ATF's problem of 'lost, stolen, or missing' guns has gotten better, but … – Washington Post

Firearms waiting to be destroyed in a vault at the ATF National Tracing Center in Martinsburg, W.Va., in 2010. (Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)

Gun control is a never-ending argument in American politics, but it should not be an issue within U.S. law enforcement agencies.

Yet, here comes another report about loose controls leading to government firearms getting lost or being stolen.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives “generally has strong physical controls.” But a report by an internal watchdog also found record-keeping deficiencies, storage shortcomings and just plain sloppiness with guns.

The Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General determined that the ATF, responsible for tracking stolen weapons, had “26 instances of lost, stolen, or missing firearms” between fiscal 2014 and 2017. Although that is not much compared with the organization’s more than 35,500 firearms, stun guns and silencers, it is disturbing, particularly because one of the stolen guns was later used in a crime. Presumably, silencers are used for training because police are not in the ambush business.

This report also is troubling because it is not the only one about police losing guns.

“Our findings are particularly concerning,” Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz said last week, “because prior audits identified similar issues and recommended corrective action.”

The Department of Justice Inspector General released an audit on the controls that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has over its weapons. (U.S. Department of Justice)

Audits going back 16 years also identified ATF “control weaknesses over its ammunition inventories.” The agency developed better record-keeping in 2002, yet a 2008 report found that the “ATF failed to enforce the requirement to perform annual ammunition inventories and maintain accurate and complete ammunition inventory records.” Although the ATF’s monthly loss rate for firearms has decreased 55 percent since 2008, it remains slightly higher

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