- Gentlemen, start your drones: Judge’s ruling opens door for commercial use
- Soldier who hid, bragged about not saluting flag to be punished — in secret
- ‘Maverick’ of the seas: ‘Top Gun’ school for U.S. ship officers to launch
- Putin declares Sochi Paralympics open amid Ukrainian protest
- ‘In Jesus name, we pray’ sparks ire at Ohio council meeting
- Navy’s first laser weapon ready for prime time; drone killer to deploy this summer
- Billionaire backer: Rick Santorum ‘needs to be heard’ in 2016
- Obamacare fallout: 49 percent pessimistic; 45 percent ‘scared’
- DHS accused of holding U.S. citizen at airport, using emails to pry into her sex life
- Seattle socialist: Minimum-wage discussion skewed by ‘right-wing’ GAO analysis
Report: 6 in 10 federal firearms licensees escape inspection; more than 170K guns lost or stolen
Congress has been looking to increase inspections on some types of private gun purchases, but federally licensed firearms dealers — whose sales already are subject to background checks — may need more scrutiny themselves, according to a Justice Department audit.
More than 170,000 firearms have been lost or stolen from the inventories of federally licensed dealers since 2004, and about 6 in 10 dealers had gone at least five years without a compliance inspection from 2007 to 2012.
The report from Justice's inspector general says the department doesn't have enough investigators and has too many other competing priorities to audit dealers, whose numbers increased by 16 percent — 106,214 to 123,587 — from 2004 to 2011.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives increased its number of investigators by 22 percent in that time frame, from 510 to 624, but even that wasn't enough to keep up.
"Despite this increase, ATF field divisions told ATF headquarters in 2012 that they were still understaffed by 45 percent and that they needed 504 more investigators to conduct all inspections due that year," the investigators said.
The ATF has set a goal of performing compliance inspections at least every five years, and in some cases three years, to make sure dealers are obeying federal firearms laws, keeping transaction records and logging all the firearms they acquire and sell.
But in the past five years more than 58 percent of dealers — 73,204 out of 125,481 — had not been inspected, and from 2004 to 2011, dealers had 174,679 firearms stolen or lost from their inventories, though the report did not specify the dispositions of those weapons or how many were subsequently used in crimes.
The findings come as President Obama and Congress search for consensus on guns after December's shooting rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School claimed the lives of 20 children and six faculty members.
Senators earlier this month rejected a plan to expand background checks on gun purchases to include private sales over the Internet or at gun shows.
Lawmakers have been reluctant to push dealers too far. Language attached to federal appropriations measures in recent years prevents ATF from requiring licensed dealers to conduct yearly inventories, among other restrictions. Dealers still must report lost or stolen guns.
Rep. Charles B. Rangel, New York Democrat, recently introduced a bill that would push the federal government to do more to oversee licensed dealers.
"We need to empower the ATF so they can identify and prosecute unlawful gun dealers and traffickers that fuel the epidemic of gun violence in this country," Mr. Rangel said.
Mr. Obama has also pressed the Senate to approve Acting Director B. Todd Jones as permanent director of the agency. The chamber has not signed off on a permanent head for ATF since the position became Senate confirmable in 2006.
The auditors do credit ATF with making changes and improvements to its inspection program after a July 2004 review. Such changes include reducing the number of inspections done by phone and implementing an initiative to prioritize inspections of "high risk" dealers.
But ATF says there's only so much it can do with limited resources.
"Shifting existing resources to meet cyclical inspection goals is not a viable option," Mr. Jones wrote in his response to the audit.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
David Sherfinski covers politics for The Washington Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- CPAC 2014: Presidential support for Carson rises
- Palin dings Obama, calls for conservative reinforcements in Washington
- CPAC 2014: Carson 'not sure' what God has in store for him
- CPAC 2014: Gingrich says it's time for a 'big rebellion on the battlefield of ideas'
- CPAC 2014: Bachmann says country will elect 'right' female president
Latest Blog Entries
TWT Video Picks
Taxpayers must pay the freight for over-budget train projects
- Kim Jong-un calls for execution of 33 Christians
- Rand Paul wins 2014 CPAC straw poll, Ted Cruz finishes a distant second
- Senate Democrats, Republicans spar over restoring unemployment benefits
- 80 people publicly executed across North Korea for films, Bibles
- Bill Clinton poses for photo with Bunny Ranch prostitutes
- CURL: The modern GOP really is Reagan's 'Big Tent' party
- U.S. pilot scares off Iranians with 'Top Gun'-worthy stunt: 'You really ought to go home'
- Six Senate seats could hinge on Keystone pipeline
- Russias Putin nominated for Nobel Peace Prize
- CPAC 2014: Straw poll signals Paul-Cruz showdown
Pope Francis meets his 'mini-me'
Celebrity deaths in 2014
Winter storm hits states — again