Firearms and Explosives:

Information and Observations on ATF Law Enforcement Operations

GGD-93-73BR: Published: Jun 24, 1993. Publicly Released: Jun 24, 1993.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms' (BATF) firearms and explosives activities, focusing on: (1) the types of cases the BATF Office of Law Enforcement investigates; (2) how BATF special agent allocations are determined; (3) how BATF sets firearms and explosives law enforcement priorities; (4) the results of BATF firearms and explosives cases; (5) how the BATF Office of Law Enforcement uses referrals; (6) the effectiveness of BATF firearms traces; and (7) how BATF handles firearms and explosives it takes into custody.

GAO found that: (1) the BATF Office of Law Enforcement investigates primarily firearms cases and, to a lesser extent, explosives, arson, alcohol, and tobacco cases; (2) from 1988 through 1992, BATF steadily increased its firearms investigative staff and funding; (3) BATF bases its special agent allocations on internal and external staffing commitments, staffing formulae, emerging crime trends, and promotions and retirements; (4) although BATF staff allocations are influenced by the total number of violent crimes, it does not consider data on the total number of reported violent crimes committed with firearms; (5) the BATF national law enforcement strategy is based on the Crime Impact Program, which BATF uses to set crime priorities, set work objectives, and monitor accomplishments; (6) of the cases BATF recommended for prosecution between 1988 to 1991, most involved firearms violations and most defendants were convicted; (7) BATF uses referrals from its compliance inspectors to initiate and develop cases, but does not systematically evaluate the overall quality of compliance referrals; and (8) although BATF handles a large volume of firearm traces annually, it does not evaluate the usefulness of the traces in terms of timeliness or investigative value.

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