Shop in Portland, Ore., convinced Aaron Key, 19, and described as "mentally disabled," to get a tattoo of a squid on his neck to promote the store.
Key agreed and agents posted pictures of him to their fake Facebook page. When the sting ended, Key was sentenced to 18 months in prison for "selling a sawed-off shotgun and arranging for prostitutes to come to a party being thrown by the undercover agents."
In another incident in Milwaukee, a 28-year old man with brain damage was paid to ride his bicycle around town promoting a storefront that was, in fact, a sting operation ran by the ATF. After six months work for 'Fearless Distributing', it was the disabled man who found himself with weapons and drug charges. Instead of taking down high-level violent criminals, just three street-level hustlers were charged and even those charges were dismissed.
To add insult to injury, the ATF left the property owner of the Fearless Distributing storefront in Milwaukee with a claimed $40,000 worth of damages, unpaid utility bills, and other losses. It was only after the story broke in the newspaper that the owner learned that it was the ATF that had rented his space. After being told he would be charged with threatening a federal officer by complaining about the losses, the landowner had to file a lawsuit.
"Slow Headed" Straw Buyers
In yet another incident covered by the National Review, "Tony Bruner, a convicted felon with an IQ of 50, was hired in Wichita [Kansas] to work at "Bandit Trading," a fake store that agents had established as a front. Bruner didn't realize that he was working for the ATF - he thought he had finally found a steady job. But the agents knew how valuable Bruner could be to them, recognizing immediately that he was disabled (or "slow-headed," in one agent's unlovely phrase) and that he would therefore be easy to manipulate. Having established his trust, agents asked Bruner to find guns for them, which he agreed to do. Eventually, Bruner got rather good at it and ended up arranging dozens of gun sales.
"I was just doing my job. I didn't think I was doing anything wrong," Bruner said in court. "They tricked me into believing I was doing a good job. And they'd tell me I was doing a good job, pat me on the back, telling me, 'You're doing a good job.' We'd hug each other and stuff like that, and they treated me like they cared about me. I told 'em I had a felony, I'm trying to stay out of trouble."
This seems to be a continuing thread as Albuquerque ATF coached one Guillermo Medel "a drug-addicted, brain-damaged street hustler" who didn't know much about guns, a crash course in buying illegal machineguns in the back of "Jokerz Traders" pawn-shop, who gave him money out of the goodness of their hearts. Undercover ATF agents of course staffed the pawnshop and the story ended with Medel being charged with buying an illegal machinegun to resell to his friends at Jokerz. Prior to his meeting his new friends, the heroin addict, while not winning many citizenship awards, had never tried to sell anyone a gun.
With friends like these...