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Industry News: OIG Examination of ATF Operations
By Robert M. Hausman

The Office of the U.S. Inspector General (OIG) recently conducted a review of ATF’s operations during the period of April 1st through September 30, 2012. During this reporting period, the OIG received 168 complaints involving ATF personnel. The most common allegation made against ATF employees was official misconduct. The majority of the complaints were considered management issues and were provided to ATF for its review and appropriate action.

During this reporting period, the OIG opened 8 cases and referred 12 allegations to ATF’s Office of Professional Responsibility for action or investigation. At the close of the reporting period, the OIG had 13 open criminal or administrative investigations of alleged misconduct related to ATF employees. The criminal investigations include official misconduct (3 cases), bribery (1 case), ethics violations (1 case), fraud (1 case), personnel prohibitions (1 case), and theft (1 case).

ATF’s 5,025 employees enforce federal criminal laws and regulate the firearms and explosives industries. ATF investigates violent crimes involving firearms and explosives, acts of arson, and illegal trafficking of alcohol and tobacco products. ATF also provides training and support to its federal, state, local, and international law enforcement partners and works in 25 field divisions with representation throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Guam. Foreign offices are located in Mexico, Canada, Colombia, and Iraq, as well as a Regional Firearms Advisor based in San Salvador serving El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama, Belize, Honduras, and Costa Rica.

Ongoing Work

The OIG is reviewing ATF’s federal firearms licensee inspection program. After an OIG review in 2004, ATF made a series of changes to that program and its administrative action process. This review is assessing the changes made to the program, ATF’s process and standards for inspecting licensed firearms dealers, the process for referring suspected criminal violations, and the administrative actions process that addresses licensed dealers who violate federal firearms laws and regulations.

The OIG is also reviewing whether ATF’s Explosives Industry Program complies with the Safe Explosives Act requirement to inspect all explosives license and permit holders at least once every 3 years and whether ATF analyzes information the program gathers to improve the program.

Finally, the OIG is conducting an audit of ATF’s income-generating undercover operations to assess ATF’s management of the revenue generated from these operations. The OIG also seeks to determine whether ATF ensures that proceeds from income-generating undercover operations are properly allocated at the conclusion of the operations.

ATF Takes Action Against Fast & Furious Agents

Top ATF officials involved in Operation Fast and Furious had their government security clearances revoked and others were fired, demoted, or transferred, according to the political news website Breightbart.com.

Former ATF Special Agent in Charge of the Phoenix Field Division Bill Newell, former ATF Special Agent in Charge of Operations in the West Bill McMahon, and former Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the Phoenix Field Division George Gillett were reportedly fired. Former Assistant Special Agent in Charge Jim Needles and Field Supervisor David Voth were reportedly demoted.

Lead case agent Hope McAllister was reportedly placed on leave and transferred out of Phoenix. Former ATF Acting Director Kenneth Melson who had been transferred to another position was recently reportedly forced to resign from government employment.

Agent Voth was the subject of Fortune Magazine’s infamous article about Fast & Furious. In it, Katherine Eban turned Agent Voth into the victim and smeared whistleblower John Dodson. After it was published, Agent Dodson demanded the article be retracted. Fortune refused, and Agent Dodson is now suing them for $75,000.

In August it was revealed Agent McMahon was allegedly collecting a six figure salary from JP Morgan in the Philippines. JP Morgan reportedly owns the ATF’s credit cards. At the same time, he was reportedly on ATF paid leave.

Despite these developments, the agents will reportedly receive full retirement benefits.

ATF Adds to Its Name

The Bureau of ATF is now calling itself “Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives / The Violent Crime Bureau.” The Bureau is reported by The Wall Street Journal as having a formal name change under review.

OIG Report on Fast and Furious

In a newly released review, Michael E. Horowitz, U.S. Inspector General reports that his office focused on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ (ATF) Operations Wide Receiver and Fast and Furious, and described what the OIG found to be serious failures in the handling of the investigations by both ATF and U.S. Attorney’s Office (USAO) for the District of Arizona, as well as serious failures in the Department‘s response to congressional inquiries.

In the course of its review, the OIG identified individuals ranging from line agents and prosecutors in Phoenix and Tucson to senior ATF officials in Washington, D.C., who bore a share of responsibility for ATF’s knowing failure in both operations to interdict firearms illegally destined for Mexico, and for pursuing this risky strategy without adequately taking into account the significant danger to public safety it created.

The OIG made six recommendations designed to increase the Department’s involvement in and oversight of ATF operations, improve coordination among the Department’s law enforcement components, and enhance the Department’s wiretap application review and authorization process. The OIG also recommended that the Department review the conduct and performance of the Department personnel identified in the report and determine whether discipline or other administrative action is appropriate.

