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Gun laws in America and how the ATF was set up to fail

"Ghost guns" seized in federal law enforcement actions are displayed at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) field office in Glendale, California on April 18, 2022. (ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)
"Ghost guns" seized in federal law enforcement actions are displayed at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) field office in Glendale, California on April 18, 2022. (ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)

Something many of us have heard time and time again during the debate on gun control is:

“We need to enforce the thousands of gun laws already on the books. Prosecuting criminals who misuse firearms works.”

That’s Wayne LaPierre, VP and CEO of the NRA, at a Senate hearing just a month after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut.

But how can this enforcement happen when the very agency charged with doing so are handicapped by Congress?

“We have an agency that has the power to protect Americans and we are not funding it, we are not supporting it and we have done outrageous things to it,” Sen. Cory Booker said.

Today, On Point: How the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has been set up to fail.

Guests

Champe Barton, reporter who covers community violence and the gun industry for The Trace, a non-profit newsroom focused on gun violence. (@champebarton)

David Chipman, special agent in the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives for 25 years, monitoring firearm trafficking from Virginia to New York City. (@davidchipman)

Also Featured

Janet Delana, she sued the gun dealer who sold a firearm to her daughter despite her severe mental illness.

Mark Jones, a former ATF employee.

Joseph Bisbee, a former ATF employee.

David Blake Johnson, associate professor of economics at the University of Central Missouri.

Related Reading

The Trace: “The ATF Catches Thousands of Lawbreaking Gun Dealers Every Year. It Shuts Down Very Few.” — “In a sweeping investigation, The Trace and USA TODAY found the federal agency charged with policing the gun industry let dealers get away with falsifying records and selling firearms without background checks.”

USA Today: “Their guns fueled Chicago crime. When they broke the law, the ATF went easy.” — “Chicago’s mayor identified gun stores whose wares consistently wound up in city crimes. ATF records show the agency had been lenient on them.”

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.