A new report from Mother Jones has found that, despite the gun lobby’s fears, even if the government decided to take away the country’s guns, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) doesn’t have the manpower.
“Look, we don’t have the people,” Corey Ray, an ATF spokesman told Mother Jones. “Even if we were like, ‘Yeah, we’re coming to take your guns,’ 30 years from now you might get a knock on your door.”
The ATF’s personnel problem has everything to do with the powerful influence the National Rifle Association (NRA) has over Congress, experts say.
“The NRA wants us right where we’re at,” Neil Troppman, an ATF gun-tracing expert told Mother Jones.
By the ATF’s estimation, there are more guns than people in the US — approximately 350 million — with 10 million more guns manufactured each year. The ATF only employs about 2,600 special agents.
The NRA pushed Congress to constrain the ATF’s budget, according to Troppman, and to prevent it from merging with a more powerful federal force, like the FBI.
In May, Congress effectively rejected the Obama Administration’s proposal to add 200 new agents and inspectors to the force by refusing to allocate the funds for the expansion.
“They have the ear of a big portion of Congress, so they can manipulate what happens,” Troppman said. “We do not control our own destiny.”
Robert Spitzer, a political science professor at the State University of New York, called the NRA’s strategy “a backdoor way to reduce gun regulations.”
“If you can strangle the chief agency charged with carrying out gun laws, it’s the equivalent of not having those laws in place,” Spitzer told The Guardian in January.