Interview With The
Mike Baker: Hi, Mr. Guy. How are you?
Jess Guy: Just fine, thank you very much.
Mike Baker: Thanks for this great opportunity. I’ve been wanting to do something like this for many, many years. I think this interview will prove to be an insightful look into the Federal law enforcement community, both for those in other fields of professional law enforcement, as well as the private citizenry at large.
Jess Guy: I hope so. As long as we all remember that the views, opinions, thoughts, beliefs and actions are my own, and not those of anyone else. I would also warn you that some of my observations may not follow the path some people would like, on both sides of the issue. I can only say my responses are honest and forthright.
Mike Baker: Understood. So, how long did you serve with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF)?
Jess Guy: I was an agent from November 1971 to January 1998. The first 12 years I spent as a field agent in various assignments and the final 15 or so as Resident Agent in Charge of the San Jose (CA) Field Office. For 5 years (1989-1994) I was the team leader for the San Francisco District Special Response Team (SRT) in addition to my other duties
Mike Baker: What is it exactly, within the Federal LE framework overall, that the BATF does?
Jess Guy: ATF (we never did like the “B”).
Mike Baker: Understood. Mental note: Drop the “B.”
Jess Guy: ATF is responsible for insuring industry compliance with laws relating to alcohol, tobacco, firearms, explosives. That includes product manufacturing, labeling, and distribution. It also includes collection of taxes on those products. ATF actually collects over 13 billion dollars a year in taxes. This is generically called the compliance operations side of the shop. The law enforcement side is the responsibility of the agents, who investigate allegations of crimes in the areas of firearms, arson, explosives, alcohol, and tobacco. In these areas you have seen ATF agents investigate high profile bombings, international arms smuggling, major narcotics dealers with guns, and “extremist” groups. In the field of arson we have investigated primarily arson for profit schemes. Alcohol crimes, while not a high priority, are a concern if appropriate taxes are not paid, products are intentionally mislabeled, or the materials used are fraudulently misrepresented. Tobacco investigations generally involve hijacking of trucks and resale of cigarettes on the black market. The tax loss can be enormous to states and the risk of violence is very high. Something the public may not be aware of, is that ATF agents are also seconded to the U.S. Secret Service to provide security for candidates during national elections, and to the Department of State to assist in security details for foreign dignitaries and the United Nations General Assembly opening ceremonies. ATF also has small offices in Mexico, France, and Columbia.
Mike Baker: Are you a member of the National Rifle Association or any other pro-Second Amendment group or organization?
Jess Guy: I am an Endowment member of the NRA. I am a life member of the Police Marksman Association and I have belonged to several shooting clubs and organizations.
Mike Baker: For how long?
Jess Guy: All at least 20 plus years.
Mike Baker: To start, I’d like to go back a couple years, near the beginning of the Clinton years. You were on active duty in 1995 when NRA Executive Vice-president Wayne LaPierre made the infamous “jack-booted thugs” statement in the NRA fund-raising letter in reference to federal law-enforcement agents at Waco, Ruby Ridge, and elsewhere. This was right after the Oklahoma City bombing of the Fred Murrah Federal building. The controversy was thunderous. What was your reaction to that statement, as well as ATF rank and file at the time?
Jess Guy: The jack booted thug statement came out as a result of a number of complaints to certain congressional representatives. In many of the cases upon which the statement was based, there was a dearth of factual information. While I would not defend any agency in the violation of anyone’s Constitutional Rights, I know that individuals in a law enforcement setting have done things for which they should, at minimum, be fired. Even though Mr. LaPierre was certainly trying to focus on some common enemy (i.e. ATF) for gun rights groups, I really don’t think it served a purpose to help the public or NRA members to really understand what was going on within ATF at the time. It also polarized factions on both sides, to the point of almost five years of extreme rhetoric and distrust. It may have sold some magazines and got things stirred up, but it did little to win any supporters in Congress. Most of the agents thought the remark an ill-conceived joke. We looked all over for a pair of jackboots, but never found them.
Mike Baker: If you recall, Ex-President George Bush Sr. issued a strongly worded letter of resignation to the NRA for that statement, but in light of the documented evidence of Federal LE excess put for by then NRA President Tom Washington in response to the Senior Bush’s resignation, do you feel he was justified?
Jess Guy: I would certainly support anyone’s right to join or unjoin any association. President Bush obviously resigned based on those words and accusations from Mr. LaPierre. That was one of the unfortunate losses that Mr. LaPierre’s pejoratives caused. I can’t accept the total accuracy of Mr. Washington’s allegations—see below.
Mike Baker: What was, if any, the response of the ATF rank and file to many of these reports and complaints chronicled in Tom Washington’s letter?
Jess Guy: Generally the ATF rank and filed paid little attention to the complaints. ATF internal documents addressed the charges and responded accordingly. The responses were also documented in Congressional hearings. I read a number of materials from The American Rifleman, Soldier of Fortune, and actual ATF reports. I spoke with some agents involved in some of the incidents. I really don’t think any of the charges were as egregious as represented by the anti-ATF sources. There were certainly examples of extremely poor judgment, and those areas should have been addressed by ATF internally.
