Obama flubs ATF duties, Trump talks big on curbing gun rules

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 10, 2016

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama’s executive actions on guns have sparked renewed debate about how far the government should go in limiting gun sales. Obama took questions in a televised town hall meeting Thursday night, while leading Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump weighed in on the debate at a rally in New Hampshire.

A look at some of their comments and how they compare with the facts:

OBAMA: The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is “a law enforcement agency working under the FBI that is doing enormous work in going after criminals and drug cartels, and have a pretty dangerous job, so it’s not as if doing background checks or auditing gun sales is all that they’re doing.”

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THE FACTS: Obama got his own administration’s organizational chart wrong. The agency is actually a component of the Justice Department whose top official reports to the attorney general, just like the FBI. Background checks aren’t done by ATF, but are conducted by the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

While ATF agents can inspect federally licensed gun dealers’ records once every 12 months, the reality is that inspections are much rarer. The agency’s 629 inspectors were only able to look at 10,429 of the more than 141,000 dealers — roughly 7 percent — in 2014.

OBAMA: “I think it’s useful to keep in mind, I’ve been, now, president for over seven years, and gun sales don’t seem to have suffered during that time. They’ve, they’ve gone up. I’ve been very good for gun manufacturers.”

THE FACTS: He’s right on this point. While gun sales data aren’t specifically available, ATF does track gun manufacturing figures and noted in its 2015 firearms commerce report that production nearly doubled from 2010 through 2013, from 5.4 million weapons to 10.8 million.

The number of FBI firearms background checks has also steadily risen since Obama took office. Black Friday 2015 set a record for background check requests in a single day when the agency processed 185,345 of them.

OBAMA: “One of the most frustrating things that I hear is when people say, who are opposed to any further laws, why don’t you just enforce the laws that are on the books? And those very same members of Congress then cut … ATF budgets to make it impossible to enforce the law.”

THE FACTS: The ATF budget has actually grown slightly under Obama. In 2008, before he took office, the agency had a budget of just under $1 billion. Since then, the administration has requested about $1.1 billion annually, and Congress has generally approved it. The lone exception was 2013, when the president asked for $1.15 billion and Congress trimmed that to $1.07 billion.

TRUMP: “I will get rid of gun-free zones on schools … and on military bases, my first day, it gets signed, OK? My first day.”

THE FACTS: Trump can’t possibly deliver on that pledge. The Gun-Free School Zones Act is a federal law that was passed in 1990 and signed by then-President George H.W. Bush. Congress would have to overturn the 25-year-old statute to make the change he advocates.