THE SCENE: Police secured the cul-de-sac in West Little Rock where Bryan Malinowski lived. A U-Haul was prepped to be filled with items from Malinowski's house. Mary Hennigan

Over the last few years, we’ve all heard about and seen more of Hunter Biden than most of us would prefer. In addition to Marjorie Taylor Green’s pornographic presentation on the House floor, there are a litany of allegations and criminal charges that are regularly in the news. In one of the criminal cases, Biden is charged with lying about his drug abuse on ATF Form 4473 when purchasing a Colt Cobra revolver in October 2018.

As I’ve previously written, I’m a self-described gun nut who opposes new gun control legislation. I believe consistent enforcement of the gun control laws currently on the books would virtually eliminate the most common ways criminals gain access to guns, and would lead to a decrease in gun crime. I’ve also long been an advocate for more aggressive prosecution of those who make false statements on Form 4473, the document the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives uses to record firearms sales and confirm that they’re lawful.

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For those who are unfamiliar with the form, completing it is required when purchasing a firearm or one of many restricted firearms parts via a federal firearms licensee. False statements on Form 4473 are relatively common, but criminal prosecution for those crimes has been extremely rare. For example, in 2017 more than 112,000 so-called “lie and try” purchase attempts were stopped because a federal background check indicated that the purchaser was not legally eligible to own firearms. Of those, just 12 were prosecuted. 

Hunter Biden’s prosecution is uncommon, and it’s likely that he would never have been prosecuted for it at all if he weren’t a celebrity figure. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad he’s being prosecuted for it. I just wish the law was applied equally in the thousands of similar cases.

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Which brings us to another case that involves making false statements on Form 4473. There’s little doubt that much of the attention devoted to the Bryan Malinowski case is because he was rich and white. That’s an unfortunate reality, but just as with the O.J. Simpson case many years ago, attention follows wealth and celebrity.

Malinowski, the now deceased executive director of the Clinton National Airport in Little Rock, is alleged to have purchased guns through licensed dealers, completing Form 4473 each time. The form includes a sworn statement that he was purchasing the weapons for his own use, but Malinowski was suspected of selling those guns to other parties for cash, sometimes within 24 hours of making the original purchase. While much of the media discussion of the case has been about Malinowski’s alleged unlicensed sales, at the core of the allegations rests his sourcing of many of the firearms he sold.

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The ATF’s service of the Malinowski search warrant seems to me to be at best a bungled operation, and those responsible must answer for it. The pre-dawn raid on the Malinowski home raises several important questions. The ATF agents who conducted it did so without the body cameras they’re required to wear on raids. The body camera requirement has been the policy since President Biden instituted it to ensure accountability in the wake of Breonna Taylor’s death in 2020.

Did ATF agents knock? Did they announce who they were? Did they wait a reasonable time before breaching the door? Malinowski is dead, and we’ll never hear his side of the story. 

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This is deeply emotional and personal to me. I’m likely alive today because I used a firearm to end an attempted home invasion more than 40 years ago. If a bunch of armed men kicked in my door before daylight and barged into my home, I’d arm myself and confront them. If they were ATF agents, I’d almost certainly meet the same fate as Malinowski. I’d die believing I was defending myself and my family from dangerous intruders, and I wouldn’t be completely wrong.

But bad behavior, perhaps even criminal acts, by the ATF should in no way be used to minimize the serious allegations that Malinowski repeatedly falsified Form 4473 in order to supply weapons outside the background check system. One bad act does not excuse another.

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Numerous Arkansas politicians have called for the ATF to be held accountable for the apparently bungled service of the Malinowski search warrant. Many have condemned the entire investigation. Most if not all of those same politicians have also called for Hunter Biden to be prosecuted and imprisoned based on far less egregious allegations.

U.S. House Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan chimed in to refer to the Malinowski case as evidence of “weaponized” justice. He’s the same Jim Jordan who seeks imprisonment of Hunter Biden for a single, rarely prosecuted instance of making a false statement on Form 4473. It’s a sad and disappointing irony.

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Both the right and the left tend to make excuses for people they perceive as being on their own team. Political figures usually decide how they’ll react to a situation based on partisan affiliations and policy goals instead of allegiance to the rule of law, the facts and the evidence. It’s wrong and it has to stop.

We must each remember that we’re all Americans. We won’t always achieve it, but equal justice under the law should always be our goal. That’s how we make America even greater!