Warning

 

Close

Confirm Action

Are you sure you wish to do this?

Confirm Cancel
Member Login
Site Notices
Posted: 9/9/2004 5:39:54 AM EST
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS: The ATF's role in battling state's crime

September 7, 2004

BY VALERIE GODDARD

Valerie Goddard, special agent in charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives for Michigan and a Traverse City native, talked to the Free Press recently about the bureau's new responsibilities and initiatives in Michigan.

QUESTION: You're the first woman to head the ATF in Michigan. Have you had any problems with people taking you seriously?

ANSWER: I've never had any problems with that. I was the first female in the Flint office, but I've never experienced the problems that many of my predecessors did, as women started to integrate into ATF. People are going to look at a woman in this position. It's a little different, because we deal with things like guns, bombs and fires. People look at me and think, "Here comes the gun and bomb lady." But I've had nothing but good experiences. The great thing about coming from Michigan is that I came through the ranks with a lot of people who are now chiefs, assistant chiefs and deputy chiefs. It's been like a coming home party.

Q: The assault weapons ban will probably expire this month. What impact will that have on gun violence?

A: We will enforce whatever laws Congress gives us. We have seen an increase lately, in the city of Detroit, in the recovery of assault type weapons, like SKSs and AK47s.

Q: But has the assault weapons ban been effective in keeping certain types of weapons off the street?

A: As I understand it, most law enforcement officials want it. I don't want to comment on the assault weapons, but every law enforcement official will tell you it's the high-capacity magazines that are a concern. They give people access to a lot more bullets. Many more people can get killed or maimed. The magazines can have 30 rounds in them, or you can take two 30-round magazines and tape them together and have 60 rounds. That, to me, is concerning, because that person can keep firing and firing. If you look at what's happening in the city of Detroit, many of the shootings involve people pulling the trigger multiple times. They fire until they empty the gun.

Q: If the assault weapons ban expires, would those 30-round magazines be legal again?

A: Yes.

Q: What's ATF doing in Detroit to help fight gun violence?

A: We have a new FIT -- Firearms Investigative Team -- that's been operating for three or four months. It has eight of our agents, four Detroit police officers and two Michigan State Troopers. They're out there to find out where crime guns come from and analyze the information that the gun gives them. We want to know what we call time-to-crime -- the length of time from when a gun was purchased to when it ends up in a crime. A short time-to-crime means the gun was most likely purchased for the sole purpose of committing that crime. FIT is going to stay focused on the gun, where it comes from. If we can cut off the sources, we can reduce the number of guns available and we feel the crime rate will go down.

We did a trace study in 2003 and traced over 3,500 guns from the Detroit Police Department. We found that the average crime gun on the streets of Detroit is 10 years old or more. This is a much harder problem to tackle when we're focusing on the sources of guns. It's not an easy fix. It's harder to do a successful trace.

I see FIT as the first step in creating a gun center here in Detroit, where information is processed that any law enforcement agency can use.

Q: What are some of the technical difficulties in tracing guns?

A: We're seeing an increase in obliterated serial numbers, which is illegal under federal law. The gun used in the fireworks shooting had an obliterated serial number.

Q: You have ways to bring those numbers up, haven't you?

A: Yes. I'm not going to go into the tricks of the trade, but we can usually find ways to figure out the serial number on that gun. There are people who have actually taken the serial number down to the frame.

Q: What kind of cooperation are you getting from other law enforcement agencies in metro Detroit?

A: The one thing that's frustrating to me, as head of the federal gun police here in Detroit, is that we never get the word out about what we're doing, and what we're doing well. The law enforcement community is engaged in the problem. We're at the table together coming up with strategies. I've met with the chief, the mayor, the sheriff. There are many initiatives going on: Project Safe Neighborhoods that's screening all the gun cases, the FIT teams. The Wayne County Sheriff's Department is helping out with probation and parole checks, and the Michigan State Police have provided extra patrols, not only to our FIT team but also to Highland Park.

Q: What are the sources of illegal guns in Detroit?

A: We find a lot of the gun hot spots are associated with the narcotics trade. The two seem to go hand-in-hand. They trade guns for dope and vice and versa, and they use firearms to protect their traffic.

