oversight

Firearms Controls: Federal Agencies Have Firearms Controls, but Could Strengthen Controls in Key Areas

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 2003-06-13.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

             United States General Accounting Office

GAO          Report to Congressional Requesters




June 2003
             FIREARMS
             CONTROLS

             Federal Agencies
             Have Firearms
             Controls, but Could
             Strengthen Controls in
             Key Areas




GAO-03-688
                                                June 2003


                                                FIREARMS CONTROLS

                                                Federal Agencies Have Firearms
 Highlights of GAO-03-688, a report to          Controls, but Could Strengthen Controls
 Congressional Requesters
                                                in Key Areas



In March 2001, the Department of                GAO found that all 18 federal agencies reviewed, which accounted for over
Justice Office of Inspector General             95 percent of federal officers and agents authorized to carry firearms, had
reported that the Immigration and               policies and procedures for controlling and safeguarding firearms that were
Naturalization Service could not                consistent with federal internal control standards and related criteria.
account for over 500 of its firearms.           However, agencies could strengthen their controls in key areas that have
Furthermore, in July 2001, the
Federal Bureau of Investigation
                                                been consistently recognized as important for effective inventory
disclosed that 449 of its firearms              management. These areas include
were lost or stolen. Given the
possible threat that lost, stolen, or           •     recording and tracking firearms inventory data;
missing firearms poses to the                   •     maintaining, controlling, and accounting for firearms inventories;
public, GAO assessed (1) the                    •     ensuring personal and supervisory accountability for firearms; and
consistency of federal agencies’                •     requiring investigations, and discipline when deemed appropriate, for
firearms controls with federal                        individuals determined not to have followed firearms accountability
internal control standards and                        procedures.
related criteria; and (2) compliance
by Justice and Treasury agencies                Although agencies established policies and procedures to control firearms,
with established firearms controls
and improvements made to
                                                audits conducted by the Departments of Justice and the Treasury found that
strengthen and enforce controls.                agencies did not always follow established procedures, or implement
                                                procedures, for conducting periodic inventories, reporting and investigating
                                                missing firearms, and securing firearms inventories. Since these weaknesses
                                                were identified, we found that agencies have implemented, or are in the
To provide better assurance that                process of implementing, actions to strengthen their firearms controls.
firearms are safeguarded from loss,
theft, or misuse, Department                    In addition, 15 of the 18 federal agencies GAO reviewed reported a total of
officials should reassess, and
                                                1,012 firearms as lost, stolen, or otherwise not in their possession between
modify if necessary, existing
firearms controls based on                      September 30, 1998 and July 2002, further indicating the need for stronger
generally accepted internal control             controls. Of these firearms, 188 were recovered, leaving 824 firearms still
standards. The agencies should                  missing. While we could not determine the exact percentage of agency
also document firearms controls in              firearms that were reported lost, stolen, or missing, it appears that these
agency policies and procedures so               firearms generally accounted for less than 1 percent of agencies’ total
they can be consistently                        firearms inventories. In independent reviews of selected missing firearms
understood and applied.                         cases, the Departments of Justice and the Treasury identified instances of
                                                firearms recovered in connection with criminal activity or during the course
Officials generally agreed with                 of criminal investigations.
GAO’s findings. Two agencies
                                                Federal Agencies with Personnel Authorized to Carry Firearms Included in GAO’s Review
agreed with our recommendation,
and three said they had taken                    Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms           National Institutes of Health
actions consistent with the                      Bureau of Engraving and Printing                   National Park Service
recommendation. A fourth agency                  Drug Enforcement Administration                    U.S. Customs Service
expressed concern about GAO’s                    Federal Bureau of Investigation                    U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
recommendation, saying its                       Federal Bureau of Prisons                          U.S. Marshals Service
existing controls were effective.                Federal Emergency Management Agency                U.S. Mint
 www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-03-688.          Federal Protective Service                         U.S. Postal Inspection Service
                                                 Immigration and Naturalization Service             U.S. Secret Service
 To view the full report, including the scope
 and methodology, click on the link above.       Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation   Department of Veterans Affairs
 For more information, contact Cathleen         Source: GAO survey of agencies’ data.
 Berrick at (212) 512-8777 or
 berrickc@gao.gov.
Contents


Letter                                                                                  1
               Results in Brief                                                         4
               Background                                                               6
               Agencies’ Policies and Procedures Were Consistent with Internal
                 Control Standards, but Agencies Could Strengthen Controls in
                 Key Areas                                                              8
               Audits Found Weaknesses in Firearms Controls at Justice and
                 Treasury Agencies, but Improvements Are Being Made                   15
               Majority of Federal Law Enforcement Agencies Reviewed
                 Reported Missing Firearms                                            22
               Conclusion                                                             26
               Recommendations                                                        27
               Agency Comments                                                        27

Appendix I     Objectives, Scope, and Methodology                                      30



