November 11, 2010
Office of the Inspector General Releases Report on ATF Project Gunrunner
The National Shooting Sports Foundation is reviewing a report issued Monday by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) evaluating ATF’s Project Gunrunner (PGR) initiative on the “illicit trafficking of guns from the United States to Mexico” and makes 15 recommendations for changes and improvements to PGR. One recommendation, however, echoes a past proposal made by the anti-gun Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG) coalition in its “Blueprint for Federal Action on Guns (2009).” The OIG recommends imposing multiple sales reporting requirements for long guns. Of course, such a policy would further add to the already extensive paperwork and record-keeping requirements burdening America’s retailers – where a single mistake could cost them their license and even land them in jail.
The OIG notes that ATF compliance inspections of dealers along the Southwest Border increased 133% during PGR. Last year, ATF inspected about 2,000 retailers in border states and only two licenses were revoked (0.1%). These revocations were for reasons unknown and could have had nothing to do with illicit trafficking of guns; furthermore, no dealers were charged with any criminal wrongdoing. This is not surprising, of course, since with the rarest of exceptions federal firearms dealers are law abiding businesses that are on the frontlines. These retailers aid ATF and law enforcement in preventing firearms from being obtained by criminals and are a vital source of intelligence on illegal firearms trafficking for ATF. Interestingly, the IOG report goes on to say that “Project Gunrunner’s investigative focus has largely remained on gun dealer inspections and straw purchaser investigations, rather than targeting higher-level traffickers and smugglers. As a result, ATF has not made full use of the intelligence, technological, and prosecutorial resources that can help ATF’s investigations reach into the higher levels of trafficking rings.”
Rather than impose additional record keeping requirements on dealers, ATF should review the OIG’s other recommendations and adopt and implement those that are appropriate and feasible. More can be achieved by continuing to strengthen the dialogue and partnership with the dealer community, particularly along the southwest border. And, through cooperative initiatives like “Don’t Lie for the Other Guy,” an anti-straw purchasing public awareness and dealer education campaign jointly run by NSSF and ATF.