The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives is a federal agency that is in charge of keeping track of the nation's 300 million guns, firearms, the illegal trafficking of alcohol and cigarettes, and regulation of the explosives industry and with a budget of only $1 billion, half of the Drug Enforcement Administration budget, and much less than the $8 billion that the FBI receives.
As the agency's responsibilities increase and the funding stays the same, the agency has failed to inspect most of the nation's 137,000 gun dealers and other licensees within the mandated five-year time frame.
As a result, from 2004 to 2011, the number of firearms considered lost or stolen increased 18 percent, to 174,679. Many of these weapons are now believed to be in hands of criminals. When investigators identify a serious violation by a gun dealer, it often takes more than a year to revoke their license.
Operation Fast and Furious was misguided and resulted from management errors within the bureau. Agents in Phoenix were told to stand by while Mexican drug cartel intermediaries bought weapons from gun stores and smuggled them into Mexico. This reflected the agency's inability to properly monitor the trafficking of weapons.
The NRA (National Rifle Society) has been trying to control the funding that the AFT gets through lobbying. The NRA keeps pressure on the agency in a manner unlike any other, including the FBI or the Drug Enforcement Agency. The NRA's efforts to control the ATF have ended up costing the bureau millions of dollars. An NRA-supported congressional appropriations provision prevents the agency from building a national gun registry. As a result, 375 contract employees at its National Tracing Center work largely without computers, relying on phone calls and scanned or microfilmed paper records to connect crime gun serial numbers to original purchasers. Failure to computerize the registry has cost the bureau hundreds of millions of dollars. The point is that the ATF needs to be able to properly monitor firearms sales and use. The NRA is interfering with this important function. Congress needs to stand up to the NRA and not let their lobbying efforts interfere with the ATF's interdiction of illegal weapons and the monitoring of all firearms in this country