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Here's What Some GOP Lawmakers Want to Do With the ATF


"For decades it has been branded by high profile failures..."

FILE - In this Sept. 4, 2014, file photo, Attorney General Eric Holder speaks during a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington. Holder is arguing publicly in favor of legal representation for migrant children arriving unaccompanied at the border. At the same time, his department is taking the opposite position in court. Holder said Sept. 12 in a speech to the Hispanic National Bar Association that the government has a moral obligation to ensure counsel for children and youth who’ve arrived at the border without their parents. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File) AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File\n

The federal agency that orchestrated the botched Fast and Furious gun-walking operation would disappear if some House Republicans have their way.

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) proposed legislation that would abolish the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and transfer its various functions to the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Agency. Sensenbrenner said the scandal-ridden ATF is duplicative agency that "lacks a clear mission," and therefore should be torn down.

Today the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is housed under the Department of Justice, which is run by Attorney General Eric Holder. But a new GOP bill would dismantle the ATF and split its authorities between other agencies. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

"It is plagued by backlogs, funding gaps, hiring challenges and a lack of leadership," he said. "For decades it has been branded by high profile failures. There is also significant overlap with other agencies."

"At a time when we are approaching $18 trillion in debt, waste and redundancy within our federal agencies must be addressed," he added. "Without a doubt, we can fulfill the role of the ATF more efficiently."

Under his bill, the FBI would enforce laws dealing with firearms, explosives and arson, while the DEA would handle laws related to the illegal diversion of alcohol and tobacco. If the bill became law, those agencies would have six months to report to Congress about how it would fold in the ATF's functions.

The ATF's most famous blunder is the Fast and Furious operation that saw 2,000 guns find their way into the hands of Mexican drug cartels. While the goal was to track the weapons, one of the guns was later found at the scene where a U.S. border agent was murdered, and the ATF later admitted to losing track of hundreds of weapons.

But the ATF has also been criticized for questionable sting operations, including some in which the bureau used mentally disabled people to bring business into fake stores where they were later arrested.

Reps. Steve Stockman (R-Texas) and Reid Ribble (R-Wis.) are cosponsors of Sensenbrenner's bill.

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