Why It’s So Hard For ATF To Crack Down On Shady Gun Dealers


From almost the time it opened in 1998, Wisconsin’s Shawano Gun and Loan has been in trouble with federal authorities, says the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. After repeatedly warning the store about missing records and other violations, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives took the unusual step of revoking its license in 2007. Nearly three years later, the case is tied up in federal court, where an appeal could grind on for years. The store continues to sell guns – thousands of them each year – with the ATF’s blessing.

What’s more, the owner told the ATF that he might transfer the operation to his nephew. That could keep the store operating and erase the violations and revocation – similar to the scenario that unfolded in 2006 at the store that has sold every gun used to wound six Milwaukee police officers in the past 2 ½ years. The case shows how laws enacted by Congress hobble the agency charged with policing gun stores and protect dealers who repeatedly break the law. The ATF doesn’t crack down on dealers because there are many loopholes in the law protecting them, agency veterans say. “It is just very difficult to go after a gun dealer,” said Gerald Nunziato, who retired in 1999 after 29 years in the ATF. “It is sad. Everyone thinks the government is handling it. They are handling it by ignoring it.”

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