ATF Remains “Systematically Hobbled” Despite Obama’s Reform Agenda on Guns


Conspicuously absent from President Obama’s gun agenda is much of anything that might address the weaknesses that have for years crippled the federal agency responsible for enforcing the nation's gun laws — the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, says the Center for Public Integrity. the bureau remains systematically hobbled by purposeful restrictions, flimsy laws, impotent leadership, and paltry budgets. It's not clear there's anything on the horizon that would change that situation.

“If you want an agency to be small and ineffective at what it does, the ATF is really the model,” says Robert Spitzer, author of The Politics of Gun Control. Spitzer, a political science professor at the State University of New York College at Cortland, says the ATF's critics, in particular the National Rifle Association, have been “extremely successful at demonizing, belittling and hemming in the ATF as a government regulatory agency.” The result, he says, is an agency with insufficient staff and resources, whose agents are “hamstrung” by laws and rules that make it difficult or impossible to fulfill their mission. Agent George Semonick, a spokesman for the agency, noted that ATF “does not make the laws and regulations.”

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