Q: Do you ever get to the point where seven or eight crime guns have been traced back to a licensed dealer and you say, we've got to go talk to him?

A: Yes. But it may just be that the dealer sells a high volume. You cannot automatically assume they're doing anything wrong. Statistically, the number of FFLs (federal firearms licensees) that are doing anything illegal is very small. But they can cause a lot of damage. That 1 or 2 percent that decide they're going to sell guns to the criminal element is a huge problem.

Q: What percentage of crime guns come from out of state?

A: We know from our traces that some of our guns come from the South. Gun laws in the South are much more lax than they are up here. People go down, pick up a trunkload of guns at a gun show, bring them up here and they end up on the street. We're probably seeing 50 percent of our guns coming up from states like Ohio, Tennessee, Kentucky.

Q: How much of a problem are local gun shows like those at Gibraltar Trade Center?

A: Gibraltar is interesting because it's all federal firearms licensees. They're working under the guidelines. That's unusual. You just don't see that at a lot of other gun shows. In a lot of the other gun shows, it's a kind of open market of people selling their private collections. That's what we saw up in the hills of Tennessee: people there every month, selling 20 guns or so, knowing that the people buying the guns were criminals. The problem gun shows are where . . . there's no regulations.

Q: How has ATF's mission and organization changed since 9/11?

A: We're no longer just ATF, though that's still our moniker. In 2002, we became Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Part of that change came about as the result of the Homeland Security Act. We've moved from Treasury. We're now under the Department of Justice, and we no longer collect revenue. Our revenue piece is over at Treasury with the Tax and Trade Bureau. We still oversee the industries of firearms and explosives.

We're doing different things with our explosives jurisdiction under the Homeland Security Act. There's a federal law now that any type of stolen explosives has to be reported to us immediately, and our agents and inspectors investigate those thefts immediately. No one is allowed to possess explosives anymore without a federal permit. We have to issue the permits. We have become much more vigilant in overseeing that industry with tighter controls. I would say 70 to 75 percent of our work is firearms; 20 to 25 percent is arson and explosives. We're starting to see an increase in our cigarette work here. That's 4 to 5 percent of our work. We're one of eight or nine states in the northeast corridor that are considered high tax. People are bringing cigarettes into these states because they're making a lot of money doing it.

Q: A U.S. Justice Department report found that less than 5 percent of the nation's federally licensed gun dealers are checked each year, even though the ATF would need to check seven times that many to meet its goal of checking each dealer every three years. Why aren't you meeting your goal?

A: We don't have enough inspectors. We have 4,000 (licensed gun dealers) here in Michigan. I've got 21 inspectors. How can 21 people make sure all those people are in compliance with all the federal rules and regs? Impossible. It's a resource problem. I'd need a staff of about six times what I have, but is it ever going to happen? I doubt it.

Q: Did you have an interest in guns as a young person?

A: I grew up around guns. I did a lot of skeet shooting when I was younger. My dad was an avid hunter, and so is my brother. We had every type of gun imaginable in the house.

People always try to paint us (ATF) as these big antigun people. It's hardly the case. I believe in the Constitution. I believe in the right to own firearms. The problem is when they turn into crime guns.
Link Posted: 9/9/2004 5:42:12 AM EST
interesting.
Link Posted: 9/9/2004 5:44:53 AM EST

We had every type of gun imaginable in the house.


Wow! Really? .22's and shotguns?
Link Posted: 9/9/2004 5:49:05 AM EST

Originally Posted By Dolomite:

We had every type of gun imaginable in the house.


Wow! Really? .22's and shotguns?


.38
Link Posted: 9/9/2004 5:49:39 AM EST


Wow, I live in the South now!
Link Posted: 9/9/2004 5:51:28 AM EST

Originally Posted By Tactical_Jew:


Q: The assault weapons ban will probably expire this month. What impact will that have on gun violence?

A: We will enforce whatever laws Congress gives us. We have seen an increase lately, in the city of Detroit, in the recovery of assault type weapons, like SKSs and AK47s.

I'll take em!


Q: But has the assault weapons ban been effective in keeping certain types of weapons off the street?

