Agency That Purposely Lost 2500 Guns in Mexico Pushing New Federal Regulations For Lost Guns

Katie Pavlich

11/20/2013 3:30:00 PM - Katie Pavlich

The Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, the agency whose agents purposely lost 2500 guns in Mexico during Operation Fast and Furious after sanctioning illegal gun sales from law abiding gun dealerships, is eying new federal regulations for lost guns in the United States. More from The Hill:

The Obama administration is working on new gun control regulations that would target stolen and missing weapons.

Police have a hard time tracking firearms that disappear from gun shops, which “just feeds the sort of already large and existing secondary market on guns,” said Sam Hoover, a staff attorney with the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

It is unclear precisely what the draft regulations, drawn up by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and under review at the White House’s regulations office, would do.

The ATF would not comment on the draft rule, since it has not yet been released to the public, but a description provided by the White House asserts that it would target cases where guns go missing “in transit.”

Currently, gun dealers with a federal license are required to tell federal agents after they discover a firearm has gone missing, but they aren’t required to do routine checks.

“They can discover a gun missing today and have no idea when it went missing, which really makes that information useless to law enforcement,” said Chelsea Parsons, associate director of crime and firearms policy at the Center for American Progress.

She wants the ATF to be able to take stronger action to monitor and track guns that go missing.

As a reminder of how illegal Operation Fast and Furious gun sales went down:

New emails released by House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa show that ATF Director Kenneth Melson was briefed weekly about Operation Fast and Furious and watched a live feed of straw purchasers (who serve as middle men, purchasing guns and giving them to cartel members) in Arizona gun shops from his cozy Washington D.C. office. Emails also show that Deputy Assistant Director for Field Operations William McMahon was enthusiastic about the operation.

“An e-mail from April 12, 2010, indicates that Acting Director Melson was very much in the weeds with Operation Fast and Furious. After a detailed briefing of the program by the ATF Phoenix Field Division, Acting Director Melson had a plethora of follow-up questions that required additional research to answer. As the document indicates, Mr. Melson was interested in the IP Address for hidden cameras located inside cooperating gun shops. With this information, Acting Director Melson was able to sit at his desk in Washington and – himself – watch a live feed of the straw buyers entering the gun stores to purchase dozens of AK-47 variants,” Chairman Issa said in his opening statement.

Emails also show that ATF encouraged gun dealers to sell to straw buyers, in spite of their own hesitance to do so.

"ATF encouraged gun dealers to sell to straw buyers. Emails prove that at least one dealer worried prophetically about the risk. He [a dealer] wrote to ATF about his concern that a border patrol agent might end up facing the wrong end of one of these guns. ATF supervisors told the dealer not to worry. So, the agents said it was a bad idea. And, the gun dealers said it was a bad idea, but ATF supervisors continued anyway", Grassley said.

I should also mention ATF agents recently lost a fully automatic machine gun on the streets of Milwaukee after it was stolen out of an unsupervised government vehicle.

They were undercover agents from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives running a storefront sting aimed at busting criminal operations in the city by purchasing drugs and guns from felons.

But the effort to date has not snared any major dealers or taken down a gang. Instead, it resulted in a string of mistakes and failures, including an ATF military-style machine gun landing on the streets of Milwaukee and the agency having $35,000 in merchandise stolen from its store, a Journal Sentinel investigation has found.

What could possibly go wrong?

According the write up from The Hill, it seems these new regulations further burden gun dealerships and obviously give the government more power. Given the track record of ATF on this issue, that power should be limited, not expanded and the focus should be on the criminals, not forcing gun dealerships to prove their innocence. In addition, the support for the regulation from Think Progress should serve as a big red flag.