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ATF Chief 'Scared' That Americans Will Accept High Gun Violence Level

"There's a lot of gun violence in this country ...And one of the things I get a little nervous about, actually I'm scared of, is that somehow that people will come to accept it, that this level of gun violence in the United States of America is ... who we are as Americans, part of our culture," says director Steven Dettelbach of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. "It is not. It is wholly un-American ... and we need to say that repeatedly. It's not part of our national story that people are afraid to send their kids to school. It's not part of our national story that people can't sit out on their porch in certain neighborhoods in this country. It's not who we are as Americans that you can't go to a movie or a rock concert or church without being scared," Dettelbach told an online session sponsored by the Washington Post. "It's not acceptable to ATF. It's not acceptable to our law enforcement partners, and it shouldn't be acceptable to the American people."

The prevalence of gun violence is due to "a whole range of causes that are come together, which means we have to deal with all of them, not to just ... let it go and say, oh, it's just--it's unstoppable now," Dettelbach says. Meanwhile, if there’s one place that reflects the hurdles the Biden administration faces as it tries to get a handle on the gun violence epidemic, it’s the National Tracing Center tucked in the mountains of West Virginia. It is ATF's only gun tracing center. Federal employees and contractors huddle beneath harsh overhead lighting. Some workers rustle through thick stacks of documents. Others work the phones, trying to confirm vital information on weapons used in shootings, robberies or other crimes. The center receives 1,800 gun trace requests a day from local law enforcement agencies. Their job is to take the identifying information they’re given and piece together a weapon’s path, from manufacturer to retailer to buyer. Because of an arcane tracing system and serial understaffing and underfunding, it takes an average of eight days to fulfill a routine trace request, reports Politico. Under the quickest scenarios, it can take about 48 hours, but only if the center surges resources, such as after a mass shooting.


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A daily report co-sponsored by Arizona State University, Criminal Justice Journalists, and the National Criminal Justice Association

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