Appendix II    Agency Controls Over Weapons Other than Firearms
               and Weapons Components                                                  34
               Agencies Established Controls to Account for Other Weapons and
                 Weapons Components                                                   34
               Agencies Reported Having Inventories of Explosives, Gas and/or
                 Chemical Agents, and Ammunition                                      34
               Agencies Used Inventory Counts and Other Methods to Control
                 Weapons and Weapons Components                                       35

Appendix III   Presence of Key Firearms Activities in Agency
               Policies and Procedures                                                 40



Appendix IV    Survey Questionnaire                                                    42



Appendix V     Follow-up Survey Questionnaire                                          63




               Page i                                         GAO-03-688 Firearms Control
Appendix VI     Justice and Treasury Reports on Internal Controls
                Over Firearms and Other Sensitive Property                               66



Appendix VII    Comments from the Department of Health and
                Human Services                                                           67



Appendix VIII   Comments from the Department of the Interior                             69



Appendix IX     Comments from the Department of Justice                                  72



Appendix X      Comments from the United States Postal Service                           77



Appendix XI     Comments from the Department of Veterans
                Affairs                                                                  81



Appendix XII    GAO Contacts and Staff Acknowledgments                                   84
                GAO Contact                                                             84
                Staff Acknowledgments                                                   84


Tables
                Table 1: Most Recently Completed Firearms Inventories of Federal
                         Law Enforcement Agencies Reviewed as of July 2002                3
                Table 2: Reporting and Investigating Missing Firearms by BOP,
                         DEA, FBI, INS, and USMS                                        17
                Table 3: Firearms Reported Missing, Recovered, and Unaccounted
                         for between September 30, 1998 and July 2002 at Selected
                         Federal Law Enforcement Agencies                               24
                Table 4: Eighteen Federal Law Enforcement Agencies Included in
                         Our Survey of Federal Firearms Control Policies,
                         Procedures, and Practices                                      31


                Page ii                                         GAO-03-688 Firearms Control
Table 5: Agencies’ Reported Use of Weapons Other than Firearms
         and Weapons Components                                                           34
Table 6: Agencies’ Reported Use of Inventory Procedures for
         Explosives, Gas and/or Chemical Agents, and Ammunition                           36
Table 7: Key Firearms Control Activities in Agency Policies and
         Procedures as Reported by Selected Federal Law
         Enforcement Agencies                                                             40
Table 8: Justice, Treasury, and Treasury Inspector General for Tax
         Administration Reports on Internal Controls Over
         Firearms and Other Sensitive Property                                            66




Abbreviations

ATF               Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms
BEP               Bureau of Engraving and Printing
BJS               Bureau of Justice Statistics
BOP               Bureau of Prisons
DEA               Drug Enforcement Administration
FBI               Federal Bureau of Investigation
INS               Immigration and Naturalization Service
IRS/CI            Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation
NCIC              National Crime Information Center
NIH               National Institutes of Health
OIG               Office of the Inspector General
TIGTA             Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration
USMS              U.S. Marshals Service
VA                Department of Veterans Affairs


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Page iii                                                    GAO-03-688 Firearms Control
United States General Accounting Office
Washington, DC 20548




                                   June 13, 2003

                                   The Honorable F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr.
                                   Chairman
                                   The Honorable John Conyers, Jr.
                                   Ranking Minority Member
                                   Committee on the Judiciary
                                   House of Representatives

                                   The Honorable John D. Dingell
                                   House of Representatives

                                   The Honorable Robert C. “Bobby” Scott
                                   Ranking Minority Member
                                   Subcommittee on Crime
                                   Committee on the Judiciary
                                   House of Representatives

                                   The Honorable Lamar S. Smith
                                   House of Representatives

                                   In March 2001, the Department of Justice Office of Inspector General
                                   (OIG) reported that over 500 firearms belonging to the U.S. Immigration
                                   and Naturalization Service (INS) were lost, stolen, or missing.1 Four
                                   months later, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) disclosed that 449
                                   of its firearms were lost or stolen.2 The loss of firearms and other weapons
                                   by federal law enforcement agencies may pose serious risks to the public,
                                   including the risk that missing firearms may be used to inflict bodily harm
                                   or to further criminal activity.




                                   1
                                     Of the more than 500 missing firearms, INS identified 497 as missing during an August 1998
                                   agencywide inventory. An additional 42 firearms were subsequently identified as missing
                                   by Justice’s OIG during an audit of INS property management.
                                   2
                                    FBI officials reported that 161 of the reported 449 lost or stolen weapons were
                                   nonfunctional training weapons that could not easily be converted to live firearms. In
                                   addition, officials said that some of the 161 training weapons had been given to state/local
                                   training institutions and were subsequently destroyed.



