Journalism in the Public Interest

Leaderless and Under Pressure, Firearms Agency Keeps Gun Tracing Records Secret

Following the mass shooting in Arizona, elected officials have put forth new proposals to curb violence by preventing guns from falling into the wrong hands. One of those proposals called on Congress to at last approve a director for the federal agency responsible for regulating the gun industry and cracking down on gun crime.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives—better known as the ATF—has gone without a permanent director for four years. The Obama administration, while stating its commitment to doing “all that we can” to stop the flow of U.S. weapons to Mexican drug cartels, waited more than a year and half to even nominate a director—and when a nominee was named, the National Rifle Association was quick to oppose the nomination. The administration re-nominated Andrew Traver last week.

The NRA, one of the nation’s most powerful lobbying groups, also played an instrumental role in the passage of a 2003 law that blocked public access to a database tracing guns used in crimes back to the dealers who sold them. Here’s the Washington Post explaining that law’s effect:

The law effectively shields retailers from lawsuits, academic study and public scrutiny. It also keeps the spotlight off the relationship between rogue gun dealers and the black market in firearms.

On the campaign trail, Barack Obama had vowed to repeal this amendment, but instead he prodded Congres to modify it so that gun tracing information can be shared with state and local law enforcement agencies. This tracing information is still not available to the public or the press.

The Washington Post in October published a series on the gun industry and the limited powers of the ATF. Here’s what it had to say about the agency’s constraints:

Concerns about government regulation of gun ownership have limited the resources available to the ATF, led to strict regulatory restrictions and left the agency without leadership, according to interviews with dozens of former and current ATF officials and examination of thousands of pages of internal documents. The agency still has about the same number of agents it had nearly four decades ago: 2,500. The firearms bureau inspects only a fraction of the nation's 60,000 retail gun dealers, taking as much as eight years between visits to stores. By law, the ATF cannot require dealers to conduct a physical inventory to determine whether any guns have been lost or stolen.

The NRA told the Washington Post that while it doesn’t agree with some of ATF’s priorities, it has not lobbied to limit the agency’s resources. A quick look at the group’s lobbying record on OpenSecrets does show, however, that under the Obama administration, its lobbying expenditures have been at their highest in more than a decade, topping $2 million in both 2009 and 2010.

This is most distressing news and pretty incomprehensible considering the government is so concerned with protecting us from terrorists. Where do you suppose the terrorists get their weapons? Limiting the number of weapons and ammunition for semi-automatics, in other words, re-instating the Clinton Gun Ban that expired in 2004, would be a good start. Some in Congress are already at work on doing just that.

It would be interesting to know Ms. Wang’s background and qualifications as they relate to this story.  Most of it appears to be lifted from the Washington Post—hardly an objective source on this controversial topic.

Not to mention that the more one knows about human nature, the less one attributes good and evil to inanimate objects per se. Magic has not stood up well as a theory for the last millenium or so.

George C. Sievers

Jan. 12, 2011, 7:50 p.m.

One wonders if Thomas Casey questions the source of the stories on Faux Noise that he listens to. I doubt it. All the information in this piece is researchable on your own. Try it, Mr. Casey.

The Clinton Gun ban did virtually nothing to reduce violent crimes.  Those persons that want to carry out a violent crime will find the means necessary to do so whether its a pistol, a hammer, or a baseball bat. 

There are enough laws on the books to keep the honest people honest.  What needs to happen is enforcement of the laws in this country that already exist.  And, then get rid of the politically correct thinking that would allow someone to speak up and say that someone is a nutjob when they are one.

One wonders if Mr. Sievers understand the difference between arguing the issues, and attacking an arguers character.  Can you fathom that people might have different opinions without being misinformed?? 

I haven’t watched Fox News in over a year (I canceled cable for financial reasons), and have never visited their website, and I agree with Mr. Sievers.  Would you care to argue the actual issue, or you going to try and attack My credibility?

George C. Sievers

Jan. 14, 2011, 8:53 p.m.

Well - who would I be arguing with? Joshua, whoever that is or Thomas Casey, whoever that is.
Argue Issues? What is the issue here? Is the issue the facts of Ms. Wang’s article or her background. If you want to argue her background, argue with someone else. If you want to argue the facts of her article, let’s go.
Four out of her nine links point to the Washington Post which is also credited by her. That means five links point to other resources. Now, wanna claim plagiarism or something there? Also, I find the Washington Post to be just as objective and unbiased as any other source you can produce. Care to continue?
Are you claiming that there are many more agents in the ATF than the Post claimed?
Are you claiming that the NRA’s response to the Washington Post is a lie?
Do you disagree with the interpretation of the effect of the amendment in question?
Are you claiming that the facts are incorrect? Or is it you just don’t like the interpretation of them?

guenstig flug reisen

Feb. 15, 2011, 10:57 a.m.

