For decades, the National Rifle Association has lobbied successfully to block all attempts to computerize records of gun sales, arguing against any kind of national registry of firearms ownership. And despite the growth of the gun industry and the nation’s population, ATF has fewer agents today than it did nearly four decades ago: fewer than 2,500. ...WaPo
Troubled by the gun lobby? Start with getting the back-story etched into your memory bank. It's important to remember that we have allowed the NRA to disable the ATF -- the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (yeah, it needs a new name).
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has been without a permanent director for six years, as President Obama recently noted. But even if someone were to be confirmed for the job, the agency’s ability to thwart gun violence is hamstrung by legislative restrictions and by loopholes in federal gun laws, many law enforcement officials and advocates of tighter gun regulations say.
Lawmakers in Congress have resisted efforts to establish a database for gun sales, and many records are still handwritten.
For example, under current laws the bureau is prohibited from creating a federal registry of gun transactions. So while detectives on television tap a serial number into a computer and instantly identify the buyer of a firearm, the reality could not be more different. ...NYT
With all the information systems we have developed, it's hard to understand how we could have consigned this aspect of crime prevention to an agency that has been handcuffed and held behind bars for decades. We've allowed a corrupt Congress to cripple two presidents when it comes to the basic job of naming a new director for the ATF. No, it's not just about thwarting Obama. They didn't let Bush name a director either.
Most telling, Congress has prevented the Bureau from creating a central transaction database, according to this report in the Times and the earlier investigative report in the Washington Post.
“I think that they’ve really been muzzled over the last several years, at least, from doing their job effectively,” said Frederick H. Bealefeld III, a former police commissioner in Baltimore. “They’ve really kind of been the whipping agency, caught in the political turmoil of Washington on the gun issue.” ...
...Mr. Bealefeld, the former Baltimore commissioner, said the notion that a central database would create “some Orwellian Big Brother oversight that’s going to monitor target shooters and hunters and sneak into their houses in the dead of night to steal their rifles and their pistols” was “more fiction than reality.”
“I’ve hunted since I was 7 years old,” he said, “and I don’t live in fear that anyone’s going to come and take my hunting rifles.”...NYT