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By Larry Pratt

October 13, 2005

The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the BATFE -- a federal agency that is already infamous as a thuggish group -- has teamed up with the Virginia state police and Richmond area cop shops to violate the law... BIG TIME.

The scandal is huge, even if you have not heard of it. By and large, the media worships at the altar of big government, and they are not about to tell us that our emperor is butt naked.

At an August gun show operated by Showmasters, a Virginia gun show promoter, the BATFE turned over to local police the names and addresses of gun buyers who were having their backgrounds checked. Officers were then dispatched to the buyers' homes to ask wives, other family members -- even neighbors -- if they knew that the individual was at a gun show that day, that he was buying a gun, blah, blah, blah. Many buyers decided they were not interested in that kind of harassment, and the show lost a huge amount of business by citizens trying to avoid this outrageous conduct.

Subsequently, it was learned that the BATFE had told the building owner where the gun show was conducted that the promoter had given the OK to install surveillance cameras. With that representation (which was a total lie), the owner gave permission and the government spy cameras were installed.

During this entire ordeal, at least three federal laws -- as well as state laws -- were broken -- by the cops!

1, The BATFE may not give to anyone outside the agency information taken from the forms involved in an instant background check.
2, The BATFE is only allowed to do an inspection for compliance of a dealer's records once a year or pursuant to a criminal investigation.
3, Federal law prohibits federal departments from perpetrating fraud.

It turns out that this assault on the people has been a routine policy for the Virginia State Police for about a year.

Gun Owners of America has never supported the Instant Background Check, also known as the Brady Law. It is unconstitutional (surely one has to concede that it is an infringement of the right to keep and bear arms because it imposes a prior restraint on purchase, and it treats the purchaser as a criminal until proven innocent).

The Instant Background Check is also of no use in controlling crime. Anti-gun scholar Jens Ludwig studied the law five years after imposition and found that it had had no impact on crime. More generally, this is a conclusion reached about all gun control laws by an analysis done by the federal government's Centers for Disease Control.

Every time a bureaucrat or any other public official is employed, there is a chance of hiring a crook or a thug. To argue against this proposition is to argue against history and human nature (unless we assume that government employment washes away the sinfulness of man).

No state should be involved in piling on the unconstitutionality of doing background checks. Bad enough the feds do this; the states should not also be doing this. With all the state and local police available, the BATFE had a large pool of volunteers to join them in their law breaking.

State operation of a redundant Instant Background Check does nothing to fight crime. These cops think they are fighting crime, I am sure. Unhappily all they are actually doing is fighting against the restraints imposed on them by the Constitution.

These rogue police have done us a favor, and for that we should be thankful. They have so overreached the limits of their authority that they have awakened many gun owners about the abuses inherent in the Instant Background Check.

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We can even be thankful for crooked cops -- if it means we can straighten them out. It is doubtful that any of these rogues will end up in jail, which is where a "mere" citizen would land for a similar violation of civil rights. But we should not stop until there are some unemployed police who are barred from this line of work.

Government employees, especially cops, have power. The Constitution is all about ensuring that power is exercised with accountability.

It is time for accountability.

� 2005 Larry Pratt - All Rights Reserved

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Larry Pratt has been Executive Director of Gun Owners of America for 27 years. GOA is a national membership organization of 300,000 Americans dedicated to promoting their second amendment freedom to keep and bear arms.

GOA lobbies for the pro-gun position in Washington and is involved in firearm issues in the states. GOA's work includes providing legal assistance to those involved in lawsuits with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the federal firearms law enforcement agency.

Pratt has appeared on numerous national radio and TV programs such as NBC's Today Show, CBS' Good Morning America, CNN's Crossfire and Larry King Live, Fox's Hannity & Colmes, MSNBC's Phil Donahue show and many others. He has debated Congressmen James Traficant, Jr. (D-OH), Charles Rangel (D-NY), Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY), Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), and Vice President Al Gore, among others. His columns have appeared in newspapers across the country.

He published a book, Armed People Victorious, in 1990 and was editor of a book, Safeguarding Liberty: The Constitution & Militias, 1995. His latest book, On the Firing Line: Essays in the Defense of Liberty was published in 2001.

Pratt has held elective office in the state legislature of Virginia, serving in the House of Delegates. Pratt directs a number of other public interest organizations and serves as the Vice-Chairman of the American Institute for Cancer Research.

The GOA web site is: Pratt's weekly talk show Live Fire is archived there at:  










During this entire ordeal, at least three federal laws -- as well as state laws -- were broken -- by the cops!