GOP: Sloppy ATF work may contribute to higher crime rates

Republicans in the House and Senate are demanding that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) answer to charges that it is running reckless undercover operations, some of which may have contributed to criminal activities.

In a January 9 letter to ATF Director Todd Jones, Reps. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said press reports out of Milwaukee indicate that five undercover storefront operations across the country were plagued with problems.

Their letter said each of these operations sought to buy weapons, but often wasted taxpayer money by dramatically overpaying for these weapons. It said overpaying for these guns appears to have contributed to increased crime.

"In other cities where ATF storefronts posed as pawnshops, it seems that in an effort to maintain appearances, ATF would purchase almost anything brought through the doors, effectively boosting the market for stolen goods," they wrote.

It said in Phoenix, federal prosecutors charged one man with selling 11 firearms to undercover agents, guns he obtained through "residential burglaries."

"[O]perations like this raise questions as to whether ATF was manufacturing crime that would not have otherwise occurred, effectively increasing the overall crime rates in the neighborhoods where the storefronts were located."

The GOP members also said it was "extremely disconcerting" to see that ATF agents are apparently recruiting people with a "diminished intellectual capacity" to help with operations.

"We are appalled by ATF agents' lack of judgment in recruiting juveniles and developmental disabled individuals," they wrote.

In response to these alleged problems, the members asked the ATF to answer a series of 20 questions about these undercover operations. The questions ask for details such as when they started, who was involved, and how decisions were made in each one. 

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