In a move that can only be described as chilling, the Obama administration has decided to authorize the ATF to seize anyone's firearms without convicting, or even charging them with, any crime.
How can this happen? Simple: Civil forfeiture.
Civil forfeiture has been used for decades in the drug war - and the abuses have been widely reported in a variety of media across the political spectrum. Police departments - local, state and federal - have used it to seize any large amount of cash they may find. They simply assert that the funds are "drug money". The owner must then hire a lawyer and sue the government to get it back. The process is long and the government wins if 51% of the evidence points to the cash being drug related. No conviction is required. The owner need not even be charged with any crime.
What happens to the money? The police agency gets to keep it. This creates a strong conflict of interest by creating a strong incentive to confiscate as much money as possible.
Even worse is how this system works in the real world. If a cop seizes $500,000.00 in cash, it makes sense to spend $10,000.00 on a lawyer to attempt to get it back. However, if that same cop seizes 5,000.00 from a business owner, hiring a lawyer at a cost of $10,000.00 just doesn't make sense. Therefore, if a cop simply wants to raise money for his department, he knows that he can simply take any amount of money less than what it would cost to get it back. As a result, in actions reminiscent of the classic small town speed traps, a few small town police departments have raised enough money to cover all of the departments expenses - including the salaries of the officers seizing the money.
Now the Obama administration has decided to extend this power to BAFTE, commonly called the ATF so they can sieze firearms under the same rules. They have done so in the wake of the worst scandal in the agency's history - Fast and Furious. This is saying a lot when one considered that this is the same agency that brought us Waco and Ruby Ridge. Even if we fully accept the administration's view on Fast and Furious, it still raises questions about the honesty and reliability of ATF as an agency.
Now ATF will have the power to confiscate any firearm they wish, anywhere, any time. For instance, if you buy a new gun they can literally stop you at the door of the store and confiscate the gun. All they have to do is assert that you bought it to resell it to a drug dealer. (A straw purchase.) You then must hire a lawyer and prove that you did not do that. One problem: The lawyer costs more than the gun is worth. You can just buy another gun cheaper.
This is only one way ATF can abuse civil forfeiture. Effectively, they can now take any gun away from any one, any time, anywhere. Unless the gun is worth a lot of money, they can be fairly sure you won't even try to get it back.
So, only weeks before the election, President Obama has proven that in spite of all the assurances to the contrary he really is out to take away our guns.