Several agents said the bigger problem was not in Mexico, but shortfalls in staffing and gun laws in the U.S., which had prevented the ATF from adequately monitoring multiple sales of semiautomatic rifles to suspicious buyers.
“We have roughly the same amount of people we had when they founded us in 1972,” one agent said.
He said Congress and the Obama administration had refused to support the ATF’s proposal to require federally licensed gun sellers to report multiple sales of long-barreled rifles, as they were with handguns, to a single buyer.
“Can someone tell me how I can find out if Joe Blow just bought 50 guns at a gun store? If they do, I’ll be happy to sit outside the door and ask him why he bought them. But otherwise, I won’t know until they start showing up at crime scenes,” the agent said.
Trying to wrap my head around this one. ATF can’t keep track of guns that have been voluntarily reported to them by dealers, so the solution is to mandate even more data? There’s been some speculation, both at Uncle’s and Truth about Guns. I think empire building is a likely explanation, but I’ll speculate on a twist to that theme. The plan was hatched by bureaucrats who have little knowledge or concern for how to do proper police work. The idea would have been to allow firearms to walk, which presumably then would get trafficked to Mexico, be seized at crime scenes in Mexico, and then be traced back to the straw buyers, who could be squeezed to turn on the larger traffickers. If you’re an ATF bureaucrat looking to advance his career, the idea of making a large bust like this using data aggregation techniques, instead of sound police methods, would be pretty irresistible. Obviously agents on the ground who are familiar with sound police methods realized the inherent hazard of this type of operation, and blew the whistle.
This also would explain why they want mandatory long gun reporting, because that would mean even more data. More importantly, it would mean even more data ATF doesn’t have to take responsibility for by walking guns. They could get out of the business of telling dealers to make sales for people who are obviously trafficking.
This kind of law enforcement by data mining isn’t a substitute for good police work. Unfortunately, it would seem there’s a lot of folks in ATF leadership that thinks it is, and the desire for the big career making score is allowing guns to get into the hands of thugs and murderers.