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by Tim Brown
September 12, 2012
The Obama administration via the Department of Justice has given authority to the Department of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to “seize and administratively forfeit property involved in controlled-substance abuses.” This means now that people who are not dealing illegal drugs, just using them and anyone who might associate with them in the same residence or be in a vehicle can have their God-given right of keeping and bearing arms revoked by the government god. In fact, no conviction is even required in these instances.
The Obama administration is making it easier for bureaucrats to take away guns without offering the accused any realistic due process. In a final rule published last week, the Justice Department granted the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) authority to “seize and administratively forfeit property involved in controlled-substance abuses.” That means government can grab firearms and other property from someone who has never been convicted or even charged with any crime.
It’s a dangerous extension of the civil-forfeiture doctrine, a surreal legal fiction in which the seized property — not a person — is put on trial. This allows prosecutors to dispense with pesky constitutional rights, which conveniently don’t apply to inanimate objects. In this looking-glass world, the owner is effectively guilty until proved innocent and has the burden of proving otherwise. Anyone falsely accused will never see his property again unless he succeeds in an expensive uphill legal battle.
Such seizures are common in drug cases, which sometimes can ensnare people who have done nothing wrong. James Lieto found out about civil forfeiture the hard way when the FBI seized $392,000 from his business because the money was being carried by an armored-car firm he had hired that had fallen under a federal investigation. As the Wall Street Journal reported, Mr. Lieto was never accused of any crime, yet he spent thousands in legal fees to get his money back.
The problem is two fold. One, government seeks to take a God-given, Constitutionally protected right from a citizen that has not been convicted of a crime. Two, it ends up creating a perverse profit motive, that leaves bureaucrats with strong incentives to abuse a process that doesn’t sufficiently protect those who are wrongly accused.
The Obama DOJ and the ATF have demonstrated their own disregard for the safety and laws of the land as they knowingly allowed guns to walk over the border into Mexico, resulting in hundreds of deaths. Both Attorney General Eric Holder and Barack Obama have a hatred for the Second Amendment and gun owners and that fiasco demonstrates that they desired to gain a political upper hand to bring in more gun control laws. Now they are stonewalling federal investigations to keep the truth from coming out. Yet they have the audacity to grant this kind of authority to an organization that has demonstrated that it abuses its power, and all in the name of the ‘war on drugs.’