February 24, 2012 12:32PM

The Rise and Fall of DoJ’s ‘Gun‐​Show Sting’

Some legal stories weave together several distinct “Cato was right” themes. Among them is the news this week that the U.S. Department of Justice, conceding that its case has collapsed, has ended its prosecution of remaining defendants in the enormous “Africa Sting” case charging violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) [Reuters, Law​.com; my earlier post].

  • DoJ is overzealously picking fights under the vague and misguided FCPA statute. I warned about that last month in this space and you can read more at my blog “Overlawyered.”
  • Despite the Obama administration’s ostensible truce with Second Amendment supporters, anti‐​gun sentiment still runs high in some relevant Washington quarters. The Department of Justice chose to stage its biggest‐​ever prosecution by going after participants at a Las Vegas gun show, neatly advancing gun controllers’ longstanding portrayal of such shows as nests of lawbreaking. It now appears that, as juries see it, illegality at gun shows may not be quite as prevalent as some imagined.
  • Law enforcement stings are rife with dangers for liberty. Cato’s criticism of stings goes way back and includes Gene Healy last year on the Amish raw‐​milk sting and longstanding coverage of the outrages generated by sting operations in the war on drugs. (On the latter, see a recent “This American Life” segment on high school pot stings in Florida, as related by Mark Frauenfelder.) Although a recent sting against Google for accepting unapproved drug ads involved relying on a career con man, it paid off with a stunning $500 million fine payable to the government, which virtually ensures it will be repeated against other defendants.

To stay abreast of tomorrow’s Department of Justice embarrassments, keep reading Cato today.