AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File

When the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives makes a bust, they generally seize a whole lot of guns. Well, they take what guns are there. Sometimes it’s a warehouse, sometimes it’s three guns hiding under a mattress. Sometimes, they even manage to do it without shooting innocent women and children apparently.

True story.

Anyway, when they do, they lock those guns up in storage facilities. That’s supposed to keep guns out of the hands of bad people until they can be properly destroyed.

In theory.

ATF agents across the country have been working to track down thousands of guns and firearms parts that had been seized by law enforcement and were supposed to be destroyed but were stolen first, according to sources familiar with the effort.

The agents are searching for some of their own retired service weapons as well as guns from other federal law enforcement agencies, including the FBI and DEA.

All of the weapons had been sent to the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ National Firearms and Ammunition Destruction Branch in Martinsburg, West Virginia, to be shredded, according to court documents and congressional letters.

A longtime guard at the ATF facility has admitted to carting off thousands of firearms, gun parts and ammunition and selling them over several years.

So wait, the ATF had their own “boating accident?”

Oh, that’s rich.

Part of what was stolen were just gun parts, but not all.

The ATF has recovered more than 4,000 guns and parts that had been reported missing while Yates worked there, according to Yates’ plea agreement.

Yates admitted to stealing at least 3,000 slides, a key part of a gun allowing it to fire, from Glock semiautomatic handguns. He also admitted to stealing dozens of guns, including at least four fully automatic machine guns, which are closely regulated by the ATF.

Now, let’s be fair for a moment. Yes, a slide for a Glock is a key component, but it’s also not a controlled component. You can order those right off the internet and generally have them sent to your house. I’m not sure if some state laws prohibit it, but most don’t.

The ATF doesn’t regulate slides.

Now, that’s not to say they won’t be upset by the theft of 3,000 slides slated for destruction. Theft is theft, after all, but let’s also not pretend that these slides alone permitted criminals to become armed. They’re slides, not receivers which are considered the firearm itself.

But the headline at the original story claims thousands of guns were stolen. That’s not what happened. This is what happens when journalists write about topics they don’t actually understand.

Stealing dozens of actual guns including a couple of machine guns, well…that’s different. That’s a whole other ball of wax and that is far more concerning. Don’t get me wrong, if the guard had stolen nothing but slides, I’d still think he needs to be in prison because he stole. Stealing actual guns just ups the ante by a whole lot.

It’s not clear whether the ATF has actually recovered all of the weapons and parts or not, but it’s unlikely due to the scope of what transpired. It’s also unlikely that detailed records were kept of who bought what, so my guess is that at least some of those are still out and about.

But we can trust the government to have all the guns. Bad people can’t take them from government facilities or anything, right?

Yet another reason why I’ll pass on gun control.