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ATF needs tools to crack down on gun violence, ‘make American communities safer’

Crystal Graham
gun violence
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A bill to improve and modernize the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, or ATF, has been reintroduced and aims to better equip the bureau to crack down on gun violence and the illegal use of firearms.

The ATF Improvement and Modernization (AIM) Act was introduced today by U.S. Representatives Don Beyer (D-VA) and Jamie Raskin (D-MD). The AIM Act was recently reintroduced in the Senate by Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).

“For years the gun lobby and its allies in Congress have complained that ‘we should just enforce existing laws’ even as they hollowed out the federal agency charged with enforcing them. As gun violence continues to ravage our communities and claim American lives, it is critical that Congress give the ATF the tools it needs to make American communities safer,” said Rep. Beyer. “Our legislation, the AIM Act, would take a commonsense approach to remove barriers that hamper the ATF’s mission to prevent criminals from acquiring and using guns.”

Rep. Raskin said Congress needs to act now.

“Horrific mass shootings and the continuing loss of life from day-in-day-out gun violence are shredding the social contract,” said Rep. Raskin. “Congress should act immediately to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people and empower our brave ATF agents to keep our communities safe.”

The AIM Act is supported by:

  • Brady: United Against Gun Violence
  • Giffords: Courage to Fight Gun Violence
  • March for Our Lives
  • Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence

“One of the major causes of American gun violence is the unique and unprecedented protections from oversight that the gun industry has been provided,” said Brady President Kris Brown. “The ATF Improvement and Modernization Act will allow ATF to more effectively and efficiently oversee the corporate firearms industry and hold accountable those actors who are engaging in negligent, irresponsible, or illegal business practices which fuel the criminal gun market.”

The AIM Act would remove statutory restrictions that stand in the way of ATF’s mission to protect the public from violent criminals, criminal organizations, and the illegal use and trafficking of firearms, and provide support to law enforcement and public safety partners in communities nationwide.

The bill modernizes ATF processes to support law enforcement officials tracing firearms involved in crimes.

A recent DOJ ATF Report on the proliferation of crimes guns found that ATF received more than 1.9 million crime gun trace requests, a 64 percent increase in requests, between 2011 and 2021. Annual budget allocations and overall staffing levels for ATF’s National Tracing Center notably decreased during the same period.

Permitting ATF to consolidate and centralize the records it receives from firearms dealers will improve its current non-searchable system, which unnecessarily stalls criminal investigations. As a consequence of a centralized, searchable digital database, law enforcement will be better able to detect patterns that indicate gun trafficking.

The AIMs Act also:

  • Allows the FBI to maintain background check information longer than the current 24-hour limit. This change helps to deter fraud and facilitate firearms retrieval actions if the agency learns, after the fact, that a gun sale was improper.
  • Enhances ATF’s capability to crack down on “bad apple” gun dealers. Permitting stricter compliance requirements and reforming the rules governing federal license revocation will ensure that firearms dealers comply with laws and regulations that protect the public from dangerous weapons.
  • Will make ATF more responsive to the public, including journalists, researchers, and potential litigants, whose access to ATF gun trace data is currently restricted.

The text of the AIM Act is available here.

Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.