                                   Page 1                                                       GAO-03-688 Firearms Control
Given these losses, you expressed concern that federal agencies with
personnel authorized to carry firearms may lack adequate controls for
securing and accounting for their firearms. Accordingly, we determined

•   the extent to which agencies’ policies and procedures for controlling
    and safeguarding firearms were consistent with federal internal control
    standards and related criteria issued by law enforcement and
    management organizations;

•   whether reviews conducted by the Departments of Justice and
    Treasury3 identified instances of noncompliance with firearms policies
    and procedures, and whether agencies took actions to correct
    identified weaknesses, particularly related to (1) conducting
    inventories, (2) investigating missing firearms, and (3) disciplining
    employees; and

•   the number of firearms that federal agencies identified as lost, stolen,
    or otherwise not in their possession between September 30, 1998 and
    July 2002.

You also requested that we determine how federal agencies maintain
control and accountability over weapons other than firearms and
associated weapons components. Information on these weapons and
weapons components can be found in appendix II.

To evaluate agencies’ policies and procedures for controlling and
safeguarding firearms, the number of missing agency firearms, and
agencies’ control over other weapons and weapons components, we
reviewed the firearms control activities of 18 agencies with personnel
authorized to carry firearms and make arrests4 within the executive branch
of the federal government. We selected these agencies from four strata:
those with 1,000 or more law enforcement personnel, those with 500-999
law enforcement personnel, those with 100-499 law enforcement




3
  When we initiated our review, INS was part of the Department of Justice; U.S. Customs
Service, U.S. Secret Service, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms were part
of the Department of the Treasury. With the enactment of the Homeland Security Act of
2002, INS, U.S. Customs Service, and U.S. Secret Service were transferred to the
Department of Homeland Security on March 1, 2003. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and
Firearms was transferred to the Department of Justice as of January 24, 2003 (P.L. 107-296).
4
 Henceforth, these agencies will be referred to as federal law enforcement agencies.




Page 2                                                      GAO-03-688 Firearms Control
personnel, and those with less than 100 law enforcement personnel.5
Together, these agencies employed over 95 percent of approximately
80,000 federal officers and agents authorized to make arrests and carry
firearms, as of June 2000. Table 1 identifies the 18 federal law enforcement
agencies we surveyed and the number of firearms reported by the agencies
as of their most recently completed inventories, at the time of our survey.

Table 1: Most Recently Completed Firearms Inventories of Federal Law
Enforcement Agencies Reviewed as of July 2002

                                                            Date of completed                 Number of
                                                            firearms inventory                  firearms
    Agency                                                  as of July 2002                 inventorieda
    Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms                January 2002                           21,125
    Bureau of Engraving and Printing                        June 2002                                 527
    Drug Enforcement Administration                         September 2001                         14,921
    Federal Bureau of Investigation                         January 2002                           49,600
    Federal Bureau of Prisons                               April 2002                             19,023
    Federal Emergency Management Agency                     June 2001                                 188
    Federal Protective Service                              December 2001                           1,806
    Immigration and Naturalization Service                  August 2001                            54,930
    Internal Revenue Service, Criminal
    Investigation                                           September 2001                         5,467
    National Institutes of Health                           June 2002                                263
    National Park Service                                   September 2001                        10,718
    U.S. Customs Service                                    April 2002                            24,751
    U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service                          September 2001                         5,234
    U.S. Marshals Service                                   October 2001                          14,495
    U.S. Mint                                               October 2001                           1,026
    U.S. Postal Inspection Service                          December 2002b                         6,228
    U.S. Secret Service                                     December 2001                          9,396
    Department of Veterans Affairs                          March 2003c                            3,319
    Total                                                                                        243,017
Source: GAO survey of agencies.
a
    Data were not independently verified.
b
    The U.S. Postal Inspection Service provided information as of December 2002.
c
 The Department of Veterans Affairs does not have a centralized inventory, but maintains inventory
records at its more than 100 facilities. For our review, officials calculated its total firearms inventory
as of March 2003.




5
 We selected all 11 agencies in the 1,000 or more stratum, the 2 largest in each of the 3
remaining strata, and 1 additional Treasury agency to account for all Justice and Treasury
law enforcement agencies.




Page 3                                                                 GAO-03-688 Firearms Control
                   We surveyed the 18 agencies to determine their policies and procedures
                   for controlling and safeguarding firearms inventories, and the numbers of
                   firearms lost, stolen, or not in their possession, and subsequently
                   recovered, between September 30, 1998 and July 2002. We also reviewed
                   agency policies and procedures, federal internal control standards, and
                   other criteria for controlling inventories to determine whether agencies’
                   policies and procedures for safeguarding firearms were consistent with
                   established criteria.

                   To determine whether the Departments of Justice and the Treasury
                   identified instances of noncompliance with firearms policies and
                   procedures and have taken action to correct identified weaknesses, we
                   reviewed the results of audits conducted by these departments of their
                   respective agencies’ firearms control practices. We also interviewed
                   agency officials and obtained documentation identifying corrective action
                   taken in response to departmental reviews. Appendix I contains detailed
                   information on the scope and methodology we used during our review.


