824 U.S. Guns Issued to Officials Still Missing; Agencies Found Not Reporting Losses

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), July 1, 2003 | Go to article overview

824 U.S. Guns Issued to Officials Still Missing; Agencies Found Not Reporting Losses


Byline: Jerry Seper, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

More than 800 firearms assigned to federal law-enforcement officials are still missing more than two years after the Justice Department brought the problem of unaccounted weapons to light, according to a report by the General Accounting Office released yesterday.

The GAO report also found that federal law-enforcement agencies did not always report or report in a timely manner missing firearms internally or to the National Crime Information Center, a nationwide law-enforcement database of criminal justice information.

The report noted that the average time for a federal agency to report a lost firearm ranged from the same day by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons to 4.3 years by the FBI.

The GAO report was requested by Reps. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., Wisconsin Republican; John Dingell, Michigan Democrat; John Conyers Jr., Michigan Democrat; Lamar Smith, Texas Republican; and Bobby Scott, Virginia Democrat, and focused on federal agencies' control over firearms and other weapons.

In March 2001, the Justice Department's Office of Inspector General found that some agencies could not account for firearms assumed to be in their possession. Based on that information, the House Judiciary Committee began an oversight review of practices and policies used to inventory and secure firearms for law-enforcement authorities and personnel.

"Neither the public nor I will condone having over 800 firearms missing from federal agencies," Mr. Sensenbrenner said. "Most disturbing, though, is that many of these firearms were not timely reported missing by the law-enforcement officers themselves. That is inexcusable."

Mr. Sensenbrenner said that as a result of the committee's oversight inquiries and the GAO investigation, the most careless agencies have instituted regular procedures to inventory guns. A number of unanswered questions remain, he said, and internal weapons controls must be strengthened.

"We will continue our focused oversight of this matter until this problem is resolved," he said. …

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