Agency That Enforces Gun Laws Can’t Keep Track of Its Own Weapons
FEBRUARY 27, 2014
Here’s a frightening example of government ineptitude; agents at the federal law enforcement agency responsible for cracking down on the illegal use and trafficking of firearms can’t keep track of their own work-issued guns.
The irony is confounding, but the documents don’t lie. A Wisconsin newspaper has obtained five years’ worth of internal reports that show the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has lost track of dozens of government-issued guns. How could this possibly happen? The federal agents simply failed to retrieve their weapon after stashing it under the front seat of their car or in the glove compartment. Some left their gun on top of their vehicles and drove away, the internal reports reveal.
Others left their work-issued firearm behind in public bathroom stalls, at hospitals, outside movie theaters and even on an airplane, according to the records which were obtained by the newspaper under the public-records law known as the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Sounds like the infamous American comedy duo Abbott and Costello would have fit right into the ATF’s 2,400-agent roster.
This kind of negligence occurred at least 45 times between 2009 and 2013 and most of the weapons were handguns, though at least two were assault rifles. Here are a few examples; an ATF agent in Illinois lost his Smith & Wesson after leaving it on top of his car while dropping off his kids at a soccer game. The gun was later recovered on an off-ramp. A North Dakota agent never recovered his gun after forgetting about it on a car roof. In Iowa two 6-year-old boys found a loaded ATF gun in a storm drain!
In southern California an agent lost his ATF-issued Glock after a night of drinking with colleagues. The weapon was never recovered and no one will ever know the agents’ names or if they were disciplined because the information is conveniently blacked out in the reports, the news story says. In Milwaukee an undercover agent had three firearms, including a machine gun, stolen from his government truck in late 2012.
Unfortunately, this sort of thing has been going for years at the ATF, which operates within the Department of Justice (DOJ) and is also charged with protecting against the illegal use and storage of explosives and the illicit diversion of alcohol and tobacco products. As far back as 2008, the DOJ Inspector General disclosed that the ATF loses weapons more frequently than other federal law enforcement agencies. As an example the watchdog disclosed that the ATF lost 76 firearms—nearly double the rate of the FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)—during a five-year span.
The ATF has also been rocked by another major scandal recently involving a disastrous federal experiment (dubbed Fast and Furious) that let Mexican drug traffickers obtain U.S.-sold weapons, mostly assault rifles known as AK-47s. The insane plan was to eventually trace the guns to drug cartels but instead the agency lost track of the firearms and many surfaced in a number of crime scenes, including the murder of a U.S. Border Patrol agent in Peck Canyon Arizona.
Judicial Watch has been a leader in investigating Fast and Furious and has sued the Obama DOJ as well as the ATF for records. As part of the ongoing probe, JW has obtained internal government documents that show the number of crimes connected to the failed operation is significantly higher than the Obama administration has revealed. The records include details of the various crime scenes in which the high-powered Fast and Furious rifles were used, including violent kidnappings and homicides.
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