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Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Tax evaders at work in Michigan?

Federal authorities are expected to review nearly three dozen guns found in a wooded area of Clare County in central Michigan.
Special Agent Donald Dawkins tells the Associated Press that the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives will inspect the weapons today.
Clare Sheriff's Department officials say a man on Tuesday found a rifle hidden under a log while cutting firewood in Freeman Township, about 110 miles north of Lansing. The man later found another 30 guns.
Police seized the weapons, then located three handguns in the same area.
Dawkins said nothing else was discovered.
No suspects have been identified. An investigation is ongoing.
There are several things wrong with this story. Let's see if we can list them.
1) It made the news. Now, why did this story, among the thousands of stories that day, make it all the way to the AP wire feed for national dissemination? There's something in physics known as The Observer Effect, which, applied to news dissemination, basically means that the very act of reporting on the news has an effect on what becomes news. Thus running a particular news story is the result of a conscious decision, one influenced by a desire to see a particular effect on those who read the news. So the question must be asked, "Why This Story?" Some of my readers will not be happy with the answer.

2) The only source for the story is a government official. Notice: the reporter did not physically see the guns. It did not personally speak to the anonymous person who allegedly found the guns. Rather, full faith and credit is given to Special Agent Donald Dawkins of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. In effect, the AP is acting as the press agent for the BATF, rather than independently investigating the story themselves.

3) Police seized the weapons. Why is the word 'seized' used here? It's a word that implies contraband or illicit possession. Did the police realize at the time that what they were doing was 'seizing' contraband? Why no word from the police in this story?

4) Police searched the area. What called for this massive allocation of public safety resources? Had the police received any information that would lead them to believe that these guns were about to be used in a crime or insurrection? Were any of the 31 guns seized loaded? Had they run registration checks on the serial numbers?

5) BATF is going to be looking at the weapons. Why? Well, the BATF's constitutional mandate is to ensure that federal taxes on alcohol, tobacco, and firearms are paid as due. They have congressional authority to arrest tax evaders and seize their illicitly held property. So apparently, the BATF has to physically inspect these guns to ascertain whether or not their taxes are paid in full. This could have been done by the police who seized them, but the BATF agents apparently need something to do to keep busy, when they're not releasing statements to the press. But why didn't the bored BATF agents conduct the search in the woods, if the police are too busy to be bothered by pursuing this case?

6) The wood-burner who reported finding the guns was not arrested. While this may not seem like a problem, the question has to be, "Why Not?" If possession of 31 guns is a crime, than the man from whom they were 'seized' should be arrested. But if hiding 34 guns in the woods isn't a crime, then there's nothing to investigate, except to find the rightful owner of these guns and return them to him.

Somehow, I don't think that if that does happen, we'll be reading about it from the AP.

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