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President's Column

By David A. Keene, President

U.S. Gun Stores Get A Bum Rap

When Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (BATFE) agents launched the now infamous “Fast & Furious” program they went to numerous firearm dealers on the U.S. side of our border with Mexico and asked them to allow “straw” purchasers identified by the agents to make illegal gun purchases. When the dealers raised concerns that the firearms could end up in the hands of criminals in the U.S. or Mexico, BATFE assured dealers that they were “continually monitoring these suspects.” Additionally, as Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, pointed out, “[T]hese gun dealers rely upon the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms for their license to even be able to be in business. So, of course, these agents [federal firearms licensees] want to cooperate with the government.”

Even with that strong incentive to go along with the scheme, the dealers objected to what the Feds were up to and warned the agents that the guns they were being forced to transfer illegally could easily end up in the hands of criminals. What they perhaps didn’t fully appreciate is that the agents wanted them in the wrong hands and were hoping they would later show up at crime scenes in Mexico to perhaps prove that many of the firearms used there were coming from this country.

The whole program blew up, of course, when one of the firearms did show up at a crime scene right here in the United States after a shootout between a Mexican drug gang and U.S. Border Patrol agents that resulted in the killing of one of the agents. The killing of Border Patrolman Brian Terry in that shootout finally led several BATFE agents to tip off the media and Congress to what was going on.

My purpose here is not to further analyze the motives of those who launched “Fast & Furious” or even to try to discover what motivated them to dream up the program and then, once it was revealed by whistleblowers within their own agency, to try to cover it up. The ongoing congressional investigation will eventually force these revelations and affix blame where it belongs within the BATFE, the Obama Justice Department and perhaps even the White House itself.

Instead, I think it’s time we stand up for gun dealers who have been routinely and viciously demonized by anti-gun politicians and reporters as borderline criminals who enable criminals seeking firearms. They are frequently compared to drug dealers. In fact, the thousands of men and women who hold federal firearms licenses run gun shops and provide American citizens access to the firearms and equipment they need to exercise their Second Amendment right are honest, law abiding and hard working. They deserve better than they get.

I’m sure there are and have been a few bad apples among them, but I’d be willing to bet that on a percentage basis, they are more law abiding and ethical than other groups that come to mind … like, say, elected officials or those in government who seem to believe that the end justifies the means.

Thus, The Washington Post, before knowing what was really involved in “Fast & Furious,” reported on gun dealers selling guns illegally along the border and used as their examples several dealers who were being forced to act illegally by the government itself. One can never really discover a journalist’s sources, but few would be surprised if we learned that the very government officials who forced these dealers to sell guns illegally then leaked their names to reporters as “bad actors” whose activities call out for more stringent gun control laws.

Indeed, in the days since the scandal broke, the Post has at least twice tried to editorially justify or excuse BATFE’s flaunting the law. We have to understand, the Post believes, that though they may have gone too far, these men were motivated by an admirable desire to stop illegal firearm trafficking and acted out of frustration at the inadequacy of existing gun control laws.

Nor did the Post or other national publications give as much attention as it deserved to the story of Greg Ebert, an employee of a Killeen, Texas, gun dealer, who became suspicious of a customer who came in to purchase gun powder. Ebert realized the customer had a legal right to make the purchase, but something didn’t smell right to him.

He reported his suspicions to his employers and together they called the authorities to report their suspicions. It turned out that the customer was an AWOL serviceman who was apparently planning a reprise of the earlier terrorist attack on military personnel at Fort Hood.

As a result of Ebert’s actions, the suspect was quickly apprehended and a tragedy may well have been averted. The Post and other publications that have been so quick to demonize gun dealers not only owe an apology to those they demonized on the basis of inaccurate information, but would, if they had wanted to make any claim to being fair and honest journalists, have highlighted Greg Ebert’s contribution to our national security.

They didn’t, of course, which tells us just about all we need to know about their standards … and their bias.