BATF’s new asset forfeiture powers

My Cato Institute colleague Nita Ghei, writing at the Washington Times, has more on the newly expanded authority of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) 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.” Earlier here and (podcast) here. More: Americans for Forfeiture Reform.


  • Controlled substances like alcohol, tobacco, sudafed, cheeseburgers, milk, soft drinks…? “Involved in” such as on the premises?

  • D,

    Don’t forget bottled water!

  • As angry as this makes me, it’s also cause for some schadenfreude. For years I’ve listened to the bluster of gun owners* who seem to think the Bill of Rights ends at the Second Amendment. “No way in hell is the government gonna take away my rights!” “Out of my cold, dead hands!” and on and on.

    They’ve not only sat in silence, but in some cases cheered on as this and previous administrations have weakened our civil liberties. Welcome to the party, gun owners.; you’re about four decades late, but don’t worry; it’s still going strong.

    In this case, the schadenfreude doesn’t taste as good as it usually does…

    *lest I be accused of generalizing, I’m fully aware that there are plenty of gun owners who are concerned with the erosion of our civil liberties, but we all know that certain type of gun owner… the ones who comment on articles about police brutality saying the handcuffed suspect “must have done something” to deserve getting kicked in the head. The ones who tell you that if you don’t like the TSA’s intrusive searches, then you don’t have to fly. The ones who freak out over UN forces storming our cities to take away our guns, but fully support the militarization of the local police department. Basically, they’re the people that think only drug dealers and terrorists are concerned about amendments 4 through 8, but think all Americans should share their singular focus on their right to own a gun.

  • Jack B., you really know how to beat the hell out of a straw man.

  • re: my comment being a straw man… you can put it to the test.

    The authoritarian rantings of internet commenters are pretty weightless. But what about the candidates these people vote for? If you — or anyone else, for that matter — has either the time or inclination, take a look at the voting records of every politician who has been given a “B” or better rating by the NRA.

    Then examine their voting record on civil liberties (civil asset forfeiture, government surveillance, indefinite detention, etc.) . Have fun with that and good luck finding a pro-Second Amendment politician with a good civil liberties record whose last name isn’t Paul.

  • It is problematic the Obama Administration/Justice Department may attempt to invoke restrictions (written like illegal drug civil forfeiture laws) to expand Civil Asset Forfeiture of guns linked to (non-drug crimes) so government can forfeit both guns and other kinds of property: for example government civil asset forfeiture of vehicles, homes and other property real or personal that alleged to have contained any illegal gun. It is foreseeable that might potentially include illegal amounts of ammunition. Most Americans can’t afford legal costs to fight government civil asset forfeiture.

    In 1994 the Justice Department under Janet Reno attempted to get legislation passed that would have allowed government summary judge denying gun owners the right to due process to prove they legally owned or possessed their confiscated guns. That gun legislation included the words “premises containing illegal weapons” written like illegal drug forfeiture laws. Gun owners expressed concern the words “premises containing illegal weapons” opened the door for DOJ and police to civilly forfeit gun owners’ homes if the (premises) contained illegal guns. Had the 1994 gun legislation passed—millions of Americans would have been afraid to keep guns in their home. The Nazi Government invoked similar gun/property asset forfeiture laws so German Citizens could not defend themselves against the Reich tyrannical government.