A disturbing report from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel alleges that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has lost “dozens” of weapons as agents leave them in bathrooms, on top of cars, movie theaters, and other public areas.
An extensive dive into the records of the ATF of the past five years uncovered dozens of incidents of egregious irresponsibility with weapons, from revolvers to machine guns, by ATF agents across the country. The Journal Sentinel highlights specific cases in which ATF agents leave their guns in bathroom stalls (in those cases, a good Samaritan has returned them) or cases in which agents leave their guns on top of their cars and drive away. In one of those cases highlighted, the gun was never found.
In another case, the guns were found by children, and the agent did not fess up to losing it until the local news reported young children playing with a loaded gun by a storm drain. The agent told the press that he expected the gun would “turn up eventually” upon losing it.
A number of other agents lost their guns in “Operation Fearless,” a plan to buy overpriced guns off of criminals to track their routes in the black market–not dissimilar to the border operation Fast and Furious. One agent had his guns stolen out of his truck while conducting a task for the operation. The thefts involved “at least two assault rifles” and three firearms.
The newspaper reports that it found 76 incidents in the past five years of lost, stolen, or missing weapons– “nearly double the rate of the FBI and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.” Perhaps most disturbing of all, the reports do not say whether the agents involved in the accidents were disciplined for the lack of responsibility in caring for their guns. The ATF’s record as disclosed here by the newspaper appears significantly more egregious than many government law enforcement agencies, even the DEA, which was responsible for the Fast and Furious operation that took the life of Officer Brian Terry and resulted in the distribution of illegal guns all over the American Southwest.
The Journal Sentinel published the reports described above, linking to them anecdote by anecdote. They were available to the newspaper, despite being incidents nationwide and not just in Wisconsin, through a Freedom of Information Act request, though the names of the agents were not. You can read them all at the newspaper’s website here.