"Hey, this guy's gonna give the rest of us John Browns a bad name."
Long-time readers will recall the strange case of Ramsey A. Bear and the highly-placed ATF familiars in the machine gun collector's association -- the NFATCA -- John Brown and Dan Shea. Now comes David Codrea's latest column that demonstrates that John Brown's reputation may lie a-moulderin' in the grave, but his venality goes marchin' on: "Lawyers’ comments raise troubling questions about ATF and NFA collector’s group."
These are all serious and vital points, but there is another series of observations that begin on page 27 of the comment file that elaborate on concerns about the role of the NFATCA, and specifically the relationship of its president with ATF.
“Docket entry ATF-2013-0001-0437 [view] is a public comment submitted by John Brown, apparently the very same John Brown who, as President of National Firearms Act Traders and Collectors Association (‘NFATCA’), submitted the petition to initiate a rulemaking on which ATF purports to base this proceeding,” FICG relates. “Repeated efforts to ascertain from Mr. Brown the details of the incidents as to which he asserts he has knowledge met refusals as he disavowed direct, personal knowledge stating only that as a result of ‘working inside ATF for over 10 years’ he knew things he ‘should never know.’"“[I]t would thus appear that ATF is itself the source of this information,” FICG infers. “The planting of comments that merely repeat to ATF the very information ATF purports to have but refused to submit to public critique exacerbates the problem of ATF's refusal to provide underlying information.“Mr. Brown's connection to ATF extends beyond his acknowledgment that the information to which he alluded in his comment came from ATF itself,” FICG continues. “Indeed, as Richard Vasquez -- ATF's Chief of the Firearms Training Branch and previous Assistant and Acting Chief of the Firearms Technology Branch -- testified under oath only last year, Mr. Brown ‘interacted with ATF a lot,’ was a friend since at least 2006, had personally transferred two firearms to him, had transferred firearms to other ATF employees, visited ATF ‘to meet and become personal with a lot of the offices’ over a period of years, and provided him with information to pass along to ATF for ATF's use in a forfeiture proceeding.“Mr. Brown apparently went so far as to forward e-mails he had received from a FFL involved in litigation with ATF to ATF for ATF's use in the litigation against the FFL,” the FICG narrative continues. “Indeed, Mr. Brown was not surprised to be characterized as a ‘confidential source’ for Acting Chief Vasquez and ATF.“Despite having acquired three machineguns illegally manufactured by George D. Clark, Mr. Brown seems to be the only FFL in that situation that ATF never referred for prosecution,” FICG asserts. “In fact, ATF knowingly left Mr. Brown in possession of that contraband for six weeks and then promptly destroyed that evidence before the completion of prosecutions of other individuals in possession of Mr. Clark's machineguns.“In addition, during this same time period Mr. Brown, together with the attorney he reportedly hired to prepare the NFATCA petition upon which ATF now relies, hired two 30-year veterans of ATF who simultaneously worked together with ATF to draft the National Firearms Act Handbook.“ATF seeks to simultaneously prevent any investigation into the incidents to which it makes vague reference in the NPR while ‘planting’ comments in its own docket to give further credence to the incidents,” FICG observes. “The most benign characterization of the relationship between ATF and Mr. Brown (if not his other associates and NFATCA more broadly) would seem to be that ATF established an unauthorized "advisory committee" in violation of the Federal Advisory Committee Act … With respect to discussions relating to the proposal at issue here, either ATF is withholding records of consultations with Mr. Brown and NFATCA in violation of FOIA or ATF failed to create such records in violation of FACA.“ATF has made a mockery of this proceeding, engaging in numerous tactics designed to deny meaningful public participation,” FICG concludes. “As a result ATF cannot promulgate any final rule that hopes to survive judicial review without starting fresh. In doing so, ATF should consult with a broad cross-section of interests familiar with the laws governing trusts, estates, and business entities rather than a select few.”
Well, there's a big surprise. And, on a personal note, to my scurrilous, not-so-anonymous-as-he-thinks and frequently threatening missive sender from Harrisburg, PA who is apparently the self-appointed president of the John Brown-Dan Shea Anti-Defamation Butt-Buddy Society and who frequently clogs my PO Box with what he believes to be clever anonymous harassing "taunts" on the Clark case, I would say: "Explain that, asshole." Looking forward to your next letter. Try not to leave fingerprints and small hairs on it this time. It really is a shame to misuse the federal mails that way, you know. You could get in trouble if I didn't have such a broad sense of humor.