As fewer U.S. attorney's take on cases from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and ATF itself refers less cases to the district attorney's than in years past, official spokespeople blame sequestration and staffing woes for some of the drop-off.
Federal prosecutors brought 25 percent fewer cases in 2013 recommended by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, than in 2008, the last year of George W. Bush presidency, according to data obtained from the Executive Office of U.S. Attorneys. In addition, cases recommended for prosecution by ATF have declined 33 percent since 2004.
"ATF faces key resources challenges in staff attrition and system modernization," Ginger Colbrun, an ATF spokeswoman said in an e-mailed statement. "As such, ATF's "Frontline" business model now prioritizes our mission responsibilities, consistent with priority public safety concerns, particularly when resources are limited and difficult choices must be made with regard to priorities. Firearms violence, arson and explosives consistently and significantly impact public safety and therefore must be ATF's first priority, consistent with the Department's strategic goals.
"ATF staffing has decreased between 2010 and 2013, representing the lowest number of onboard staff since fiscal year 2004. Despite having the lowest number of agents in eight years, ATF initiated more than 21,000 criminal firearms investigations and more than 2,600 other investigations last year."
The official spokesman from the U.S. attorney's office in the Norther District of Illinois, had similar complaints when asked why his office hasn't prosecuted as many ATF referrals as they have in years past, despite Chicago's recent headline-making gun violence.
"We've suffered an attrition of 20 attorneys since 2012, and we've only gotten over the budget hurdle this year and have been beginning to hire them back," said Randy Samborn, an assistant U.S. attorney and spokesperson for the Northern District of Illinois, which includes Chicago. "Some say you can do more with less, then it's the same with less, but after a point in time, you simply can't do as much with less."
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