The OIG reports the flaws in Operation Fast and Furious became widely publicized as a result of the willingness of a few ATF agents to publicly report what they knew about it, and the conduct of the investigation became the subject of a congressional inquiry.

On January 27, 2011, Senator Charles E. Grassley (R-NE) wrote to then ATF Acting Director Kenneth Melson that the Senate Judiciary Committee had received allegations that ATF had “sanctioned the sale of hundreds of assault weapons to suspected straw purchasers,” who then transported the firearms throughout the southwest border area and into Mexico. On February 4, 2011, the Department responded in writing to Senator Grassley by denying the allegations and asserting, among other things, that “ATF makes every effort to interdict weapons that have been purchased illegally and prevent their transportation to Mexico.” However, after examining how Operation Fast and Furious and other ATF firearms trafficking investigations were conducted, the Department withdrew the February 4 letter on December 2, 2011, because it contained “inaccuracies.”

Also, on January 27, 2011, Senator Grassley’s staff brought the allegations of one ATF agent to the attention of the OIG. The OIG interviewed the agent and began a preliminary inquiry into the matter. On February 28, 2011, Attorney General Eric Holder requested that the OIG conduct a review of Operation Fast and Furious. The OIG’s review concluded that both Operation Wide Receiver and Operation Fast and Furious were seriously flawed and supervised irresponsibly by ATF’s Phoenix Field Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, most significantly in their failure to adequately consider the risk to public safety in the United States and Mexico.

Both investigations sought to identify the higher reaches of firearms trafficking networks by deferring any overt law enforcement action against the individual straw purchasers – such as making arrests or seizing firearms when there was sufficient evidence to do so. The risk to public safety was immediately evident in both investigations. Almost from the outset of each case, ATF agents learned that the purchases were financed by violent Mexican drug trafficking organizations and that the firearms were destined for Mexico. The OIG found the sheer volume of firearms purchasing activity in both investigations and the limitations and ineffectiveness of ATF’s surveillance should have called into question the wisdom of an approach whose success was dependent on being able to observe how the firearms were crossing into Mexico and what happened to them when they got there.

In addition, the OIG found that Operation Fast and Furious received little or no supervision by ATF Headquarters despite its connection to a dangerous narcotics cartel in Mexico, the serious risk it created to public safety in the United States and Mexico, and its potential impact on the country’s relationship with Mexico. The OIG also found no evidence that Attorney General Holder was informed about Operation Fast and Furious or learned about the tactics employed by ATF in the investigation, prior to January 31, 2011. The OIG found it troubling that a case of this magnitude, and one that affected Mexico so significantly, was not directly briefed to the Attorney General.

The OIG’s review of Operation Fast and Furious and related matters revealed a series of misguided strategies, tactics, errors in judgment, and management failures that permeated ATF headquarters and the Phoenix Field Division, as well as the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona and at the Headquarters of the Department. In the course of its review, the OIG identified individuals ranging from line agents and prosecutors in Phoenix and Tucson to senior ATF officials in Washington, D.C., who bore a share of responsibility for ATF’s knowing failure in both operations to interdict firearms illegally destined for Mexico, and for pursuing this risky strategy without adequately taking into account the significant danger to public safety that it created. The OIG also found failures by Department officials related to these matters, including failing to respond accurately to a congressional inquiry about them.

Based on its findings, the OIG made six recommendations designed to increase the Department’s involvement in and oversight of ATF operations, improve coordination among the Department’s law enforcement components, and enhance the Department’s wiretap application review and authorization process. The Department agreed to implement these recommendations. The OIG also recommended that the Department review the conduct and performance of the Department personnel described in the report and determine whether discipline or other administrative action is appropriate.

November NICS Checks Set Record

Powered by the largest single day ever for background checks on Black Friday, November 2012 is now the record holder for the most background checks conducted in a single month.

The November 2012 NSSF-adjusted National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) figure of 1,525,177 is an increase of 38.5% over the NSSF-adjusted NICS figure of 1,101,076 in November 2011. For comparison, the unadjusted November 2012 NICS figure of 1,997,703 reflects a 30.8% increase from the unadjusted NICS figure of 1,527,454 in November 2011.

This marks the 30th straight month that NSSF-adjusted NICS figures have increased when compared to the same period the previous year. The number reported for November 2012 eclipsed the previous high in December 2011 by 8.1%.

The adjusted NICS data were derived by subtracting out NICS purpose code permit checks used by several states such as Kentucky, Iowa and Michigan for concealed carry permit application checks as well as checks on active concealed carry permit databases. Though not a direct correlation to firearms sales, the NSSF-adjusted NICS data provide a more accurate picture of current market conditions. In addition to other purposes, NICS is used to check transactions of firearms sales and transfers on new and used handguns and long guns.

