ATF Wants Funding For Data Analysts To Gather Gun Trace Information


Authored by Michael Clements via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

(Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images)

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) wants more funding, personnel, and technology, along with Universal Background Checks, to combat gun trafficking.

The agency included the wish list in Volume III of a four-part report, “National Firearms Commerce and Trafficking Assessment: Firearms Trafficking Investigations.”

According to the report, the agency is hobbled by unwieldy databases, outdated processes, and a lack of full-time employees to track firearms from their first point of sale to the time they turn up at crime scenes.

Second Amendment advocates counter that the agency has restrictions on it that prevent it from building a registry of firearms. They say the ATF should be more focused on crime than politics.

All the federal government needs to do is prosecute those who break these laws,” Randy Kozuch, executive director of the NRA Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) said in an email to The Epoch Times.

An ATF spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.

The report draws data from 9,708 ATF firearm trafficking investigations conducted between 2017 and 2021, according to a statement on the ATF webpage.

It found nearly 230,000 trafficked guns in 7,779 cases between 2017 and 2021. On average, 16 firearms were found per investigation—almost 60 percent of the cases involved five or fewer guns, gun parts, or regulated accessories.

Dealing firearms without a license was the most common trafficking-related crime reported. This has become something of a hot-button issue for Second Amendment advocates.

Gun rights advocates who spoke with The Epoch Times dismissed the report as evidence that the ATF has been weaponized. They claim that President Joe Biden is pushing an anti-gun agenda by using the ATF to bludgeon legal gun owners and federally licensed dealers (FFLs).

Aidan Johnston, Director of Federal Affairs for Gun Owners of America (GOA), said the ATF’s data belies the agency’s true intention. He pointed to the five or fewer firearms uncovered in the majority of the agency’s investigations.

At the same time, less than one percent of the cases involved 251 or more guns. But those cases accounted for almost 59 percent of the firearms trafficked between 2017 and 2021. Mr. Johnson believes that many cases involve honest FFLs caught up in the ATF’s zero-tolerance policy.

“They’re actually investigating normal people who sold five guns or less, when they really should be targeting the people they only target one percent of the time,” Mr. Johnston told The Epoch Times.

They should not be targeting the people who work in good faith with the ATF.

Alan Gottlieb, founder and executive vice president of the Second Amendment Foundation, agrees with Mr. Johnston.

He says the data can’t be trusted because it’s based on sample data. This fact, combined with what he considers the politicization of the ATF under President Biden, makes the report suspect.

It’s hard to trust anything they say,” Mr. Gottlieb told The Epoch Times.

The report states that the ATF’s current information-gathering system was designed for investigators, not data analysts. If the agency were adequately funded and had full-time analysts, it could provide more accurate and comprehensive reports.

Building this functionality into ATF’s data systems is a public safety imperative; it is necessary to enable ATF to provide timely, accurate, and actionable information and analysis to [provide information] on trends and threats posed by firearm trafficking,” the report reads.

Mr. Johnston scoffed at the idea of increased funding for the ATF. He claims the agency can’t be trusted with the data it has.

By federal law, the ATF is required to destroy much of the data it gathers on legal firearm owners. This is to prevent it from building a registry of firearms.

According to the Congressional Research Service, this has not stopped the agency from amassing millions of records from FFLs over the years.

A February 2024 report by the Service stated that in November 2021, the ATF reported having 921 million records from FFLs that had gone out of business. Mr. Johnston believes the agency has only gathered more records since 2021.

They’ve already built an illegal registry. I don’t support giving an extra dime to this agency,” Mr. Johnston said.

The report listed crimes the ATF is dedicated to fighting, including providing false information to an FFL, which often occurs when a legal buyer purchases a gun for a prohibited person. This is the so-called straw purchase.

Another crime mentioned in the report is being a felon in possession of a firearm, which is often the result of a straw purchase.

According to the report, trafficked firearms were reportedly connected to almost 19 percent of aggravated assaults, 11 percent of homicide cases, and more than 9 percent of attempted homicides.

Felons Found With Guns

About 60 percent of those found with trafficked firearms were convicted felons. Almost half, 48 percent, were between 25 and 34 years old.

ATF recognizes the role firearms play in violent crimes and pursues an integrated regulatory and enforcement strategy. Investigative priorities focus on armed violent offenders and career criminals, narcotics traffickers, narco-terrorists, violent gangs, and domestic and international arms traffickers,” the online statement reads.

Mr. Kozuch said nothing is currently stopping the ATF from fighting crime.

“ATF’s own data undermines its conclusions that new laws are needed, but it’s unsurprising that the Biden Administration’s ATF would use any opportunity to push more gun control,” Mr. Kozuch’s statement reads.

Mr. Johnston agreed. He said the report makes clear what the ATF sees as its primary mission.

“They’re not here to crack down on crime; they’re here to crack down on the Second Amendment,” he said.



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