ATF Lacks the Staff to Inspect Many Firearms Dealers

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Gun rights advocates have long fought new measures that could restrict the availability of firearms by urging federal officials to make sure current laws are followed. What if the feds are unable to do that? A case in point is inspections of firearms dealers by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) that are meant to ensure that dealers keep complete sales records so guns used in crimes are traceable, and that they don’t sell their wares to those forbidden to buy them, McClatchy Newspapers reports.

Such inspections are few and far between. A 2013 inspector general’s report said that in a five-year span, only about 58 percent of firearms dealers were inspected. In 2016, ATF inspected just 7.1 percent of 137,464 firearms dealers. At that rate, it would take the agency 14 years to inspect all dealers, likely longer, as the dealer total has been steadily increasing. Former ATF officials say that without an increase in personnel, five years is not a realistic goal for compliance inspections. “ATF has always tried to meet inspection goals but there are so many federal firearms licensees and so few investigators that the numbers just don’t work out that way,” said Michael Bouchard of the ATF Association, which is comprised of former and current ATF agents. In fiscal 2016, one-third of inspections found some sort of violation, the majority of which were serious. They include a dealer selling a firearm to someone they had reasonable cause to believe was prohibited, or the failure to report multiple handgun sales to a single buyer.

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