Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms:

Issues Related to Use of Force, Dealer Licensing, and Data Restrictions

T-GGD-96-104: Published: Apr 25, 1996. Publicly Released: Apr 25, 1996.

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GAO discussed the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), focusing on its: (1) policy on the use of force; (2) licensing of firearms dealers; and (3) compliance with legislative restrictions on maintaining certain firearms licensee data. GAO noted that: (1) between fiscal year (FY) 1990 and FY 1995, ATF arrested an annual average of 8,000 suspects and had fewer than 10 reported shootings or alleged incidents of excessive force; (2) ATF deadly force and training policies are consistent with Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) policies; (3) when serving high-risk warrants, ATF, DEA, and FBI use dynamic entry, a tactic that may involve forced entry and is used to gain rapid entry to premises; (4) in none of the FY 1995 ATF Special Response Team deployments did agents fire their weapons and in about half, agents used dynamic entries; (5) ATF procedures for reporting, investigating, and reviewing shootings and alleged excessive force cases are consistent with DEA and FBI procedures; (6) ATF complied with its reporting, investigating, and reviewing procedures, determined that all ATF shootings were justified, determined that most excessive force allegations were unsubstantiated, and punished agents determined to have engaged in misconduct; (7) between 1993 and 1995, the number of licensed firearms dealers declined by about 35 percent due to increased ATF law enforcement and new licensing laws; and (8) the ATF firearms licensee data system complies with legislative restrictions.

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