The Obama administration, apparently by executive decree, has enacted new rules that make it easier for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) to seize the guns of citizens without due process of law. A Washington Times report issued on Thursday provides the details.
Under normal circumstances a citizen must be convicted of a crime, or at least charged with a crime, in order for law enforcement to seize their firearms. But the Justice Department granted authority to the ATF to "seize and administratively forfeit property involved in controlled substance abuses."
According to the Times, this gives the federal government the power to seize the guns of citizens even if they are merely suspected of substance abuse. These citizens do not have to be officially charged or arrested.
Due process of law, under the mandate of the U.S. Constitution, requires among other things that citizens have rights that cannot be violated even if they are suspected of crimes. Historically this has meant that citizens who are not charged but are mere suspects cannot be deprived of any of the rights afforded to any other citizen. And even if they are charged with crimes, they still have certain rights that cannot be violated, such as the right to a fair trial, the right to face one's accusers in a court of law, and the right to qualified legal counsel. Any violation of that person's rights after they are charged must be done according to accepted legal process and not on the whims of prosecutors or law enforcement.
But prior to formal charges being issued, the government has operated under the restrictions placed upon it by the Constitution that prevent it from treating citizens as if they are charged prior to actually being charged with crimes.
Gradually these time honored mandates have been under assault as law enforcement has skirted the boundaries of the law by engaging in activity that violates both the spirit and letter of due process. The assault kicked into high gear after the 9/11 terror attacks.
But civil forfeiture of property is a dangerous new step in the assault on due process in that citizens can be deprived of their property, as well as their rights, even if it is never proved that they committed a crime.
The concept behind civil forfeiture of property is simple but baffling. Inanimate objects are placed on trial and treated as persons. And since objects have no rights, prosecutors can simply dispense with constitutional rights in these trials. But the citizen or citizens who are caught in the crosshairs are considered guilty until proven innocent and are burdened with the task of proving their innocence.
In the meantime such citizens are deprived of their Second Amendment rights. And all of this comes as the ATF and the Justice Department operate under a heavy cloud of suspicion in the wake of the biggest political scandal in U.S. history -- Operation Fast and Furious.