                   All 18 of the federal law enforcement agencies we surveyed had policies
Results in Brief   and procedures designed to control and safeguard firearms that were
                   generally consistent with federal internal control standards and related
                   criteria. These controls addressed (1) recording and tracking of firearms
                   inventory data; (2) maintaining, controlling, and accounting for firearms
                   inventories; (3) personal and supervisory accountability for firearms; and
                   (4) investigations, and discipline when deemed appropriate, for individuals
                   determined not to have followed firearms accountability procedures.
                   Although agencies had policies and procedures to control and safeguard
                   firearms, agencies could strengthen their controls in some of these areas.
                   In addition, agencies did not always document these controls in their
                   policies and procedures.

                   Audits conducted by Justice’s and Treasury’s OIGs and the Treasury
                   Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) found weaknesses in
                   agency procedures for controlling and safeguarding firearms. Specifically,
                   they found that some agencies did not conduct periodic firearms
                   inventories or report and investigate instances of missing firearms, as
                   required by their policies and procedures. However, the OIGs and TIGTA
                   found that agencies generally disciplined employees who did not
                   appropriately control their firearms or report missing firearms. In
                   response to these audits, agencies have taken, or are in the process of
                   taking, action to correct all identified weaknesses.



                   Page 4                                           GAO-03-688 Firearms Control
Although agencies generally established policies and procedures to
control and safeguard firearms, 15 of the 18 we reviewed reported a total
of 1,012 firearms as lost, stolen, or otherwise not in their possession at
some point in time between September 30, 1998 and July 2002. Of these
firearms, 188 were recovered during the same time period, leaving
824 firearms still missing. While we could not determine the exact
percentage of agency firearms that were reported lost, stolen, or missing,
it appears that these firearms generally accounted for less than 1 percent
of agencies’ total firearms inventories.6 Agencies reported that some losses
occurred despite employees taking appropriate precautions, and some
missing firearms did not pose a threat to the public. However, audits
conducted by Justice’s and Treasury’s OIGs identified instances in which
firearms were recovered in connection with criminal activity or during a
criminal investigation.

In order to assist federal law enforcement agencies in more effectively
securing firearms, we are recommending that agencies strengthen their
policies and procedures for controlling and safeguarding firearms
inventories in the key control areas consistently recognized as important
for effective inventory management and document those controls in
agency policies and procedures.

We requested and received comments on a draft of this report from the
Attorney General, Secretary of the Treasury, Secretary of the Interior,
Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Secretary of Homeland Security, the
Director of the National Institutes of Health (Department of Health and
Human Services), and the Postmaster General. Officials generally agreed
with the information presented and suggested technical changes that have
been incorporated where appropriate. The National Institutes of Health,
Fish and Wildlife Service (Department of the Interior), U.S. Postal
Inspection Service, and Department of Veterans Affairs commented on the
recommendation. The National Institutes of Health and the Fish and
Wildlife Service agreed with the recommendation and identified actions
they have taken to strengthen firearms controls. The U.S. Postal
Inspection Service also identified changes it has made, or is making, to its
policies and procedures to strengthen its controls over firearms,
consistent with our recommendation.



6
 Since the firearms inventory and missing firearms data were developed from different
bases, such as inventory counts or internal agency reporting systems, and are based on
different time periods, they are not directly comparable.




Page 5                                                     GAO-03-688 Firearms Control
             The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) expressed concerned about our
             recommendation, saying that its controls were effective in preventing
             firearms losses, as evidenced by its not having any missing firearms during
             the time period of our review. Although the department did not report
             missing firearms during this time period, the potential exists that firearms
             could be lost or stolen at some point in the future. Accordingly, we believe
             that the department as well as other agencies we reviewed should
             periodically assess their firearms controls, particularly when their
             organization or operations have changed or when firearms have been
             identified as missing, to determine whether their controls have been
             effective or should be modified.

             Written comments that we received from the Departments of the Interior,
             Justice, and Veterans Affairs; the National Institutes of Health; and the U.S.
             Postal Service are included in appendixes VII through XI.

             In 1982, Congress enacted the Federal Managers’ Financial Integrity Act7
Background   requiring executive agencies to establish and maintain controls that,
             among other things, provide reasonable assurance that assets are
             safeguarded against waste, loss, unauthorized use, and misappropriation.
             The act also mandated that GAO’s internal control standards8 serve as the
             framework for agencies to use in establishing and maintaining their
             internal control systems. Among other things, GAO’s internal control
             standards require agencies to establish physical controls to secure and
             safeguard vulnerable assets such as cash, securities, inventories, and
             equipment, which might be vulnerable to loss or unauthorized use. In
             March 2002, GAO published a supplemental guide for inventory controls,9
             which summarized fundamental principles that have been successfully
             implemented by seven private sector firms noted for outstanding inventory
             management.

