As reported in this column (March story here), Senator Grassley has been investigating ATF gun programs “Project Gunrunner and Operation Fast and Furious.” His investigations led to the discovery of Department of Justice (DOJ) and ATF misrepresentations the number of “missing or walked” firearms. An internal ATF inspection findings report finds, on average, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) loses track of roughly one million guns per year.
As demand for a special prosecutor rises in this scandal, the prosecutor assigned to litigate “Project Gunrunner” and its investigation companion “Fast and Furious” would find that the internal ATF report provides both statistics and a motive for a cover-up.
The report clearly states that 10, 538 inspections were performed in FY2010 or approximately 9 percent of dealers received a visit from an ATF Agent. (The ATF report also said the agency assigned less than 600 agents to perform dealer inspections around the country.)
Nevertheless, in FY2010 the ATF report draws attention to the initial-missing and final-missing firearms at those 9 percent of dealers are 87,225 and 21,041 respectively. “This means that roughly 1 million firearms are lost each year in the United States,” said a veteran ATF Agent.
The sheer volume of missing weapons could certainly cause any agency to stonewall outside investigations as well as members of Congress.
A July 4 meeting between the ATF front man Kenneth Melson and Congressional investigators revealed the Department of Justice has actively engaged in a “cover-up” and “remain silent” campaign concerning the controversial firearm program that allowed U.S. weapons to cross into Mexico in the hands of criminals.
The hush, hush meeting revealed a couple of things, first, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder knew a lot more about this operation than he has previously admitted and Melson, will not be the Obama Administration fall guy. This point was driven home when Melson brought his own attorney and didn’t inform AG Holder about the July 4 meeting until it was over.
Furthermore, Rep. Darrell Issa, (R-CA) chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, wrote in a letter last week to AG Eric Holder. “If his (Melson’s) account is accurate, then ATF leadership appears to have been effectively muzzled while the DOJ sent over false denials and buried its head in the sand. That approach distorted the truth and obstructed our investigation.”
The ATF’s Fog of War approach to recordkeeping can be found in a November 2010 a Department of Justice report where the Office of Inspector General highlighted ATF’s incompetence regarding record keeping. “Discrepancies were caused by incomplete data in ATF’s N-Force and N-Spect databases, inconsistent coding of work activities by ATF, errors in ATF’s description of the data, unsupportable data entries by ATF, and variations in the time frame covered by ATF’s data.”
These conflicting reports only lead to more questions. Is the ATF flat out incompetent or is DOJ orchestrating a major cover-up? If it’s the latter, the misinformation campaign waged by the Obama Administration regarding “Project Gunrunner” would postdate the Bush Administration.
However, the internal ATF January 2011 report does tie the lack of inspections of firearm businesses to understaffing. Another ATF Agent points to a severely under-staffed agency as a key component to ATF’s failure to effectively monitor gun sales in the country. Currently there are approximately 119,556 firearm dealers in America and less than 2,600 ATF Agents to staff all American offices as well as overseas operations.
Typically the ATF Agents find a broad stroke of infractions at firearm businesses and in 2010 there were 1,366 store violations and additional 1,408 received a warning letter from ATF. Of those dealers in violation only one-half of one percent saw their licenses revoked or denied renewal.
However, ATF officials said in most cases business owners corrected the paperwork while the remaining few dealers transferred the firearm company ownership to a friend or family member– making the closure of a gun store violator a rarity.
The most frequently cited firearm violations are failure to record sales information either accurately or in a timely fashion. This may be due to the complexity of the dealer paperwork involved (federal, state and local) that results in a greater number of administrative violations. Examples of these include a transferee that doesn’t properly complete the application or a licensee that fails to obtain or document the purchaser’s identification information. The use of abbreviations also plays a key role in paperwork that the ATF sends back to a dealer in the form of violations.
Inconsistence application of ATF rules have also led to a large number of violations. For example; An inside industry source says “ATF reporting parallels that of the IRS in as much as you could ask three ATF inspectors about three similar situations and receive three different answers. Often it is the firearm dealer/manufacturer that is more knowledgeable about ATF rules and regulations.”
Another little-known fact about ATF is the number of agents employed remains similar to the agency’s 1920s Prohibition era, yet the number of duties tasked to ATF Agents has increased exponentially to include tobacco, firearms and post- 9/11, explosives.
Nowhere is ATF’s job more important than on the nation’s southern border where the cartel violence continues to explode with nearly 40,000 murders in the past four years.
This past weekend in Mexico at least 40 murders were recorded in a 24-hour period. This escalating violence highlights the need for the American government to control firearms and money that are trafficked south of the border into the hands of cartels, gangs or terrorists. (Not ownership by law-abiding private American citizens).
The number of inconsistencies also confirms that ATF does not know where the thousands of missing guns end up. Even if ATF wanted to intensify their gun inspections, they don’t have the manpower to locate such a large cache of missing weapons.
However, one thing is clear; ATF requires a heavy-dose of housecleaning.
This investigation is evolving on a daily basis and this reporter encourages readers to check back for new stories as information warrants.
For more information on ATF; http://www.atf.gov/
© Copyright 2011 Kimberly Dvorak All Rights Reserved.
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