Twenty-eight guns were either lost by or stolen from agents at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives over the course of three years, a watchdog report released this week revealed.
The report, authored by the Office of the Inspector General, found 26 instances where ATF firearms were either lost or stolen. It went on to identify another pair of firearms the agency had seized as evidence that was lost. The investigators found that only about half of the firearms that went missing have been recovered, with one known to have been used in the commission of a crime.
"Between FYs 2014 and 2017, ATF agents reported 26 instances of lost, stolen, or missing firearms, of which 3 were lost or stolen during shipment and the remaining 23 were either stolen from or lost by ATF Special Agents," the report said. "ATF recovered 15 of the 26 lost or stolen firearms, 1 of which was involved in an unrelated crime."
The report detailed how each gun was lost or stolen, whether it was recovered, and how the agent involved was reprimanded for their involvement. One agent left a pistol in his briefcase, which he subsequently left on the D.C. Metro. A Metro employee found the pistol and returned it to the ATF. The agent received a 10-day suspension for losing the gun.
The only pistol identified as being used in a crime was stolen from an ATF agent during a home invasion, according to the report. The agent was not punished for the event because the ATF determined the agent had stored the firearm in a locked safe in accordance with agency policy.
Most agents who lost their firearms or had them stolen received a suspension ranging from 2 days to 25 days depending on the circumstances. Some received counseling or a letter of reprimand instead. One agent retired after throwing his revolver into a landfill.
The report notes that the ATF actually lost fewer guns than during the last audit conducted by the Office of the Inspector General in 2008.
"We found that the rate decreased approximately 55 percent since our 2008 audit, from 1.29 firearms per month to 0.48 firearms per month, which was comparable to the 0.47 firearms per month rate in the 2002 Treasury OIG audit," the report said. "While ATF has substantially reduced the rate of lost and stolen firearms since our last audit, it must continuously work towards reducing the rate of loss."
The report recommended a number of steps for the ATF to take to better manage their inventory of 35,527 firearms, tasers, and silencers as well as the ammunition that accompanies them.
"ATF should improve its controls over and compliance with its requirements for ammunition and explosives, as well as seized firearms and ammunition," the report said. "Without sufficient controls and practices over this sensitive property, ATF cannot be assured that its inventory of weapons and munitions is adequately safeguarded and properly tracked. Most significantly, the deficiencies we identified increase the risk that ATF’s inventory of weapons and munitions could be lost or stolen without being detected."
The report recommended 10 different measures ranging from better tracking practices for ammunition and explosives owned by the agencies and storing them out of sight of the public to requiring ATF offices to report all of their ammunition inventories on their biannual audits. The ATF responded to the report with a letter confirming they would comply with the recommendations.
"ATF recognizes the outcomes of the report and measures will be implemented as appropriate," the agency told the Washington Free Beacon.