A new report by the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General found that 58% of gun shops were not properly monitored by the federal government to ensure that the stores comply with federal laws.
The report primarily points the finger at the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms. After all, the agency was created specifically to enforce gun distribution regulations. The ATF has apparently been falling short on one of its primary responsibilities, because 58% of federally licensed gun stores were not been inspected by the ATF over a five year period. The report called the ATF’s techniques “infrequent and inconsistent.”
The report also found that the ATF failed to keep track of whether or not investigators inspected “high risk” dealers along the US-Mexico border and in high-crime areas.
David Petronis, the owner of a store in Mechanicsville, New York, confirmed that the ATF had last stopped by to check his books “four or five years ago.” Stores like his that slip under the ATF’s radar might raise a few eyebrows, but the ATF’s oversight does not necessarily mean that these retailers are breaking any laws. Petronis argued that many of these stores operate well within federal guidelines. He stated, “Every [Federal Firearms License] dealer has to conform to all the rules and regulations the ATF puts out on the off chance they knock on your door in the morning.”
This report certainly makes the ATF (and the federal government along with it) look bad, but the ATF wasn’t about to take full responsibility. In a written response to the report, ATF officials argued that they lacked the resources to regularly inspect every single firearm distributor in America, requesting 504 additional investigators (a 45% increase) to get up to par.
The ATF has been growing – its workforce has increased by about 22% since 2004, but it’s still having a hard time catching up to the gun industry. During that same period, the number of licensed firearm dealers increased by 16%.
This report highlights a major flaw in the federal gun regulation system. In fact, some speculate that the Newtown shooting tragedy might have never happened if the ATF had been on the ball. Riverview Gun Sales, the distributor that sold Adam Lanza’s mother her firearms, was found to have more than 500 violations. How many other crimes could be prevented if the ATF could properly do its job?