As to other, larger, events. I was actively involved in the Ruby Ridge/Randy Weaver incident and know that some of the accusations against the government were outright lies. Don’t get me wrong, I have very strong feelings about what the FBI did, as to their so-called “rules of engagement” on that mountain top, and I also have strong feelings about the right of Randy Weaver to believe and live as he pleased. However, I also see the death of a Deputy US Marshal (Bill Deegan) as a senseless tragedy.
"I strongly suggest anyone who has an interest obtain a copy of the Treasury Report on the ATF actions in the Vernon Howell/David Koresh investigation. It is thorough and, in my opinion, accurate. It is also critical of certain ATF actions." Jess Guy - retired ATF
Mike Baker: The ATF has been characterized, from many quarters, as a “rogue agency” with no accountability to anyone, haunted by “... Mistakes that have undermined the public's confidence in its ability to do its job.” Indeed, many inquiries I field from the American citizenry relates to the fear they have of the Federal LE framework. What are your opinions of these characterizations? Are they justified?
Jess Guy: See above as to the Mt. Carmel and Randy Weaver incidents. There is one undeniable fact about ATF. It has been saddled with enforcing some of the most unpopular laws ever enacted in the United States. Tax collection itself is unpopular. Prohibition, from the Whiskey Rebellion to the Roaring 20's, was never popular with the general public. Gun laws are a unique animal—usually addressing possession rather than use. That frequently places law abiding citizens in the same basket as law breakers. ATF is not a rogue agency. It enforces those unpopular laws. As to the issue of mistakes. Many times they are mischaracterized, overblown, rumors, or lies. Sometimes they are true. The agents will do their jobs as directed by ATF/Treasury policy. They will enforce the law, and if that law is bad—which many gun laws are —oversight needs to address the law, and give direction to policy changes within the agency. The agents we have today are not as versed in the history, tradition or Constitutional provisions of firearms ownership. They have little military experience, limited prior police experience, and sometimes have their first exposure to firearms at the basic academy. In training they are given an exposure to the Second Amendment issue, but that rarely goes beyond the current government position: SecondAmendment=Militia=State Reserve Unit/National Guard=Collective Right. The individual rights of Americans to keep and bear arms is not accepted. There are other issues facing ATF. Funding (always important for federal agencies) becomes a series of turf wars between federal agencies. Why else do you see so many different gold letters on the backs of various federal agents at major bombings, large scale operations, etc? Not because they are cooperating, but because they all want to have a piece of the money pie. Media exposure equals recognition equals the ability to go before Congress and ask for more money. It never ends.
Many times the laws themselves are ignored by Congress, or ATF is ordered to ignore the law.
For example, the Gun Control Act of 1968 has authorized ATF to conduct background investigations of persons convicted of certain felonies, in order to restore some felon’s right to own a firearm (only under federal law). This is because Congress, in 1968, recognized that some felons were not a threat to society, they had 30-40 year old felonies with otherwise exemplary records, some of the felonies were non-violent (e.g. bad checks), or some other factor would address the intent to prohibit firearms to felons while recognizing a felony conviction alone should not necessarily take away all of a person’s rights. Once this background investigation was completed and restoration granted, as per federal law, that individual could then legally own firearms without violating federal law. It was a valuable program which recognized not only the realities of rehabilitation, and the fact that there was a right to possess firearms in a lawful manner, but, that Congress actually intended that these people should be allowed to posses firearms. One of the last such investigations I reviewed was the application of Colonel Oliver North. He was granted such relief based on a number of valid reasons. However, some in Congress have argued against this law and have intentionally refused to fund any ATF activity in this area—due to their blind hatred of firearms. So, for almost 15 years, no person has been afforded the opportunity under the law to apply for such relief. ATF has to follow the dictates of Congress or risk loss of funds.
As a result of Congressional funding ATF has been able to establish a Firearms Data Base. That is ostensibly designed to track guns used in crime. It is basic firearms tracing. Unfortunately the data base also has information about law abiding gun owners, gun owners who were victims of crime (stolen guns), and others, who didn’t even commit a crime, such a those who had a multiple sale form filled out because they bought two handguns from a dealer. A mandate was issued that all firearms coming into ATF custody—even if found property to be returned to its lawful owner, and all firearms referred to ATF for anything would be traced. All of this data is on the government computer. Names, addresses, dates of purchase, where purchased, etc.
So those who would have rightfully been allowed to have gun rights restored are denied that right, while those who have never committed a crime have their names as gun owners in a government computer. All based on congressional funding.
Mike Baker: The NRA has been traditionally supportive of the law enforcement community. From what I understand, it’s their qualified instructors that train the bulk of rank and file street cops. Over the expanse of your career, is it your impression that the NRA did the bulk of LEO training? Do you think this aforementioned conflict damaged them in the eyes of the LE community overall?
Jess Guy: My experience has been that the NRA programs for law enforcement are excellent. I am an NRA instructor (albeit not in NRA police training), and anything that has been done by the NRA which increases the skills of line police officers, especially as to safety, is paramount. I would like to see the NRA establish a legal training workshop for law enforcement officers. In my experience, especially with today’s officers who have no military background or prior firearms training, there is abysmal misunderstanding of the legalities of firearms ownership, the role of firearms in our nation, and the state and federal laws of firearms violations. As a member of several ATF pistol teams I competed heavily in NRA PPC competitions for years. Good training, good camaraderie, good feelings about shooting sports.