             GAO internal control standards provide that in establishing internal
             controls, agencies should assess the risks associated with asset losses and
             establish control activities to help ensure those risks are addressed. The


             7
              31 U.S.C. 3512.
             8
             U.S. General Accounting Office, Standards for Internal Control in the Federal
             Government, GAO/AIMD-00-21.3.1 (Washington, D.C.: Nov. 1999).
             9
               U.S. General Accounting Office, Executive Guide: Best Practices in Achieving
             Consistent, Accurate Physical Counts of Inventory and Related Property, GAO-02-447G
             (Washington, D.C.: Mar. 2002).




             Page 6                                                    GAO-03-688 Firearms Control
standards further require that agencies document and monitor control
activities to ensure they are appropriately implemented and are effective
in addressing risk inherent in agency operations.

In addition to the Federal Managers’ Financial Integrity Act and GAO
standards, two other organizations issued advisory criteria addressing
inventory controls. In June 1995, the Joint Financial Management
Improvement Program issued advisory criteria for implementing and
maintaining inventory systems.10 The criteria addressed management’s
responsibility to provide guidelines for developing, documenting, and
implementing physical controls to safeguard and provide accountability
for inventory items. Furthermore, in August 1983, the Commission on
Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc., an independent
accrediting authority for law enforcement agencies,11 published
accreditation standards to include procedures for inventory and property
control.




10
 The Joint Financial Management Improvement Program is a financial management
improvement program involving the Department of the Treasury, Office of Management
and Budget, Office of Personnel Management, GAO, and other agencies under the statutory
authority of the Budget and Accounting Procedures Act of 1950 [see 31 U.S.C. 3511 (d)].
The purpose of the program is to promote the efficient management of assets and provide
useful financial information on federal government operations.
11
   The Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc., was established
as an independent accrediting authority in 1979 by four major law enforcement
membership associations: International Association of Chiefs of Police, National
Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, National Sheriffs’ Association, and
Police Executive Research Forum. The purpose of the accreditation program is to improve
law enforcement operations by developing standards addressing a wide range of law
enforcement topics.




Page 7                                                   GAO-03-688 Firearms Control
                            All 18 of the federal law enforcement agencies we surveyed had policies
Agencies’ Policies and      and procedures designed to control and safeguard firearms, one of the
Procedures Were             first steps in developing and implementing an effective system of internal
                            control. These controls were generally consistent with federal internal
Consistent with             control standards and related criteria issued by law enforcement and
Internal Control            management organizations. However, agencies could strengthen controls
                            in key areas consistently identified as important for effective inventory
Standards, but              management. Strengthening controls could assist agencies in ensuring
Agencies Could              their firearms are secured from loss, theft, or unauthorized use.
Strengthen Controls
in Key Areas

Federal Standards and       In order to assess the consistency of selected agencies’ policies and
Other Criteria Provide      procedures for controlling and safeguarding firearms with established
Guidance for Controlling    criteria, we reviewed federal and other internal control standards designed
                            to help ensure that assets, including firearms, are protected against
and Safeguarding Firearms   damage, loss, theft, and unauthorized use. The criteria included GAO’s
                            internal control standards and supplemental inventory guidelines, advisory
                            criteria issued by the Joint Financial Management Improvement Program
                            for maintaining inventory systems, and accreditation standards for
                            inventory and property control issued by the Commission on Accreditation
                            for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc.

                            Our analysis of federal internal control standards and other related criteria
                            found four key areas that were consistently identified as important for
                            effective inventory management. These four areas include (1) recording
                            firearms inventory data in property management records and systems
                            (inventory data); (2) controlling and safeguarding firearms inventories
                            (inventory control); (3) assigning responsibility for safeguarding firearms
                            and overseeing the conducting of firearms inventories (personal and
                            supervisory accountability); and (4) investigating missing firearms and
                            considering employee discipline when requirements for maintaining and
                            controlling firearms are not met (investigations and discipline).

                            Within each of these four areas, federal internal control standards and
                            related criteria identify specific controls designed to assist agencies in
                            controlling and safeguarding their firearms inventories. For example, in
                            the area of inventory control, the standards and criteria recommend that
                            agencies (1) have written policies and procedures for issuing agency
                            firearms to individuals, organizational units, and functional areas;
                            (2) conduct periodic inventory counts of firearms; (3) use occasions other


                            Page 8                                            GAO-03-688 Firearms Control
                          than periodic inventories to confirm employees’ possession of assigned
                          firearms; and (4) limit access to secured firearms storage areas and
                          facilities to authorized personnel.

                          We compared agency policies and procedures for maintaining firearms
                          with controls identified in federal internal control standards and related
                          criteria for each of the four key control areas. Appendix III identifies, for
                          each agency reviewed, whether the agency established policies and
                          procedures addressing specific controls recommended by GAO and other
                          management organizations within each of the four areas.


