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ATF's notional resource shortfall raises new questions about 'Project Gunwalker'

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National Gun Rights Examiner David Codrea noted last week that a new General Accounting Office report has found that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives lacks the resources to effectively investigate one of their highest stated priorities--firearms in the hands of those prohibited by federal law from having them. Specifically, the GAO report draws the conclusion that the BATFE is unable to efficiently pursue "delayed denial" investigations, in which a person ineligible to own a firearm under federal law is permitted to do so anyway, because the criminal background check did not turn up any disqualifying information in the time permitted, thereby allowing the sale to proceed:

ATF does not have readily available data to track and monitor the timeliness and outcomes of delayed denial investigations. Delayed denial investigations are investigations of individuals who improperly purchased firearms when background checks did not initially determine that the individuals were ineligible to purchase a firearm. N-Force, ATF’s investigations database, does not have information readily available to systematically track the timeliness and outcomes—such as if a firearm is retrieved--of delayed denial investigations.

The report notes the decline in the number of field agents, a result, supposedly, of the BATFE's personnel budget not keeping up with salaries and benefits, as a part of the problem. United States Representative Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) is apparently so convinced of the BATFE's inability to fulfill its mission that he plans to introduce a bill to disband the agency, and split its responsibilities among other federal law enforcement organizations. As pleasant as that prospect might sound to gun rights advocates familiar with the BATFE's long, rich history of grotesque abuses against the American people, freedom advocate and citizen journalist Mike Vanderboegh describes the notion as "close to being the worst idea ever," because such an action would only mean that the unconstitutional gun laws now the purview of BATFE would instead go to larger, better funded, more powerful components of the federal leviathan. As he said back in 2011:

I very much prefer the the devil I know in rehab than the devil I don't and the prospect of giving the enforcement of America's gun laws (which aren't going away anytime soon) and ATF personnel to Janet Napolitano [yes--she is gone now, but there seems little reason to expect much better from Jeh Johnson] so she can work them as political police bully boys -- and if you want to talk about uncontrolled and unaccountable there is no worse offender than DHS (thank you George Bush, you sod)-- concerns me greatly.

Regardless of what is done about the BATFE's problems, it's interesting to look at this supposed resource shortfall through the lens of the "Project Gunwalker" (more officially known as "Operation Fast and Furious") atrocity, in which the BATFE deliberately facilitated the trafficking of rifles to brutally violent Mexican drug syndicates. Wait a second--you mean that despite (supposedly) not having the resources to investigate "improper" gun sales already happening, the BATFE deliberately pushed more so-called "assault weapons," to people they knew were violent criminals?

Well, in fairness, the only "investigation" they had in mind for the "gunwalked" guns was not particularly resource intensive--noting where the crime scenes and dead bodies were. Still, for those of us who cannot be quite convinced that senior Justice Department officials were really stupid enough to apply the "Underpants Gnomes'" business strategy to their own efforts to curb international gun trafficking, and must therefore have had some other motive, the fact that they supposedly lacked the resources to investigate problematic gun sales that were already happening makes the official explanation of Operation Fast and Furious just that much less convincing.

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