I believe that many in law enforcement were concerned that the NRA had gone to extremes in their attacks on ATF. My experience has been that local law enforcement generally has a good opinion of ATF and such attacks did cause concern. Again, not good for the NRA, when it should have been a leader in promoting intelligent reviews of the Randy Weaver incident and the Mt. Carmel incident. There were enough mistakes, errors, and federal distortions in both of those events to justify NRA action in a restrained professional manner.
Mike Baker: In my opinion, during the Clinton/Gore years and under the influence of the Reno DOJ, the Federal law enforcement framework in it’s entirety has been tainted. Yet, I have noticed a tempering of the combativeness coming from the Militia and Patriot community since Bush attained the Presidency and Ashcroft assumed command of the DOJ. A LEO friend said to me in response to this, “Good for them. Good men rise when it's necessary and do other things when it's not, but they also remember that eternal vigilance is the price of freedom and liberty. The Militia, OKC and McVeigh showed the US Government that extreme lawlessness on their part breeds it on the people's part. And it's ugly.” Do you feel there is still work to be done to return balance, objectivity, and impartiality—as well as public trust—to the US DOJ?
Jess Guy: My personal views about the Department of Justice are mixed. It is a huge organization, with thousands of personnel, both in the enforcement arms and the prosecution arm. You have to remember that the FBI, DEA, INS-Border Patrol, and US Marshals Service are all under the umbrella of the Department of Justice. Tens of thousands of individuals—most carrying guns. The FBI is the single largest federal law enforcement agency in the United States. It dwarfs all others. When an agency, any agency, gets that big, with relatively unrestricted power, the chances for abuse, illegality, error, and arrogance rises dramatically. The current issue of the McVeigh “found” files is a good example. Some will see this a conspiracy by the FBI to withhold information about unknown others involved in the Oklahoma City bombing. I see it as incompetent paperwork negligence. The FBI spy scandals, the Wen-Ho Lee case, and others are examples of an agency which has outgrown its charter. Too much, too big, too many arms in too many pots, that is the FBI. However, because the FBI has screwed up in this area, they will ask for more money to upgrade records systems, more money to hire more records personnel, more money to hire more analysts, more money to hire more agents, etc. A new director will be brought in. He (or she) will go to Congress with promises of reform, modernization, and upgrades. All they need is more money and more personnel. And Congress will give it to them.
"Believe me, there is enough for any watchdog group to investigate without trying to make the Oklahoma City bombing more than it was. It was not a major government conspiracy." Jess Guy - retired ATF
There is a strong anti-gun movement within Congress. I watched an MSNBC program “The .50 Caliber Militia” the other night. An interesting program. Unfortunately it was weak on technical data and strong on emotion. Spokesmen/women for pro-gun activities were fringy at best, goofy at worst. However, Congressman Henry Waxman (29th District) from California was the most frightening spectre of a person in political power that I have seen in many years. He actually reminded me of Himmler when he spoke of taking firearms away from the American public. 50 caliber is not the issue, we know that. Lawful ownership of firearms is the issue. We need to organize efforts to defeat these sorts during re-election times. Senator Dianne Feinstein is a rabid anti-gun representative. Long before the federal “assault weapon” law was passed I spoke with some of her staffers about the silliness of the proposed legislation. They knew it! It was just a step in the process of eliminating firearms from the civilian population.
Mike Baker: I have found that, by and large, the Second Amendment community is either naive or willfully ignorant of the criminal element in their midst, as well as the criminal element, by and large, who don’t care either way about the law and the Constitution. Many of these elements are foundational reasons for the undermining our Second Amendment rights because they are simply criminals, trafficking in illegal arms, etc. Can you recount one of your more high-profile criminal cases you worked on while serving with the ATF?
Jess Guy: Unfortunately, many in the gun rights movement haven’t been able to recognize the dangerous hanger-on. Tim McVeigh was (is) just such a person. Also, some of those in the gun rights movement use words like “war,” “armed resistance,” “shoot them in the head,” “pry cold fingers,” etc. Many of us see this as just rhetoric, but some may see it as a mandate for violent anti-government action. These types of threats don’t work against a government agency or its agents. Congress, however, reacts to this sort of thing by expanding federal “anti-terrorism” laws, hiring more federal agents, arguing for limitations of individual’s rights (as they relate to firearms ownership), and passing more onerous firearms laws. We need to be voices of reason.
As far as “high-profile” cases, most of my cases were directed at felons with guns, drug dealers with guns, and some people who were converting semi-auto weapons to full-auto for resale. Several cases dealt with arms smuggling from the US to Japan, South America, or other countries. Several cases dealt with arms being bought for sale directly for drug gangs, violent street gangs, etc. Some gun dealers were actually crooks (surprise) and let greed get the better of them. Some dealers sold guns with false records or no records at all. In one case we arrested three people, one a deputy sheriff who was a federal firearms dealer, who had sold over 1200 handguns at gun shows, and falsified the records on every sale. Names of relatives and co-workers were used instead of the actual purchaser. One 80 year old lady had over 50 Ravens registered to her in the California system. I also spent several years working undercover on motorcycle gangs (drugs, guns, bombs, etc.) I was not unique. Many ATF agents also worked in this capacity. Some getting into situations which were life-threatening. Agents have been injured, assaulted, shot, beaten, and kidnapped in some of these investigations. This includes both male and female agents. We all could tell stories about our “exploits”...some of them might even be true!