Inventory Data—Agencies   We surveyed agencies to determine whether they established controls to
Required the Recording    record and update firearms inventory data in agency property records and
and Update of Firearms    property management systems, consistent with standards issued by GAO
                          and other management organizations. Specifically, we determined whether
Data                      agencies had written policies and procedures requiring the update of
                          property records and systems (1) upon their receipt of new firearms, (2) as
                          a result of discrepancies identified during periodic firearms inventories,
                          and (3) upon the removal of firearms from agency inventories.

                          The recording and update of firearms inventory data is an important
                          component of maintaining and controlling agency firearms. Data on
                          activities that monitor the receipt and removal of firearms from inventory,
                          as well as discrepancies found during periodic inventories, are needed to
                          ensure management has adequate oversight over agency firearms. The
                          absence of these controls could result in management being unaware of
                          the number and location of firearms they have on-hand, and could result in
                          a lack of appropriate oversight over these assets.

                          The majority of agencies we reviewed usually required in their policies and
                          procedures the recording and update of firearms inventory data.
                          Specifically, 16 of the 18 agencies required that the date of receipt and the
                          specific identification of the firearm, as well as the person and unit to
                          which the firearm was assigned, be reported in property management
                          records as new firearms are received. In addition, 17 of the 18 agencies
                          required that adjustments be made to firearms inventory records as a
                          result of discrepancies identified during physical inventory counts. Sixteen
                          agencies also required the update of property management records upon
                          the removal of firearms from agency inventories.




                          Page 9                                             GAO-03-688 Firearms Control
Inventory Control—          In the area of inventory control, we surveyed agencies to determine
Agencies Required the       whether they established written policies and procedures, consistent with
Recording of Firearms       federal internal control standards and related criteria, addressing the
                            (1) issuance of agency firearms to individuals, organizational units, and
Data and Periodic           functional areas; (2) conducting of periodic inventory counts of firearms
Inventories, but Could      and the manner in which inventories should be conducted; and (3) use of
Strengthen Other Controls   occasions other than periodic inventories to confirm employees’
                            possession of assigned firearms. We also surveyed agencies to determine
                            whether they (4) limited access to secured firearms storage areas and
                            facilities to authorized personnel.

                            The issuance of firearms, periodic checks of firearms on-hand, and limited
                            access to firearms storage areas are important in ensuring that agencies
                            appropriately safeguard their firearms. Agencies often learn of missing or
                            stolen firearms when conducting periodic inventories, or when they use
                            occasions other than inventories to confirm employee’s possession of
                            firearms. Without these controls, management may not be alerted when
                            firearms are not appropriately maintained, or when stored firearms are not
                            adequately protected from loss, theft, or unauthorized use.

                            The agencies we reviewed generally established written policies and
                            procedures for issuing firearms and conducting firearms inventories, but
                            could strengthen other inventory controls. Specifically, agencies generally
                            had written policies and procedures addressing the issuance of agency
                            firearms to individuals (18 out of 18) and organizational units (16 out of
                            16 that reported the control applicable). In addition, all 18 agencies
                            required the conducting of periodic inventory counts of firearms, and 15 of
                            these agencies required that the objectives, timing, and instructions for the
                            counts be established. However, only 11 of the 18 agencies required that
                            persons assigned responsibility for conducting inventories be trained in
                            inventory counting procedures.

                            In addition, 15 of the 18 agencies required counters to verify firearm ID
                            numbers and descriptive information about the firearm during inventory
                            counts. However, 9 agencies did not preclude individuals from counting
                            firearms if they had firearms custodial responsibilities. Furthermore, only
                            2 of these 9 agencies established compensating procedures such as using
                            count teams of 2 or more members, or ensuring that counters have no
                            prior knowledge of the firearms inventory being counted.

                            Agencies also varied in using occasions other than inventories to verify
                            employees’ possession of an assigned firearm and limiting access to
                            secured firearms storage areas. Fifteen of the 18 agencies surveyed


                            Page 10                                           GAO-03-688 Firearms Control
                            confirmed an employee’s possession of an assigned firearm during
                            firearms retraining or retesting. However, only 8 of the 18 agencies
                            required unannounced inspections to verify employees’ possession of
                            assigned firearms. In addition, of the 15 agencies that reported this control
                            applicable, only 7 required limited access to firearms storage areas and
                            facilities.


Personal and Supervisory    We surveyed agencies to determine whether they established policies and
Accountability—Agencies     procedures, consistent with federal internal control standards and related
Required that Firearms Be   criteria, requiring individuals to (1) safeguard assigned firearms from
                            damage, loss, theft, and unauthorized use, and (2) store firearms in lock
Safeguarded, but Could      boxes or secure gun cases, or use trigger locks. We also surveyed agencies
Strengthen Other Controls   to determine whether (3) job descriptions included requirements for
                            conducting inventories, (4) individual performance in conducting
                            inventories is assessed during performance evaluations, and (5) whether
                            supervisory oversight is provided over periodic firearms inventories.

