ATF Can't Say If Firearms Lost by Agents Were Used in Crimes

Matt Vespa | February 28, 2014 | 9:41am EST
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A spokesperson for the ATF contacted to shed more light on a report that ATF agents are negligent when it comes to securing their own firearms.  For the primary federal agency dealing with policing firearms trafficking, it would be inexcusable if its 2,400 agents in the field can't properly keep track of their own weapons.

And, if they can't tell if the recovered guns had been used in crimes, it gives conservatives the ammunition (excuse the pun) they need to prove that the ATF - and Washington D.C. in general - shouldn't have one more inch of authority enforcing our gun control laws.

Yet, on Wednesday, an ATF spokesperson called to provide additional details. Speaking on background, the spokesperson said that, in 2012 only five firearms were reported lost or stolen: three were lost and two were stolen.  All three of the lost firearms were recovered a short time afterwards.  In 2011, four firearms were lost, but three were recovered a short time afterwards.  In total, 19 firearms were reported lost 2009-2012. Out of the 19, 13 were recovered shortly afterwards, one of which was reported lost through commercial shipping.

The percentage of firearms lost is small, ATF said, adding that most lost firearms are recovered a "short time afterwards" - but, the spokesperson could not say what constitutes a "short time." ATF assured that the duration was not a lengthy one.  Additionally, ATF noted that they have a "stringent" policy on properly securing and storing firearms issued to their agents.

There's also a question about the numbers.  From 2009-2013, there were reportedly 45 incidents of ATF-issued firearms that went missing or were stolen, but ATF's spokesperson only highlighted the 19 that were lost.

When asked about whether the firearms reported lost were used in any crimes, or about the fate of the 26 other firearms that were either stolen or lost, the ATF spokesperson said that the information was unavailable.

Additionally, the spokesperson was unable to comment on a 2008 report from the Office of the Inspector General from DOJ that said "the ATF has weapons stolen or loses them more frequently than other federal law enforcement agencies." Similarly, ATF was unable to comment on reported abuse relating to its  storefront operations.

A congressional hearing with the House Judiciary Committee was held Thursday on the storefront stings.

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