Mike Baker: What are your opinions and views on the “militarization” within the field of Federal, State, and Local law enforcement? Most “Old School” law enforcement officers have stated their alarm at some of these trends within the field.
Jess Guy: This is not a new phenomenon. Law enforcement in the United States has always been quasi-militaristic. Uniforms, rank, organizational structures, policies and procedures are reflective of military operations. Equipment parallels military hardware, from weapons to radios, from crowd control to security assignments. The downsizing of the military has opened up entirely new sources of equipment to local, state and federal agencies. From armored cars to night vision goggles. Surplus machine-guns have been offered to city police departments. When I was in ATF, and our budget was nonexistent, we established what would be known as Special Response Teams (SRT). Sort of like a SWAT team, but multi-dimensional. We had no equipment, no budget, nothing special—just a catchy name. I contacted the military surplus programs at various bases, and began obtaining camouflage outfits, web gear, and whatever hardware might be available. It was free to law enforcement. City, county, and state law enforcement agencies also obtained equipment. Los Angeles actually had a tractor trailer to pick up gear from the military. Generally, the use of military equipment isn’t a bad thing. It is primarily based on safety—usually for the officers. I don’t agree with the use of machine-guns by civilian law enforcement (including federal agencies)—although many police experts would disagree with me. We are not at war with the citizenry.
Militarization does create an atmosphere of warlike persona with some officers. That can be a bad thing if the officer goes in the streets considering him/herself as some sort of “warrior” in a battle against evil. Pretty soon the rules go out the window (ends justify means), good versus bad, no grey areas, no discretion. The Constitution is mangled. Agencies need to look at their policies toward implementation of use of force, increase interaction with community social services (as an option to arrest), and increased emphasis on recognizing the rights of the citizenry. There are no easy answers to law enforcement issues. The easy ones are usually wrong and dangerous. Banning semi-auto weapons is an easy answer, and wrong, and dangerous, and tyrannical.
Training on military bases has been a common practice for law enforcement agencies for years. The use of military facilities has given law enforcement new areas of practice, mostly for high risk warrant executions, large scale operations, command and control training for supervisors, and the like. The military does a good job of moving armed personnel in conflict situations. Law enforcement has accepted those concepts and applied them to their own operations. A caveat is that US (domestic) law enforcement must not adopt a “warfare” mind set. See above. Law enforcement is a societal phenomenon—designed to insure domestic tranquility. That is, keep the peace and protect the citizenry. It is not occupation nor control. Unfortunately we have accepted these concepts of war on drugs, war against terrorists, war against drunk drivers, war against domestic violence, war against pornography, war against gangs, war against graffiti, ad stupidity.
One good example of the military aspect of ATF was the acquisition of several OV-10 Bronco’s by ATF from the military. Boy, did that raise a stink! Soldier of Fortune, and others, all saw that as ATF’s attempt to attack ground personnel (gun owners) with these wonderful aircraft. The truth was ATF for years had used aircraft, primarily for aerial surveillance, and we always leased them, at a rather high cost. We got the OV-10's from the military for free! But the catch (isn’t there always?) was that we had to civilianize them, remove all military armament—which was done, and then set them up for maintenance. The overall cost of maintenance and operation of this wonderful bird, was more than our original lease costs for civilian aircraft. We also found that while the airplane could carry lots of gear and stay on station for a long time, it was very noisy. That meant that it sort of gave itself away when hovering over an area! Not a good thing for surveillance. Its unique profile also was a dead giveaway anywhere we landed. Sort of like, “I’m not really from the government, ignore my airplane, I’ll go away and don’t talk to me.” So ATF turned them over to the Forest Service.
Mike Baker: In the last ten years, there have been a number of big city agencies nationwide that have been seized by the Federal government and bound to “consent decrees,” most under the pretext of “civil rights violations.” These are campaigns that continue, spearheaded by people with big government ideologies and proponents of centralized control. Recently, in Riverside County, CA, the Riverside PD was bound to an “agreement” with the state DOJ and AG Bill Lockyer under the same pretext, a changing of the legal terms but basically the same thing. What are your opinions and views concerning the “Federalization” of the Local LE agency?
Jess Guy: Bad, bad, bad. I firmly believe that the police powers in this country rest primarily with state and local officers (based on Constitutional authority and I know that large federal law enforcement agencies are susceptible to secret abuses of power). That dictates there is need for some sort of watchdog to insure that those protections afforded all of us under the Constitution are recognized and available to all persons within the borders of the United States. Sometimes this can only be assured through some outside neutral agency. That may mean a civil rights agency or police review agency. This would be someone removed from the enforcement of laws, but well versed in law enforcement.
The bad part of federalization is where “task forces” are created, where federal, state, local agencies “cooperate” in investigations. This dilutes the federal concern to doing local police work, ingratiates the local agencies to the feds (because of $$$), and allows the federal agencies to claim inflated statistics of crime fighting which have no bearing on federal matters. That means more money to the federal agency, more federal agents, more federalization, etc. It really blurs the line between a federal enforcement agency and a local enforcement agency, and makes “feds” of all police. This is not a good thing. Law enforcement must be responsive to the community where it works.
Mike Baker: Why is the Federalization of the Local LE agency so dangerous, especially within the framework of the Second Amendment debate?
