There is a developing scandal involving bad BATFE Sting operations. I ran across a series of articles on BATFE undercover operations and the serious concerns raised by it.
The first issue is the targeting of people with mental disabilities and the effective coercion into criminal activity. We have a special duty to protect people with limited facilities from abuse. This includes BATFE agents who need someone too mentally limited to ask questions.
In several of these stings, shops were setup with sofas and Xboxes to draw a crowd of young people. Alcohol and marijuana were provided. I would not be surprised if tobacco was also sold to children. Then months later these children and young adults are charged with a variety of felonies. Possession of a controlled substance. possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Sale of a firearm to a prohibited person. Sale of an unregistered Short Barreled Shotgun. And the ones who are not convicted learn to hate and fear the police, regardless of the fact that it was the BATFE, not the local or state police that did this. At a vulnerable point in their lives young people don't receive mentoring or a good role model, they get a quick lesson on criminal behavior.
These stings create crime. By providing an outlet for fencing stolen goods many of these storefronts merely encourage crime where there would not have been otherwise.
I have trouble believing that these are rouge operations. Given that good police practices have well though out rules and that by lacking these rules, I am forced to assume that these are not rouge operations because the agency's leadership either condoned them or failed to exercise something akin to command responsibility. We have many questions and few answers. Unfortunately, without a full and complete investigation or a defendant going to trial, I don't think we will learn enough to understand the full program or its implications until that time.
The best fix is to break up the BATFE, sending the Alcohol and Tobacco parts to the FDA and the Firearms and Explosives portions to the FBI. Despite the previous abuses, the FBI is a much better home for firearms regulation. Its not the reason the agency's existence so its not going to receive the same attention and the FBI is regarded as being better run.