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Between the Lines

Between the Lines

Joseph Farah

Disarm the BATF 

                   Another day, another debacle for the Bureau of
                   Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. 

                   This time, the scene is not Waco, Texas, or Ruby Ridge,
                   Idaho, but Taft, California -- another hotbed of
                   "anti-government activity." 

                   According to the federal government's own account, the
                   BATF began an investigation into illegal firearms sales
                   by people espousing anti-government rhetoric three or
                   four years ago with an undercover agent allegedly
                   making an illegal purchase of a .22-caliber pistol. 

                   It ended last week with one of the three targets of the
                   federal government probe dead in a highly unusual --
                   and, yes, improbable -- incident. 

                   The official story goes something like this: Two BATF
                   agents, a Kern County sheriff's deputy and Sgt. Ed
                   Whiting of the Taft Police Department attempted to
                   take into custody on illegal firearms trafficking charges,
                   Darryl Howell, a 45-year-old grandfather and owner of
                   a surplus store that sold, among other things, guns and

                   A struggle between the BATF agents and Howell
                   ensued. The cops say he broke away from them, lunged
                   for a .45-caliber handgun, put it into his mouth and fired
                   a single shot. Whiting, the story goes, had become
                   temporarily distracted during the scuffle. When he
                   heard the single shot, he instinctively aimed his gun at
                   Howell and fired three more shots into his already,
                   presumably, lifeless body. 

                   Now, if you believe that, I have an intercontinental
                   ballistic missile I'd like to sell you. 

                   I'm not a cop, and I've never played one on TV. But I
                   have reported on enough crime stories in my day to
                   know when one stinks to high heaven. And this one
                   smells like a cattle ranch on a windless, summer day in
                   California's Central Valley. 

                   Let me see if I have this straight. Four cops, one
                   "suspect." This wanted outlaw -- so dangerous he's
                   been under scrutiny of federal law enforcement for
                   nearly four years -- is confronted not in his home, not on
                   his lunch break, not on his way to work or after he locks
                   up, but during the workday in a store loaded with
                   firearms. Even though he's not accused of being on
                   PCP or any other drugs, he cannot be physically
                   subdued by four officers. They are unable to persuade
                   him to come along peacefully or handcuff him
                   involuntarily. Instead, he is permitted by these highly
                   trained law enforcement professionals to grab one of his
                   guns. But they don't shoot him right away. Oh no. They
                   allow him to pick up the handgun, bring it all the way up
                   to his mouth and pull the trigger. Only then, we are told,
                   does one of the officers, who wasn't paying attention,
                   pump the desperado full of lead. 

                   Do these BATF clowns ever learn? Either these guys
                   are Washington's answer to the Keystone Kops, or we
                   have on the loose a cold, calculating, professional,
                   Gestapo-like killing machine designed to root out
                   dissidents exercising their Second Amendment rights
                   and blow them away without the messiness of trials and
                   due process. 

                   How many times does America need to see such
                   tragedies before it wakes up and disarms these
                   dangerous, out-of-control, gun-slinging hitmen? The
                   inmates are running the asylum, folks. Beam me up. 

                   There is no allegation made by any of these cowboys
                   that Howell or any others charged in a series of raids in
                   the town of Taft last week had provided weapons to
                   criminals or represented a threat to law-abiding citizens
                   anywhere. In fact, I personally would have felt a lot
                   safer in Taft last week, before Mr. Howell was
                   "suicided" than I would today. I think most Americans

                   Let's suspend our own cognitive skills and good
                   judgment for a moment and pretend the cops' story is
                   100 percent accurate. Was the four-year investigation
                   worth it? Was it a prudent investment of taxpayer
                   dollars? Why aren't these law-enforcement heroes out
                   investigating real crimes of violence against innocent
                   victims, instead of conducting secretive sting operations
                   designed to entrap people into violating inherently
                   unconstitutional laws? 

                   But, you know what? Such talk can get you in trouble
                   these days. One of the BATF agents responsible for
                   this tragedy said one of Howell's friends had (gasp!)
                   complained about a ban on "assault weapons" and the
                   actions of President Clinton, Attorney General Janet
                   Reno and U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein. 

                   At the risk of inviting a similar assault on my home or
                   business, let me pick up that cry: These are, indeed,
                   some of the people who represent a real threat to our
                   lives and liberty in America t