In a recent interview with CBS News, Thomas Brandon, the recently appointed director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) said he would like to institute a national firearms registry and that it would make the agency’s job much easier.
The story from CBS provides an overview of the modern ATF, what their tasks are, and a bit about how they perform those tasks. The story laments that the agency, which Brandon says is too small, understaffed, and underfunded, must “trace guns used in crimes the old-fashioned way: on the phone. They did this 370,000 times last year. Many 2nd Amendment advocates strongly oppose a nationwide gun registry, so Congress has prohibited the bureau from creating a computerized, searchable database of gun manufacturing and sales.”
“I think that having a database of gun sales amounts to de facto gun registration,” said Wisconsin Rep. James Sensenbrenner, who has introduced a bill that would abolish the ATF, in the story. “And that is something that Congress would never approve, and which I would never approve of.”
Brandon says in the story that doesn’t make sense to him.
“So yeah, would it be efficient and effective (with new technology)? Absolutely. Would the taxpayer benefit with public safety? Absolutely. Are we allowed to do it? No,” Brandon told CBS News.
The story says that the agency’s gun tracing center is stacked with thousands of paper records, which often must be combed through by hand, and with 139,000 gun dealers in business in the U.S., the agency has just 620 investigators.
With all the attention garnered by high-profile shootings in recent years, it may surprise some to learn that the agency responsible for policing illegal firearms trafficking has not been beefed up.
When asked if he thought there is a concerted effort to keep the ATF as weak and underfunded as possible, Brandon replied:
“From sitting in the seat, you know, being around, I would be naive to answer your question to think that the politics of firearms enforcement, that there’s not some translation into our budget allocation.”
Back in January, we reported that part of President Barack Obama’s package of executive actions in response to the San Bernardino terrorist attack was to add 200 agents to the ATF’s ranks.
When Sensenbrenner was asked if he thought those agents would ever materialize, he quickly replied, “No.”