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Just Abolish the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms Already

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The following is a commentary piece by TheBlaze's national security expert Buck Sexton.

Congressional investigators released a report today highlighting the culpability of five Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) officials in the Operation Fast and Furious debacle.

The report offered few new revelations and seemed pretty much useless -- much like the ATF itself.

About the only value of the 211-page document released today is that it clearly spells out the reasons why the ATF's days should be numbered, revealing a level of gross incompetence, neglect of oversight, and bureaucratic ineptitude that should outrage us all. The two planned follow-on Congressional reports will deal more directly with the Department of Justice's role and the allegations of a cover-up that continue to plague Attorney General Eric Holder.

(RELATED:  Will This New Fast and Furious Report Force Holder to Resign? (Take Our Poll))

This first report's conclusion about the ATF officials involved is straightforward: ATF devised an operation to track guns that they never had any means of actually tracking, nobody in the chain of command stopped this from happening, and nobody has been held accountable in any meaningful way since the scandal erupted.

The operation itself led to horrific outcomes including a murdered U.S. Border Patrol Agent, hundreds of dead Mexican civilians, and thousands of guns in the hands of Mexican drug cartel assassins. This has been well-documented on the Blaze, and we will continue to cover the issue closely.

But in looking at the ATF's role in this specific operation and its obvious failings as shown in the Congressional report, a broader question arises.

Why shouldn't we just abolish the ATF?

There seem to be many arguments in favor of this proposition, and very few against it.

In mere concept, the ATF is bothersome. Any organization devoted to criminal prosecutions based on the regulation of otherwise legal substances should make us uneasy. People tend to forget this now, but the ATF's tentacles extend far and wide because of the unrestrained statist monster that is the interstate Commerce Clause in the post Wickard vs. Filburn era.

This has meant that that the federal government can regulate alcohol, tobacco, and firearms as much as it wants -- well beyond the original intent of the Constitution -- and it already has its enforcers in place in the form of ATF agents.

Add to this the fact that the ATF's proclivity for overreaching enforcement goes back as far as the organization itself. For those of us who prefer limited government and the absolute minimum of bureaucratic intrusion into our lives, the ATF's history is one long cautionary tale. It has bounced around under the umbrella of larger federal agencies, including the IRS and the Treasury department (where it collected taxes on liquor) and helped enforce Prohibition.  Once you add Ruby Ridge, Waco, and the Fast and Furious catastrophes onto the heap, you have a pretty compelling case for ATF dissolution.

And let's not forget the cost issue. These days most Americans seem to agree that budgets matter. The 5,000 employees and billion dollar price tag of the ATF is small by behemoth government agency standards, but federal cuts have to start somewhere, and setting a precedent that unnecessary agencies can in fact be eliminated could have ripple effects across the government.

As for the talented, hardworking, patriotic agents who no doubt joined the ATF in the spirit of real public service, their skills are certainly transferable to local and state law enforcement, if not another federal agency. There are plenty of cities and towns who could use seasoned law enforcement officers, and wouldn't have them focusing efforts on bootleggers, cigarette smugglers, and harassing gun show collectors.

Tonight we will start off our discussion on "Real News" with this issue at 6PM tonight, led by Andrew Wilkow. Hopefully Blaze readers and GBTV viewers will light up the board with comments so we can get to the heart of this issue.

UPDATE:

You can watch the aforementioned "Real News" clip here.

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