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GAO’s ATF report to Congress skirts wider concerns about dissolving bureau

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The United States Government Accountability Office released a report Wednesday on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, GAO announced on its wesite. Titled “Enhancing Data Collection Could Improve Management of Investigations,” the report, originally published June 30, but just made public today, “addresses (1) how ATF's priorities for its criminal law enforcement investigations have changed since fiscal year 2003 [when the agency was transferred from the Department of the Treasury to the Department of Justice], (2) ATF's staffing challenges, and (3) the extent to which ATF has data to monitor the timeliness and outcomes of delayed denial investigations.

“GAO recommends that ATF establish a mechanism to provide headquarters managers readily available data to better monitor the timeliness and outcomes of delayed denial investigations,” a summary concludes. “ATF concurred with the recommendation and ATF officials outlined steps they plan to take to address it.”

Unaddressed in the report, addressed to Charles E. Grassley, Ranking Member Committee on the Judiciary, United States Senate, and F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr., Chairman Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations Committee on the Judiciary, House of Representatives, are concerns expressed by gun owners about ATF powers, by Federal Firearms Licensees about inspection inconsistencies and application of rules and revocations, by firearm developers about arbitrary and often contradictory rulings, and by whistleblowers and disaffected agents about agency waste, abuse and corruption.

For his part, Sensenbrenner has introduced a bill proposing to dissolve ATF and blend its functions into other existing agencies, rather than try to fix it with GAO recommendations. While many gun owners instinctively will applaud such a sentiment, this won't be the same as booting the BATFE. Since functions gun rights activists consider unconstitutional won’t disappear along with the bureau, enthusiasm needs to be tempered with caution. Support for the idea by the decidedly leftist and anti-gun Center for American Progress should be all the warning needed to conclude the devil will be in the details, and a merger into other agencies will most likely result in an out of the frying pan, into the fire end result.

That’s the conclusion of citizen journalist, blogger, speechmaker and self-admitted smuggler Mike Vanderboegh on his Sipsey Street Irregulars blog.

“Close to being the worst idea ever,” Vanderboegh told his readers about the Sensenbrenner proposal. “If John Dodson had been an FBI agent, he would have been found mysteriously dead in the desert and no one -- NO ONE -- would have ever heard about Fast and Furious.”

UPDATE: Dave Workman talked to one of Sensenbrenner's aides.

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