Report: ATF Review Board Recommends Firings

Four senior managers who oversaw the ill-fated ‘Fast and Furious’ operation will be fired if recommendations from a disciplinary panel are accepted, according to Fox News.

The Professional Review Board of the Bureau of ATF sent notices of its decision in recent days to bureau managers, according to reports.

In addition, two lower-level employees face disciplinary actions, short of firing. The move from the ATF’s review board is the first step in what could be a months-long process, including appeals.

Some Veterans Gun Rights Under Attack

Should veterans deemed too mentally incompetent to handle their own financial affairs be stopped from buying a gun?

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) sought to stop the Veterans Affairs Dept. from putting the names of such veterans into the NICS system. Leading the charge against this is Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY). The VA seems to be in favor of banning gun ownership to these vets.

Fed. Appeals Court Upholds NY Penal Law

New York State doesn't violate the Constitution when it requires those who want to carry handguns to show a special need for self-protection, a federal appeals court said recently, The Wall Street Journal has reported.

The ruling drew praise from the state's highest law enforcement officer and a prediction by a lawyer for challengers that the U.S. Supreme Court will have the last word.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan echoed a lower court judge in finding that the 2nd Amendment was not violated by a century-old New York law requiring those who want to carry guns to show "proper cause," such as the need to carry a firearm for target practice, hunting or self-defense. Prospective gun carriers also must demonstrate a special need for self-protection distinguishable from the general population.

The so-called “Sullivan Law” (named for a corrupt New York politician), has, since 1918 largely barred the general population from handgun ownership. Originally aimed at curbing Italian immigrants from access to firearms, it has been expanded over the years to prohibit nearly all the population except certain government employees (i.e. ‘police’) and the rich.

Good moral character and a simple desire to carry a weapon is not enough to earn a permit, nor is living or being employed in a high crime area, the court noted. And each application sets off a local investigation by police into the applicant's mental health history, criminal history, moral character and claims of proper cause.

The five plaintiffs in the case had all been denied a permit, including a transgender woman who said she was more likely to be the victim of violence than others and a man who said he deserved a permit because he was a federal law enforcement officer with the U.S. Coast Guard.

Alan Gura, an attorney who argued for the plaintiffs, said the New York case — or a similar case from another state — will likely be taken up by the nation's high court.

"We're disappointed with the ruling," he said. “However, this is not the last word on the matter." He said challenges were under way in other states with similar licensing requirements. Other states with gun laws like New York include New Jersey, Maryland, California, Hawaii and Massachusetts.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman called the ruling, "A victory for New York state law, the United States Constitution and families across New York who are rightly concerned about the scourge of gun violence that all too often plagues our communities."

In its decision, the 2nd Circuit said previous court rulings had established that "Second Amendment guarantees are at their zenith within the home" but that public safety interests often outweigh individual interests in self-defense. It said it was not as clear how far the right extends beyond the home and what standards should be used to regulate the right elsewhere.

The court, citing conflicting studies over whether more guns enhance or deter safety, also suggested that the plaintiffs might find relief somewhere other than the courts. "It is the legislature's job, not ours, to weigh conflicting evidence and make policy judgments," the 2nd Circuit said.

Bloomberg: NRA ‘Dying’, Americans Want More Gun Control

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his infamous "Mayors Against Illegal Guns" have struck again – this time with a conference call where he proclaimed the recent presidential elections "proved" the NRA is dying and the American people want more gun control.

Bloomberg missed the Black Friday sales recently – where gun sales shattered the last Black Friday guns sales record by 20%. Or did he miss Louisiana's Nov. 6 pro-gun constitutional amendment, where the citizens of that state made it absolutely clear that the 2nd Amendment is a fundamental right which is hands off to gun grabbers?

Bloomberg and his cohorts joined hands with the Center for American Progress Action Fund to carry out their conference call Friday. Their message: "Voters trust Barack Obama on guns and support gun-law reforms." The apparent intent of this messaging is to prove the NRA has lost the ability to "move the needle" in national elections.

Jack Brooks, Carlos Santizo, Ron Vogel

Longtime Texas congressman Jack Brooks is dead at 89. First elected in 1952, Brooks was returned to office 20 more times and was on the verge of becoming the dean of the U.S. House when he was ousted in 1994 for his traitorous vote in favor of the Clinton “assault weapon” ban.

Ron Vogel, the retired formerly very popular salesman at Taurus Firearms has died, according to Richard J. Feldman (of the late ASSC group). Feldman also states that Carlos Santizo, of USA Magazines, died recently.

The author publishes two of the small arms industry’s most widely read trade newsletters. The International Firearms Trade covers the world firearms scene, and The New Firearms Business covers the domestic market. Visit www.FirearmsGroup.com. He may be reached at: FirearmsB@aol.com.

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