Government officials are awfully concerned about how mere private citizens manage their firearms. Connecticut recently tightened already stringent rules about gun storage, and politicians are full of ideas about trigger locks, documentation, and restrictions on who can touch legal owners’ guns, and for how long, without committing a crime. But when it comes to keeping track of its own firearms, the government does pretty poorly.
Responding to an anonymous tip that some of the military-style weapons belonging to the U.S. Park Police (USPP) had gone missing, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) for the Department of the Interior recently took a look at how diligently the agency tracks its guns. In a scathing report, among other problems, the OIG found recordkeeping so bad that it was impossible to figure out how many guns were missing. Investigators also discovered about 1,400 firearms that had no official status. Almost 200 weapons slated for destruction were instead stored but not inventoried. One officer working at the presidential inauguration simply took a government-issued rifle home with him.
The report’s authors broadened their investigation to encompass the Park Police’s overall firearms management. “This report further underscores the decade-long theme of inaction and indifference of USPP leadership and management at all levels,” they wrote. “Basic tenets of property management and supervisory oversight are missing in their simplest forms.” The U.S. Park Police’s lapses are especially remarkable considering that the force has just 640 sworn officers.