                            Internal controls addressing an individual’s responsibility in maintaining
                            assigned firearms, and a supervisor’s responsibility in overseeing the
                            control of those firearms, are needed to help ensure firearms policies are
                            adhered to and firearms are appropriately secured. In order to be
                            accountable for safeguarding firearms, employees and supervisors must be
                            made aware of their responsibilities related to firearms control. The lack
                            of these controls could make responsibilities related to firearms control
                            unclear and result in difficulties in holding appropriate individuals
                            accountable for failing to follow established procedures.

                            The agencies we reviewed generally established written policies and
                            procedures requiring individuals to safeguard assigned firearms, but could
                            strengthen controls for conducting and overseeing firearms inventories.
                            Specifically, 17 of the 18 agencies had policies and procedures requiring
                            individuals to safeguard assigned firearms from damage, theft, loss, and
                            unauthorized use. In addition, all 18 agencies required that firearms be
                            secured in lock boxes or secured gun cases or that trigger locks be used.
                            However, only 12 agencies assigned responsibility for conducting firearms
                            inventories in job descriptions, and only 7 agencies assessed individuals’
                            performance in conducting firearms inventories during performance
                            evaluations. In addition, only 11 of the 18 agencies required that
                            supervisors oversee periodic firearms inventories.




                            Page 11                                           GAO-03-688 Firearms Control
Investigations and           We surveyed agencies to determine whether they established written
Discipline—Agencies          policies and procedures, in accordance with federal internal controls
Required Investigations of   standards and related criteria, to ensure that instances of missing firearms
                             are investigated, and employees are appropriately disciplined for not
Missing Firearms and         safeguarding firearms or reporting missing firearms. Specifically, we
Discipline When Deemed       determined whether agencies had policies and procedures requiring that
Appropriate                  (1) missing firearms be investigated, (2) investigations of missing firearms
                             be conducted by an independent body, (3) missing firearms be reported to
                             the National Crime Information Center (NCIC),12 (4) disciplinary action be
                             taken for failing to report missing firearms, and (5) disciplinary action be
                             taken for failing to properly safeguard assigned firearms.

                             Federal internal control standards and related criteria provide that
                             agencies should have the ability to investigate instances of missing
                             firearms and consider appropriate disciplinary action to enforce
                             compliance with firearms controls. Instances of missing firearms should
                             be investigated to identify the reasons the firearms were missing and to
                             provide management with information to implement any corrective
                             actions needed. In addition, procedures requiring the discipline of
                             individuals who did not appropriately secure their firearm or report a
                             missing firearm could act as a deterrent to others in failing to adhere to
                             these controls.

                             The agencies we reviewed generally had written policies and procedures
                             requiring that incidents of missing or stolen firearms be appropriately
                             investigated and reported. Specifically, all 18 agencies required that
                             physical count discrepancies of firearms be investigated, and 17 agencies
                             required that written instructions for investigating such discrepancies be
                             developed. In addition, 15 agencies had written policies and procedures
                             requiring that an independent body conduct the investigations, and
                             15 agencies required that missing firearms be reported to the NCIC.

                             Agencies also generally required disciplinary action for employees failing
                             to report missing firearms and for not adhering to firearms accountability
                             procedures. Fifteen of the 18 agencies required that disciplinary action be
                             taken for employees failing to report missing firearms. In addition,
                             14 agencies required disciplinary action for employees failing to
                             appropriately safeguard their firearms.



                             12
                              NCIC, located in the FBI, provides a computerized database for ready access by
                             authorized users to criminal justice information, including information on stolen firearms.




                             Page 12                                                      GAO-03-688 Firearms Control
Agencies Did Not Always    Agencies did not always document their controls for maintaining and
Document Firearms          controlling firearms inventories in policies and procedures. Standards for
Controls in Policies and   Internal Control in the Federal Government issued by GAO require that
                           internal control activities be clearly documented in management
Procedures                 directives, administrative policies, or operating manuals. Although we
                           found that agencies documented most of the firearms controls reviewed,
                           16 of the 18 agencies reported implementing some firearms controls as a
                           matter of practice, without documenting the controls in their policies and
                           procedures. Only the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) and
                           INS reported documenting in their policies and procedures all of the
                           controls we reviewed.

                           Appendix III identifies, for the four areas reviewed, whether agencies
                           relied on control activities that were not documented in their policies and
                           procedures. In the area of inventory data, for example, 1 agency reported
                           updating property management records and systems to identify out-of-
                           service and disposed of firearms, but did not include this requirement in
                           its policies and procedures. Another agency reported adjusting inventory
                           records as a result of physical inventories, but did not require this in its
                           policies and procedures.

