Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A job for the BATF(E)

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives (explosives recently added - probably a 9/11 thing) has a job to do, and also a reputation. Their job is to regulate the lawful sale of A, T, F and E, and to keep 'em out of the wrong hands. Their reputation, unfortunately, seems to be that they frequently go after law-abiding citizens who forgot to cross their 't's and dot their 'i's on the forms... those being easier to deal with (and locate) than real criminal-types.

I've got an idea for a service the BATF could perform that would be helpful to law-abiding citizens. It springs from a personal experience.

Ten years or so ago, I was in the market for a Glock 26 handgun. I didn't want to pay the high retail price at the local gun store. So, I started watching the classifieds.

I saw an ad in the Idaho Statesman - the gun I was looking for, at a price I was willing to pay.

I called the guy and made arrangements to go see the gun.

He lived in a trailer house in Garden City. It's unfair to judge people based on their appearance, but his appearance aroused suspicion. He was kind of a long-hair, tattooed, muscle-gone-to-seed biker-type looking guy, with kind of a semi-desperate gleam in his eyes.

The gun was in a gun safe. Cool. He took it out; I looked at it and liked it... looked like a showroom gun.

Because of the circumstances, I had some hesitation. I asked him to give me 24 hours to think it over, and made a mental note of the serial number (thankfully quite short on Glocks). My plan was to do some checking - make sure the gun was "legitimate." (Not stolen, or formerly used for a crime, or otherwise being sought by "the authorities.")

I called the local BATF office.

"I'm thinking about buying a gun from a private party. If I give you the make, model and serial number, can you tell me whether it's a fugitive gun?"

BATF: "No. We don't offer that service. You might check with the Sheriff's office."

So, I called the sheriff's office and asked the same question. I told them I had been referred to them by the BATF.

The officer I spoke to was sympathetic, but said they don't offer that service, either. He couldn't offer any suggestions; he said it's strictly "buyer beware."

I AM aware! That's why I'm trying to check it out!

I called Senator Craig's office. They too were sympathetic but not helpful.

I called the sheriff's deputy back. He finally and somewhat reluctantly did a serial-number check, even though it is NOT a service that they offer. The gun was okay... at least not on the Hot List. I bought it, and still have it.

SEEMS TO ME... it would be a good thing if civilians were able to identify guns that are fugitive in nature.

What would be the harm of having a web-based tool, where a person could enter a make/model/sn of a gun, to find out if it's on the fugitive list? Nothing more than that.

If a gun of mine were stolen, I'd LOVE anything that would make it more difficult for the thief to unload it. If I were shopping for a gun from a private party, I would LOVE to be able to easily check and see if it's fugitive. If I crossed paths with a fugitive gun, I'd gladly cooperate with the authorities in trying to get it off the street.

Frankly, if there's a down-side, I can't see what it might be.