Firearms and Parts Stolen From Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Facility Again
WASHINGTON, DC – March 13, 2019
According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, there is an increase in the theft of firearms from licensed retailers, including gun shops.
The number of robberies of sellers with a federal license for firearms has increased by 227% since 2013, and the burglary of such arms vendors increased by 71% over the same period.
Accordingly, the statistics show an increase in the number of guns that are wanted. In 2013, there were 3,555 stolen firearms, compared to 7,841 in 2017. The trend is somewhat different from robberies, which, as a rule, tend to leave criminals less time to collect weapons, which increased from 96 in 2013 to 370 in 2016.
In 2017, the largest number, 769, were stolen in Texas, the Alabama with 456, and Colorado and Georgia with 427.
Despite all efforts, the problem only gets worse. On Tuesday, CBS News reported, with reference to sources familiar with the situation, that the Justice Department launched a multi-state search for firearms and firearms parts stolen from a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) facility.
The chief concern, the sources added, is that the weapons may fall into the wrong hands. Along with staging a criminal and internal affairs investigations, ATF officials have also notified the Justice Department's inspector general who in the past has been critical of some ATF weapons disposal procedures.
Authorities have one suspect in custody who they've identified as Christopher Lee Yates. Reached by CBS News Tuesday evening, Yates was distraught, repeatedly saying, "It's me against the government." He referred questions about his arrest to his attorney and said he was cooperating in the investigation.
According to court documents, officials found "a firearm concealed in a book bag on the front passenger seat floorboard" when they searched Yates' vehicle on March 1.
Agents later determined the pistol had a serial number on it. The ATF computer system confirmed the firearm had been listed as "disposed" by the ATF's National Disposal Branch on August 2017.
Efforts to track down any more stolen firearms intensified over the weekend. On Sunday night, officials sent a communication urging stepped up efforts to locate any stolen firearms from the facility. They were concerned buyers may not know where they originated.
ATF spokeswoman April Langwell confirmed the contractor who was involved was "quickly removed" and a criminal investigation has begun.
In a statement Tuesday evening, the ATF said its officials were working expeditiously with other departments to investigate the theft. "ATF has made substantial progress in recovering the stolen property and is working around-the-clock to pursue all leads," the agency said.
"The Department of Justice and the ATF do not tolerate theft or other violations of law by employees or contractors, and will ensure these allegations are thoroughly investigated and take appropriate action and against anyone engaging in unlawful behavior," the agency added in its statement.
According to an inspector general report released in March 2018, the destruction of firearms and ammunition is supposed to be "witnessed by an ATF Special Agent and a credentialed employee or contractor who then signs a report of destruction certifying that the firearm has been destroyed." That same report identified concerns about ATF's "ability to track seized ammunition."
ATF officials said there could be more arrests, but don't know how many firearms or firearms parts were stolen.
The minimum penalty for illicit arms trafficking under the Firearms Act of 1968 is at least five years, and for minors at least three years in prison. In cases specifically stipulated by criminal laws, the use of a weapon, the threat of its use and the finding of a person in the commission of a crime of a weapon increase the responsibility.
Federal law does not require individual gun owners to report the loss or theft of a firearm to law enforcement. Federal law does, however, require licensed firearms dealers to report the loss or theft of any firearm from the dealer’s inventory to the US Attorney General or local law enforcement within 48 hours of discovering the loss or theft.