A: As I understand it, most law enforcement officials want it. I don't want to comment on the assault weapons, but every law enforcement official will tell you it's the high-capacity magazines that are a concern. They give people access to a lot more bullets. Many more people can get killed or maimed. The magazines can have 30 rounds in them, or you can take two 30-round magazines and tape them together and have 60 rounds. That, to me, is concerning, because that person can keep firing and firing. If you look at what's happening in the city of Detroit, many of the shootings involve people pulling the trigger multiple times. They fire until they empty the gun.

Q: If the assault weapons ban expires, would those 30-round magazines be legal again?

A: Yes.

NO! It will be legal to manufacture NEW ones!

Q: What's ATF doing in Detroit to help fight gun violence?

A: We have a new FIT -- Firearms Investigative Team -- that's been operating for three or four months. It has eight of our agents, four Detroit police officers and two Michigan State Troopers. They're out there to find out where crime guns come from and analyze the information that the gun gives them. We want to know what we call time-to-crime -- the length of time from when a gun was purchased to when it ends up in a crime. A short time-to-crime means the gun was most likely purchased for the sole purpose of committing that crime. FIT is going to stay focused on the gun, where it comes from. If we can cut off the sources, we can reduce the number of guns available and we feel the crime rate will go down.

We did a trace study in 2003 and traced over 3,500 guns from the Detroit Police Department. We found that the average crime gun on the streets of Detroit is 10 years old or more. This is a much harder problem to tackle when we're focusing on the sources of guns. It's not an easy fix. It's harder to do a successful trace.

I see FIT as the first step in creating a gun center here in Detroit, where information is processed that any law enforcement agency can use.

Ah yes, make criminals of even more Americans, that'll fix everything.

Q: What are some of the technical difficulties in tracing guns?

A: We're seeing an increase in obliterated serial numbers, which is illegal under federal law. The gun used in the fireworks shooting had an obliterated serial number.

If the dude killed someone do you think he cares about a serial #?

Q: You have ways to bring those numbers up, haven't you?

A: Yes. I'm not going to go into the tricks of the trade, but we can usually find ways to figure out the serial number on that gun. There are people who have actually taken the serial number down to the frame.

Well no shit Sherlock.

Q: What are the sources of illegal guns in Detroit?

A: We find a lot of the gun hot spots are associated with the narcotics trade. The two seem to go hand-in-hand. They trade guns for dope and vice and versa, and they use firearms to protect their traffic.

But we can't protect ourselves against them?

Q: What percentage of crime guns come from out of state?

A: We know from our traces that some of our guns come from the South. Gun laws in the South are much more lax than they are up here. People go down, pick up a trunkload of guns at a gun show, bring them up here and they end up on the street. We're probably seeing 50 percent of our guns coming up from states like Ohio, Tennessee, Kentucky.

Ohio is not a Southern state, although it *is* to them. Fuck her.

Q: How much of a problem are local gun shows like those at Gibraltar Trade Center?

A: Gibraltar is interesting because it's all federal firearms licensees. They're working under the guidelines. That's unusual. You just don't see that at a lot of other gun shows. In a lot of the other gun shows, it's a kind of open market of people selling their private collections. That's what we saw up in the hills of Tennessee: people there every month, selling 20 guns or so, knowing that the people buying the guns were criminals. The problem gun shows are where . . . there's no regulations.

Really? The buyers were all criminals and ALL the sellers knew this?

Q: How has ATF's mission and organization changed since 9/11?

A: We're no longer just ATF, though that's still our moniker. In 2002, we became Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Part of that change came about as the result of the Homeland Security Act. We've moved from Treasury. We're now under the Department of Justice, and we no longer collect revenue. Our revenue piece is over at Treasury with the Tax and Trade Bureau. We still oversee the industries of firearms and explosives.

We're doing different things with our explosives jurisdiction under the Homeland Security Act. There's a federal law now that any type of stolen explosives has to be reported to us immediately, and our agents and inspectors investigate those thefts immediately. No one is allowed to possess explosives anymore without a federal permit. We have to issue the permits. We have become much more vigilant in overseeing that industry with tighter controls. I would say 70 to 75 percent of our work is firearms; 20 to 25 percent is arson and explosives. We're starting to see an increase in our cigarette work here. That's 4 to 5 percent of our work. We're one of eight or nine states in the northeast corridor that are considered high tax. People are bringing cigarettes into these states because they're making a lot of money doing it.

