This is… problematic:
The newly released ATF reports show that between 2009 and 2013, agents lost their guns or had them stolen in at least 45 incidents — with a couple of the cases involving the loss of three firearms.
It is unclear if the records include “missing” guns, a separate category used by the agency.
Most of the lost weapons were handguns, but there also were at least two assault rifles stolen. Typically the reports do not indicate what happened to the unrecovered guns. However, in a November 2008 incident, the gun may have wound up in Mexico, according to the report.
The ATF has weapons stolen or loses them more frequently than other federal law enforcement agencies, according to a 2008 report from the Office of the Inspector General with the U.S. Department of Justice.
In a five-year span from 2002-’07, for example, 76 ATF weapons were reported stolen, lost or missing, according to the report. That’s nearly double the rate of the FBI and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, when considering rates per 1,000 agents.
The inspector general’s office found the majority of losses and thefts were a result of carelessness or failure to follow ATF policy.
The report cited examples similar to those in the documents obtained by the Journal Sentinel, with agents leaving weapons in public bathrooms, atop their vehicles, on an airplane and one in a shopping cart.
“There’s no doubt that people leave things around, but when you have an agency whose task it is is to focus on firearms, it would seem to me like an extra measure of care would be called for,” said David Harris, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law and an expert on law enforcement tactics and regulation. “If they are doing this at a rate that is higher than others (in law enforcement), it is something to worry about.”