Amid an intense debate over gun control, the federal agency at the heart of firearms regulation is so beleaguered and under-resourced that it has not had a confirmed director in six years, reports the Washington Post. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, a division of the Justice Department, is supposed to regulate the gun industry. Many within ATF say the industry dominates the agency. The gun lobby, concerned about government regulation of firearms ownership, has taken steps to limit the resources available to ATF and to prevent the agency from having a strong leader. For decades, the National Rifle Association has successfully lobbied to block attempts to computerize records of gun sales, arguing against any kind of national registry of firearms ownership.
Despite the growth of the gun industry and the nation’s population, ATF has fewer agents today than it did nearly four decades ago: fewer than 2,500. “If the administration and Congress are serious about addressing this problem, they need to fund the gun police, the agency charged with administering the firearms regulations,” said Michael Bouchard, a former ATF assistant director. “Unless they are going to do this completely, simply passing some form of gun legislation is only part of the solution.” The man currently at the helm is B. Todd Jones, an interim acting director who works part time at the agency, juggling his position there with his job as U.S. attorney in Minnesota.