From firearms to smokes, they're with the gub'mint and are here to help.

Q: A U.S. Justice Department report found that less than 5 percent of the nation's federally licensed gun dealers are checked each year, even though the ATF would need to check seven times that many to meet its goal of checking each dealer every three years. Why aren't you meeting your goal?

A: We don't have enough inspectors. We have 4,000 (licensed gun dealers) here in Michigan. I've got 21 inspectors. How can 21 people make sure all those people are in compliance with all the federal rules and regs? Impossible. It's a resource problem. I'd need a staff of about six times what I have, but is it ever going to happen? I doubt it. I have the perfect solution.

Q: Did you have an interest in guns as a young person?

A: I grew up around guns. I did a lot of skeet shooting when I was younger. My dad was an avid hunter, and so is my brother. We had every type of gun imaginable in the house. I highly doubt it!

People always try to paint us (ATF) as these big antigun people. It's hardly the case. I believe in the Constitution. I believe in the right to own firearms. The problem is when they turn into crime guns. Yeah me too, ban criminals not guns and we'll get along fine.

Link Posted: 9/9/2004 5:53:34 AM EST
Link Posted: 9/9/2004 5:54:00 AM EST
21 inspectors can't can't make visits to 4000 FFLs in a year?

They could do a 2-day visit with each FFL almost every year!
Link Posted: 9/9/2004 5:54:39 AM EST
SKS IS NOT AN "ASSAULT WEAPON"!
Link Posted: 9/9/2004 6:01:33 AM EST

Originally Posted By Aimless:
Yeah too bad about that ban ending, it really eliminated access to hi-capacity magazines.



But luckily the dwidling supply caused the prices for those pre-ban mags!

Hell, I had to pay $13 EACH for good quality standard cap mags for my Beretta 92!!
Link Posted: 9/9/2004 6:06:47 AM EST
Link Posted: 9/9/2004 6:07:29 AM EST

Originally Posted By IronBack:
SKS IS NOT AN "ASSAULT WEAPON"!




it can be made into one.

Of course, a 10/22 can be made into one as well.

at least by current definitions.........c'mon sept 14....get here already!
Link Posted: 9/9/2004 6:10:52 AM EST

Originally Posted By Dolomite:

We had every type of gun imaginable in the house.


Wow! Really? .22's and shotguns?



Flintlocks, too...
Link Posted: 9/9/2004 6:11:41 AM EST
I love all the references to Criminals getting guns, criminals using guns, criminals destroying serial numbers and the BITCH has the nerve to be worried about GUNS? Why not LOCK UP THE CRIMINALS GOD DAMN IT.
Link Posted: 9/9/2004 6:12:51 AM EST
[Last Edit: 9/9/2004 6:13:41 AM EST by FMD]

Valerie Goddard, special agent in charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives for Michigan...

"...as head of the federal gun police here in Detroit..."

"...I believe in the Constitution..."



Ummm, then why the hell would you be working for the BATFE as "head of the federal gun police"?

Dammit! Does nobody in public service read the Constitution any more?

Link Posted: 9/9/2004 6:15:22 AM EST

Originally Posted By Tactical_Jew:
A: Yes. I'm not going to go into the tricks of the trade, but we can usually find ways to figure out the serial number on that gun. There are people who have actually taken the serial number down to the frame.


From what I understand is the S&W is making guns with the a hidden serial number on the frame. I've seen technology where you can imbed a serial number that is a barely, barely disconcernable to the to the unaided eye; yet with a special viewer, the number can be clearly visible. That company is based in Pasadena, Calif.
Link Posted: 9/9/2004 6:15:44 AM EST

Originally Posted By NoVaGator:
21 inspectors can't can't make visits to 4000 FFLs in a year?

They could do a 2-day visit with each FFL almost every year!



No kidding. Let's see: 4000/21=190

Thats 190 dealers for every inspector. If an inspector works 250 days per year (50 weeks x 5 working days) they should be able to visit 190 dealers for a few hours each.

Oh I forgot something. All that extra time spent harrasing, burning, destroying, killing puppies, etc. kind of eats into their available time.
Top Top