Jess Guy: See above, but also...lets look at the 4th, 5th, 6th, 14th Amendments first. There are so many exceptions to Constitutional search and seizure proscriptions that defense attorneys are fighting every day to overcome what used to be “unreasonable” search and seizures. This country, and NRA members also, have allowed the police to violate certain people’s rights for so long, that it now is coming home to roost. Who really cares if a drug dealer’s rights are violated...as long as the drugs are off the streets? Guess what? Violation of anyone’s Constitutional Rights affects us all. So much for the Fourth Amendment. The right to remain silent and not be forced to incriminate oneself had to go back to the Supreme Court recently for confirmation. Many conservatives have said that it doesn’t matter how you get the murderer, rapist, drug dealer to confess. Guess what? Gun owners are now seeing, what they thought were innocent comments, used against them in court. So much for the First and Fifth Amendment. The right to have an attorney when questioned by the police has actually been weakened in many cases. Persons arrested for one crime can be questioned about a separate and unrelated crime without benefit of counsel, even after they have invoked Miranda. So much for the Fifth and Sixth Amendments. Of course, the 14th Amendment applies these protections to state and local actions...but if the courts continue to whittle away at such rights Due Process itself falls by the wayside....
As to the Second Amendment, as long as the Supreme Court has not ruled on the issue of collective v. individual rights, there will be conflict. We have to remind police officers that they are not immune from federal gun prosecution—just as any other citizen, even if they innocently break certain laws. The misdemeanor domestic violence law for example. The fact is, that as long as police officers have been given exemptions under most gun laws, they don’t have a concern about the loss of those rights to the rest of the public. They need to be reminded, that can change very quickly, and they can lose those exemptions. The bottom line is that the framers of the Constitution did a good thing when they decreed equal justice for all.
Mike Baker: Do you feel the Federal LE framework has over-stepped its Constitutional bounds in intruding on local LE affairs?
Jess Guy: Yes. The Constitution sets up a federal government of limited powers. There is no true police power therein. Federal law enforcement is generally based on taxation or commerce clauses. That’s why unlawful possession of a machine-gun was a tax code violation for over 50 years. What federal interest is there in prosecuting a person who possesses a hunting rifle and has a 10 year old felony for bad checks. A local issue, sure (maybe)...but not federal. Most domestic violence cases are family, husband-wife, boyfriend-girlfriend, ex-spouse, ex-date, etc. They are easily handled in local courts. But a federal law now says that if one is convicted of a domestic violence charge, even a misdemeanor, you are banned from firearms possession for life. Why? ATF has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to find old domestic violation misdemeanors and take guns away from those person so affected. Arguments are made that these are tools to use against the truly bad person, but they are actually being used against persons who have no clue as to the prohibitions so suffered as a result of their convictions. There exists numerous laws about proscribed violence in society. Robbery, rape, murder, burglary of dwellings, carjackings, shootings, etc. Therein lies the area for punishment. In state and local courts. Not federal. It has become a cheap and easy way for politicians to “pass a law” and claim they are fighting crime. They don’t care about the results. Federal agencies should stay within an arena of bank fraud, securities crimes, espionage, matters which have a direct impact on interstate commerce (not some tenuous whimsical relationship), matters directly relate to national security, and the like. We need to downsize the federal agencies to get a better handle on appropriate crimes. The FBI has too much to do. That’s why it screws up, and is also why it’s so scary. It can poke its nose into anything now. Spies, organized crime, national security, bank/stocks/securities, are the areas for the FBI. They do not belong on the streets chasing some low level drug dealer. Or even a mid-level drug dealer.
Mike Baker: In a letter dated August 22, 2000, an unnamed NRA member, in response to his personal query, received a letter from the U. S. Department of Justice, Office of the Solicitor General, stating that the U.S. Government: “...Did indeed take the position that the Second Amendment does not extend an individual right to keep and bear arms.” This was after stating a few examples of case law. At first I laughed at the transparency of it all, then was grieved at the implications. What is your opinion of this?
Jess Guy: Do you want my opinion of the stated government position or my opinion of the individual right to keep and bear arms?
Mike Baker: Oh, please address both. You have the floor.
Jess Guy: What the Department of Justice says about its position is just that. A position. Until the US Supreme Court directly addresses the issue of individual vs. collective right, there will be disagreement. Of course, even after that, disagreement will continue, but there will be some sort of judicial agreement anyway. A lot depends on the Attorney General and his/her staff. We have come out of a very incompetent (my opinion) infrastructure within the Department of Justice, and now are moving into an unknown future. Will the Attorney General’s Office argue before the Supreme Court about these rights? I don’t know. The power of Congress to fund the Executive Branch is a strong means of influence. See my remark on Congressman Waxman above. However, I do know that the official Department of Justice policy, and therefore the policy of all the enforcement agencies is as stated, the Second Amendment does not extend an individual right to keep and bear arms.
As to my personal opinion about the individual right, under the U.S. Constitution, to keep and bear arms, I’m leaning more towards the individual right aspect, but still haven’t read enough of the Federalist Papers, Jefferson, and all the other founders, to honestly decide at this time. There is no doubt in my mind that the Second Amendment refers to the right of a State to maintain a self-defense force. Whether this is a militia of all citizens, or an organized state reserve or guard, I don’t know. Again, there is Constitutional authority for some vehicle which a state may use, without federal intervention, for security.
