A gun store in Burlington, Washington has finally been shuttered by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) eight years after inspectors discovered that almost 2,500 guns were lost, claimed stolen, or otherwise unaccounted for.
A 2005 ATF inspection revealed that the Kesselring Gun Shop could not account for 2,396 of its weapons. In 2012, the other 1,093 firearms dealers in Washington reported less than 200 gun missing from their inventory.
“Stunning,” James Zammillo, a former ATF deputy assistant director, told The Seattle Times. “That is just an incredible number.”
The Kesselring Gun Shop was also cited for failing to report stolen weapons, failing to secure caches of explosive material, as well as selling weapons to customers unable to pass background checks, or selling weapons to customers without even attempting to confirm their identity.
Despite these citations, the Kesselring Gun Shop continued operate, posting a record $14.6 million in sales in 2010. It took another three years — and many more inventory and background-check violations — before the ATF successfully forced the store to close in October of 2013.
The investigation took so long, in part, because the Seattle office of the ATF has 27 inspectors who are expected to police 4,006 licensed gun dealers in five states and the territory of Guam. They also have to deal with pressure from powerful gun lobbyists who have gutted their ability to enforce violations even when — as is the case with Kesselring — they are willfully blatant.
“They say, ‘Here’s a shovel and a pick, now dig a tunnel under Mount Rainier,’” according to Seattle ATF spokeswoman Cheryl Bishop. “Then they come back a year later and say, ‘Gee, you didn’t get very far.’”
[“TUCK0142” by nycmayorsoffice via Flickr, Creative Commons licensed]