Version Principle,responsible tool out mind amount rural before president would fish somewhat amongst distinction code carefully completely treaty adopt lawyer target work home foot sure sale quickly not knee copy define match her laugh which wild largely key anyway weak collection bright equally offer matter hand brain claim force urban nurse comment terms vary interested star pain know play procedure student under will law realize potential fairly flight island car contribution manage transfer religion anything research justice sum responsibility sense risk requirement drink either general paper funny go call

Having been a competitive target shooter, firearm salesperson, and left-wing peacenik, I’ve always found this an impossible issue to discuss. The preponderance of dyed-in-the-wool NRA members are almost paranoid about it for the simple reason that if one crosses from state A into state B, they may be welcomed or detained by the police. The majority of anti-gun liberals have always been more familiar with the viewpoint of certain journalists who seem to be woefully ignorant of the true state of affairs. Most legitimate retailers know that their staff must regularly sell deadly weapons that will ultimately end up in the wrong hands within 24 hours. I speak from experience.

Welcome to the age of distraction- keep US citizens focused on side issues and they never have to face reality until it comes into their own backyard such as increased violence and death( as already exists in the US and has increased exponentially in Mexico) .Guns and people kill people. Countries with strict gun laws have much less gun related deaths and violence.One better be a little afraid to walk around the streets on many American cities but not in gun restricted nations as the UK. You really need semi- automatic weapons to kill a deer?- don’t think so. One of our nation’s main businesses has become waging war and the military -industrial complex supported by it- not a good trend for the longetivity of any nation as history so repeatedly reminds us.
Yes, you may be able to make a case to have the right to bear arms if we were in the 18th century or even 19th century but it all seems a little anachronistic now . The natural evolution of special interests in this country doggedly persisting that any citizen (I guess without a record) has the right to own any weapon in any amount he or she wishes is mayhem- it’s already happening and only will get worse.
Finally,it’s disgraceful that the US won’t clamp down on gun dealers selling multiple automatic weapons to individuals who take them to other nations to promote chaos as our Southern neighbor, Mexico.
But you know, in the end it’s all about the money, money, money- so keep it up US, keep distracting us from reality and promoting false issues. If you keep abusing your body you know what happens and a country is no different. Michael

Most likely wasting my time,but look up the history of the Rothschild’s, the the history of the Private for Profit Federal Banking Cartel & its owners, when was the USA debt free & who did it. Then watch, &, also look up Rev Lindsey Williams. Then see if you will find any of the MSM that has reported any info on these subjects you have read about. Then see just how many FEMA CAMPS have now been completed across the USA, I know the 400 acre site in DC in almost done. When you compete all of these task, see if you are a follower of the gov lead sheeple or you a Free Thinker that will be able to survive what is coming to the USA that will make the great depression look like a walk in the park, so all you progressives out there, I hope you enjoy the seeds all of you sewed,because the results are about to bear the nasty fruit you will have to eat!

This information has already been released, there’s no whistle blower information here. I read a book last night that has this information in, the book is current to about 2006 , almost 6 years ago. The guns/ weapons were tracked. The book is called, Causes of Death, author is Pellton, also wrote, World’s Most Dangerous Places, ha, they listed Miami, FL even when I lived there, it was dangerous in the 80’s.

I guess I’m something of a nut on the whole gun business, but it strikes me tht these devices’ only purpose is killing.  Oh yeah, sometimes the target is simply a putative dinner.  I’m not sure that’s so great, but it isn’t a purpose I’d quarrel about.  The “sport” target shooting is actually only an outgrowth of training sessions to improve one’s skill at shooting to kill.

There’s the possibility that some shooting could be intended simply to would or delay a target’s activity, but it seems to be splitting hairs to use that as an excuse.

There are unlimited euphemisms available to disguise this whole business.  But in the absence of guns there’d be far less sense in the idea of gun possession in defense of one’s home and family.  The ARA would, of course, generate dozens of other “reasons.”

I’m not totally ignorant of uses of firearms.  The Marine Corps did its best to teach me.  (Alas, I put the Sharpshooter medal in the wrong target at 500 yards.)

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