Also, I do believe in a God-given right to defend oneself, family, and country. That means use of arms, not words or lawsuits. To defend myself and my family no government, whether legally constituted or not, can deprive me of the means of such defense. That means arms (firearms). Period. So I guess my answer is that my belief starts beyond the Constitution. To defend my country, I’ll accept government tanks, helicopter gunships, frigates, etc. I don’t need them to defend myself or my family (yet)—but that’s my stance.
Mike Baker: Now, if we could explore the international front a little. The United Nations is convening “... An 11-day meeting beginning July 9 (2001) at U.N. headquarters in New York, where every extremist anti-gun group in the world will show up at a summit on ‘small arms’.” Their stated goal is to “... Attempt to create a global standard of gun control, banning civilian fire arms ownership worldwide.” The American people are naive to think they will be exempt from this. What is your opinion of this?
Jess Guy: Somalia, Bosnia, Northern Ireland, Middle East (Lebanon, Palestine), Sri Lanka, Peru, Columbia, Afghanistan, ad nauseam. No one can ban small arms from global conflict. Banning civilian firearms is the predecessor to tyranny. That is one concept I accept. I see the reality that a tyrant in any country will go to the UN and say, “My country is in turmoil, we need the UN troops to come and take all the guns from our civilians.” Sort of like King George in 1776. What a frightening thought! I would rather live in a country in anarchy than in a dictatorship. I do not fear my neighbor as much as I fear my government. But neither need be if we use the power of the ballot—not the bullet, and we look carefully at our elected officials.
Mike Baker: With the ever growing influence and communications capabilities of the Internet and the world-wide communications hook-up, the American LE community is coming under the ever-increasing influence of overseas law enforcement, especially within private email groups and small organizations. The main offenders are Great Britain, Australia, and Canada, our “allies,” governments whose citizens and Police officials have grown up under monarchical, authoritarian regimes, with no concept of personal freedom as guaranteed under our unique Constitution. Do you have any comments for the American LE community in resisting this negative influence?
Jess Guy: The United States of America is a unique nation with a unique Constitution. We must resist the temptation to fall into line with other nations who have abrogated individual rights, become socialistic paternalistic controllers of thoughts, minds and hearts (!) of their citizenry. Power corrupts—that is one true fact of society and history. Power must be decentralized, fragmented, scrupulously examined, and held accountable. The American law enforcement community has to be a protector of the rights of citizens against the tyrannies of government even more than it sees its responsibilities to apprehend criminals. Incarceration of law breakers doesn’t insure a free democracy. The world is full of jailed dissidents (criminals) in communist countries. American law enforcement must stay within the confines of social service. Law enforcement is but a part of the overall picture however. As long as politicians are using law enforcement officers to repress democracy—we have a serious problem. We must look to the politicians first.
Mike Baker: Now to California. You’re currently a California resident, correct?
Jess Guy: Yes.
Mike Baker: Did you ever serve with the BATF in California?
Jess Guy: Yes, 1971-1974 and 1983-1998. I also worked in Alaska, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Washington, Nevada, the Territory of Guam and the Northern Marianas. I further worked numerous investigations with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and several investigations with the Japanese National Police.
Mike Baker: What an impressive career! I’m curious, and this is a personal query. Officer Leroy Pyle, founder of the Second Amendment PD and a former member of the NRA BOD, was a solitary voice for a long time in his defense of the Second Amendment as an active California street cop. He’s an interesting piece of California LE history. At the time officer Leroy Pyle was serving with the San Jose PD, the feud between he and Chief McNamara was pretty well known. What were, at the time, and are, your thoughts and observations of the conflict?
Jess Guy: I was the ATF RAC in San Jose when this “feud” existed. Both Leroy Pyle and Chief McNamara talked with me once or twice about the subject. I tried to remain neutral. I believe Joseph McNamara was a good Chief for San Jose, and I hold Leroy Pyle in the highest esteem as a police officer and an advocate for firearms owners’ rights. That may sound wishy-washy, but it really means that intelligent minds can differ greatly on a single issue. Both of these gentlemen argued their causes effectively, although Leroy was hampered by in-house constraints, whereas the Chief was not. I personally disagreed with the concepts of semi-auto firearms being some sort of evil, and the technical arguments made by the anti-gun crowd were specious and weak. Leroy made some very good presentations about the fallacies and inaccuracies of the anti-gunners. Chief McNamara has gone on to the Hoover Institute to support decriminalization of some controlled substances, strict control of police activity, and still is pro-gun control. Leroy is obviously continuing his service through NRA training programs and gun rights advocacy.
Mike Baker: You were recently featured in an NRA infomercial, I believe the NRA refers to it as the “Banned” video, that ran in California before the 2000 Presidential elections, as well as published in the February, 2001, issue of the NRA’s magazine, “America’s 1st Freedom.” It chronicles the views of, not only you, but other active duty and retired law enforcement professionals on gun ownership and the Second Amendment. Although I wasn’t too surprised at the presence of the State and Local LE organizations represented in these other men, you, being a retired ATF Agent was pretty unique. After all, the ATF is considered “anti-gun” and the “enforcement arm of the anti-gun extremists.” Why did you feel led to do this; take this high-profile stand?
