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EDITORIAL: Why would ATF announce rally plans?

For 20 years the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has sent agents to the Sturgis Rally. But this year the ATF will only send one agent because of sequester cuts.

In what has become what seems like a weekly news release from one federal agency or another, ATF officials blamed sequestration for reducing the law enforcement agency's presence at the annual motorcycle rally.

Well, OK. But why publicize the decision?

ATF agents are at the rally to monitor gang activity and try to prevent an outbreak of gang-related violence. During the 2006 rally, a confrontation between the Hells Angels and Outlaws motorcycle gangs erupted in a shootout at Custer State Park.

The ATF is just one of several law enforcement agencies that send personnel to the Sturgis rally, including the FBI, U.S. Marshals Service, National Guard, Bureau of Land Management and National Forest Service. The city of Sturgis hires extra police officers from within South Dakota and nearby states to maintain public safety.

Like any other large gathering of people, for the most part, the Sturgis rally is safe, thanks to the increased presence of law enforcement officers.

That still leaves open the question: Why would the ATF publicly announce that it was only sending one agent to this year's rally? Gang members read newspapers, too.

Is it to alarm the public? The ATF isn't alone among federal agencies using sequestration to target cuts that most impact the public.

If you're going to target sequestration cuts at functions that compromise public safety, don't tell the bad guys.

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