Jess Guy: First, it was the right thing to do, in light of the onerous restrictions imposed on the citizens of California by a legislature bent on abolishing private firearms ownership. Second, the case of Mr. Roy Denny was so appalling to me that I had to make some sort of statement. Again, this was a case which I had direct personal knowledge and involvement with. I didn’t read anything from any right or left publication which caused me to respond. I was angered that an individual, with no prior criminal record, about to retire from years of faithful government service, could be charged with a crime regarding a firearm he had lawfully owned for over 20 years. The police took legal firearms from his home, without a warrant, searched his home without a warrant, charged him with crimes for which they had to later drop—due to ignorance of the firearms they took, and ultimately brought a felony charge against him, through a district attorney’s office which took months to admit that, at best, they had a minor technical violation of the law. The police mischaracterized many of Mr. Denny’s firearms, they tried to make him into some sort of survivalist/militia member, which was a total fabrication. Their actions cost him thousands of dollars in legal fees. They also stored his firearms inappropriately, allowing several unfired collector’s items to rust badly. Even though the city responsible did pay damages to Mr. Denny for the negligent storage of his firearms, their value was still reduced considerably. All in all, it was a terrible example of law enforcement and prosecution out of control in the firearms’ world. There are others....
Mike Baker: Hmmmm.... Your views on the Second Amendment, private gun ownership, and personal self-defense had to have put you at odds with ATF administration at one time or another when you were serving. Where you ever penalized or suffered loss for this? How did you cope with this?
Jess Guy: I was always one of the few ATF agents with a real interest in firearms. That labeled me in-house as a “gun nut”, and other less than polite terms. However, the knowledge I had caused those same people to seek me out for court, for search warrants, for accurate firearms identification, and ultimately to be used as an instructor at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center-ATF Academy, in firearms technology. I was also privileged to represent ATF for a number of years as a member of its national pistol team in PPC competition. In all honesty, no one in the administration of ATF, nor any of my supervisors ever pressured me or hinted at anything about my firearms interest, where it might negatively impact on my job performance or evaluations. I would like to believe that they recognized my interest and knowledge, and my professional approach to the job as an asset to the agency. I know of many other agents with the same interests in firearms, but under some of today’s pressures and politics, that interest has been kept somewhat hidden. And we no longer have any pistol team.
Mike Baker: Many active duty street cops I correspond with—many—are adamantly opposed to current gun control schemes, as they have now careened into the absurd. They only serve to disarm the law-abiding and they are loath to supporting any of it as it now stands. Do you have anything to say to the American law enforcement community concerning the Second Amendment and their vows to the U.S. Constitution, gun registration, confiscation, and control, and their place and voice in the matter?
"Any law enforcement officer must take an oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution and usually the state constitution, and all laws pertaining thereto. That means that the officer must uphold the law...." Jess Guy - retired ATF
Yet many of the laws passed reach a point of absurdity which are impossible to debate. The presence or absence of a flash hider, bayonet lug, or other arcane device becomes a law enforcement problem. They can’t even define a flash hider accurately. What is an officer to do? The officer must make a legal decision on a legislatively dishonest law.
One extreme cross-over example is in California (where else?). If a husband and wife have an argument, and an allegation of striking, pushing, shoving occurs, the police have a legal right per California law to seize every firearm in the residence and request they be destroyed. They need no warrant to do this (“consent”—always given by “someone” for the entry—there goes the Fourth Amendment again), even if there is no allegation of firearms abuse, use, threat, hint, suggestion, mention, memory, etc. While discretion should allow an officer to order the suspect to give his firearms to a family member, or his attorney, it is rarely done. The politics of domestic violence laws ignore this option. Officers have abrogated that discretion and now take all firearms, regardless of the nature of the event. Guns are confiscated and serious court actions are required to protect the rights of the client, not only for the alleged criminal charge, but also in the ownership rights of the property seized.
So, while I would never advise an officer to ignore the law or violate an oath of office, I do strongly support an officer’s use of discretion in the field.
Mike Baker: Do you have any suggestions for wholly independent, pro-Second Amendment law enforcement organizations, like the Second Amendment Police Department and Law Enforcement for the Preservation of the Second Amendment, in continuing the effective execution of their stated endeavors, specifically, reaching out to the American law enforcement community in all its forms?
Jess Guy: We all need to remind law enforcement officers that the restrictions now being forced on private citizens can very easily reach even to law enforcement officers, especially while off-duty. One local large city is now mandating that its officers keep service weapons locked up at home when off-duty. Police officers have traditionally been immune from any firearms laws. That will not continue, so they need to understand that their special rights are threatened also. Further, they need to understand that seizure and confiscation laws which are passed ultimately may place them at odds with those Americans who have never committed a crime, other than “(un)lawful” firearms ownership. Willful resistance to those laws could easily lead to justifications for disobeying other laws. More onerous laws are passed to force citizens to comply, Constitutional rights are lost, extremists on both sides have a greater voice, and lines are drawn. Society suffers, the police are put in an untenable position, greater rifts develop within factions, and we either see a police state develop or anarchy. Both are bad.
Mike Baker: Do you have anything to say to those American citizens who, by and large, don’t think the Second Amendment debate has any bearing on or relevance to them?
Jess Guy: Once again, I would point to the chipping away of those other Constitutional Rights upon which this nation is based. This is not just a Second Amendment issue, although it has strong merit in the rights of all citizens. If firearms’ owners are suspect because of nothing more than possession of certain type of firearm, then so will possession of anything that activist groups denounce become a crime. That could mean tobacco (oops—already there), alcohol (oops—already there), Playboy (getting close), and so it goes. Your right to live your life “in the pursuit of happiness” is at stake. Do you think Dianne Feinstein and her multi-million dollar “mountain cabin” in Vail, Colorado, cares about your right to privacy? The issue is what laws will allow the government to enter your life and control your actions? This means the loss of rights to privacy, rights to travel, rights to speak your mind, rights to property, rights to run your business as you see fit, rights to hire/fire/promote. However, and this is something no one should be allowed to forget, the Second Amendment is the only Amendment in the Constitution which deals with the right of the people to posses a particular item (arms). Not buggies, wagons, horses, sewing machines, plows, boats, or any other item common to own in the late 1700's. That means something. It goes beyond ownership or possession. The right to keep and bear arms is Constitutionally mandated.
As to the direct reference to the Second Amendment, there is an underlying right ascribed to by the words “the security of a free State.” Security denotes a means of defense. Keeping and bearing arms for the security of a free State requires the citizens of that state to actively exercise that right. Each person also has the inalienable (unalienable—per John Adams) right to self-defense. Whether a person wants to exercise that right is immaterial. It exists. I want to exercise that right and my ownership of firearms allows me to realize that right. I have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Read the Declaration of Independence. Ownership of firearms allows me to be secure in my life and liberty—and prevents others from denying me my right to “pursue” happiness. Again, if someone elects not to exercise that right, it’s fine with me. But the right is there, it exists, and I have that right. Period.
Mike Baker: An NRA Grassroots Coordinator I know, in private conversation, was shrewd in stating that the NRA is the only gun-rights organization out there with the political, media, and social framework, in place to make a credible impact on the national forum for the defense of the Second Amendment—that in countering the leftist money being poured into organizations like HCI. I tend to agree, although at times it appears they are impotent. Although I believe law enforcement organizations like the Second Amendment Police Department and Law Enforcement for the Preservation of the Second Amendment deal with a very exclusive and unique community, do you feel membership in the NRA is still the best way to go for the private citizen?
Jess Guy: Yes. The NRA isn’t impotent, it has just hitched its wagon to some faces in Congress who really haven’t been supportive recently. I really think we need to reach outside of traditional supporters and recruit businesspeople, more movie stars (!), judges, those who can counter the negative image of gun-toting extremists so regularly seen on the 6 o’clock news. Thank God for Charlton Heston. He may be getting a little long in the tooth, and he may say some things which have caused me to cringe, but he is nationally recognized figure of broad based appeal. We need such people. Handgun Control is a very politically astute organization. They have a lot of money and the soul of the California political administration. They also prove the point that you don’t have to know anything about the topic to influence legislation. We argue facts, they argue emotion.
Mike Baker: Any other ideas on solutions?
Jess Guy: Vote, vote, vote. Make your voice heard. Don’t call them names, don’t threaten warfare, don’t say “they’ll have to pry my cold dead fingers,” etc. Ask pertinent questions—”Why, Mr. or Mrs./Ms. Legislator do you think I am a threat to society?” “How does my ownership of a firearm become a crime?” “What have I done that harms anyone?” Look to local elections and local politicians. Friends of the NRA groups are very important. Ask questions of law enforcement leaders, police chiefs, sheriffs, etc. Invite them to speak to your groups. Open a dialogue. As an ATF supervisor I accepted every invitation to speak to any organization.
Mike Baker: Yes, dialoguing as we have done here. It certainly removes the cloak of mystery and fear. One more thing, and this is a little off topic. Have you ever owned, worn, or seen worn by any other Federal agent, at any time, a pair of “jack boots” ? :-D
Jess Guy: See my attached letter to the editor (San Jose Mercury News-June 19, 1995)
Mike Baker: Once again, sir, my personal thanks and appreciation for this interview, not only for myself and the American people, but the law enforcement community as well. This has been absolutely fascinating and insightful.
Jess Guy: Thank you for listening to my pontificating. Keep the Faith.
Mike Baker: Roger that, sir! Outstanding!
The Second Amendment PD is a pro-Second Amendment law enforcement organization headed by retired Police Officer Leroy Pyle to press the concerns of professional law enforcement concerning the citizen's Constitutional right to self-defense and to keep and bear arms.
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"Interview With The Bogeyman" © 2001 Michael A. Baker
This material is copyrighted to prevent altering or reproducing for profit. Any reproduction is expressly forbidden without prior approval from the author and the Second Amendment PD! Permission for reproduction and reposting by active duty and retired Local, State, and Federal, LE personnel on a personal website or within their restricted forums is implied.
Michael A. Baker is a free-lance and published author, Second Amendment writer, the former list Chaplain for the Second Amendment PD (In Cyber-space), as well as the former citizen [non-sworn] Vice-president of the Inland Police Officers Coalition (IPOC).
The Second Amendment Police Department badge and logo is the property of Officer Leroy Pyle (San Jose PD Ret.), owner and director of the Second Amendment PD organization. Find us on the web at http://www.2ampd.net/
This interview is not to be misconstrued in any way as representing the current views and policies of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF), the United States Department of Justice, or the United States Government.