                           In the inventory control area, 13 of the 18 agencies surveyed reported
                           conducting some aspect of inventory control that was not required by their
                           policies and procedures. For example, 9 agencies reported taking
                           measures to ensure the integrity of firearms counts, and 9 agencies
                           reported limiting access to secured firearms storage areas, but did not
                           include these controls in their policies and procedures.

                           Agencies also reported following unwritten practices to hold individuals
                           accountable for firearms inventories and to help ensure that inventories
                           are properly performed. For example, 5 agencies reported assessing
                           individuals’ participation in inventories during performance evaluations,
                           and 2 agencies reported providing supervisory oversight of firearms
                           inventories, without including these requirements in their policies and
                           procedures.

                           Regarding the investigation of missing firearms and associated employee
                           discipline, 2 agencies reported requiring that an independent body
                           investigate missing firearms, but did not include this requirement in their
                           policies and procedures. In another example, 3 agencies reported that
                           while employees who fail to safeguard their firearms are subject to
                           disciplinary action, disciplinary action was not required by the agencies’
                           policies and procedures.


                           Page 13                                           GAO-03-688 Firearms Control
                            Controls that are not included in policies and procedures may not be
                            consistently applied throughout the agency and may not be effective in
                            helping ensure that firearms are appropriately controlled and safeguarded.
                            Without documented controls, individuals may not know the controls are
                            required, and management may not be able to enforce their use. Agencies
                            that rely on unwritten practices to protect their firearms run the risk that
                            those controls may not be followed, and their firearms may not be
                            appropriately secured.

Key Controls Provide        The key control areas identified in federal internal control standards and
Framework for Controlling   other criteria—inventory data, inventory control, personal and supervisory
and Safeguarding            accountability, and investigations and discipline—provide a framework to
                            assist agencies in building their systems of firearms controls. However,
Firearms, but Appropriate   internal control guidance recommends that agencies tailor these controls
Mix of Controls Should be   to reflect their unique needs and circumstances, as well as their relative
Based on Agency Needs       risks for firearms losses. Agency management is ultimately responsible for
                            implementing the combination of controls deemed reasonable to
                            effectively control and safeguard their firearms, based on agency needs.

                            Firearms control needs may vary depending on an agency’s operations and
                            structure. For example, law enforcement employees at the Bureau of
                            Engraving and Printing (BEP) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH)
                            generally secure fixed buildings and store their firearms in one or few
                            central locations when they are off-duty. Conversely, employees at the
                            FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and INS conduct
                            investigations nationwide and generally keep their firearms with them at
                            all times. As a result, BEP and NIH may require different methods for
                            conducting firearms inventories than may be needed at the FBI, DEA, and
                            INS. In addition, the FBI, DEA, and INS may wish to use other occasions to
                            check an employee’s possession of an assigned firearm, along with annual
                            inventories, such as unannounced inspections and checks during
                            retraining or testing in firearms use.




                            Page 14                                           GAO-03-688 Firearms Control
                            Audits conducted by the Departments of Justice and Treasury OIGs and
 Audits Found               TIGTA found that agencies did not always comply with agency policies
 Weaknesses in              and procedures for maintaining and controlling firearms inventories or
                            establish needed controls. Specifically, the audits found that some
 Firearms Controls at       agencies did not conduct periodic inventories of firearms or report and
 Justice and Treasury       investigate instances of missing firearms, as required. However, the audits
                            found that agencies generally disciplined employees who did not
 Agencies, but              appropriately control their firearms or report missing firearms. Although
 Improvements Are           these weaknesses were found, agencies have taken, or are in the process
 Being Made                 of taking, actions to improve their controls over firearms inventories. See
                            appendix VI for a detailed listing of audits conducted by the OIGs and
                            TIGTA of their agencies’ controls over firearms.


 Justice’s OIG Found that   The Department of Justice’s OIG reviewed the firearms control activities
 Agencies Did Not Always    of the Bureau of Prisons (BOP), DEA, U.S. Marshals Service (USMS), FBI,
 Control and Maintain       and INS from March 1999 through March 2002,13 to assess the effectiveness
                            of agencies’ controls over firearms and to determine what actions were
 Firearms as Required       taken by the agencies in response to the identification of lost or stolen
                            firearms. The OIG reported that some agencies did not always conduct
                            periodic physical inventories of firearms or investigate instances of
                            missing firearms, but generally disciplined employees who did not report
                            or control missing firearms as required by their policies and procedures. In
                            addition, the OIG found that employees did not always report missing
                            firearms or follow established procedures for storing firearms in vehicles
                            or retrieving firearms from separating employees.

Justice Agencies Did Not    Justice’s OIG found that FBI, DEA, and INS did not conduct periodic
Always Conduct Periodic     physical inventories of firearms as required by their policies and
Firearms Inventories        procedures. The FBI required that periodic inventories be conducted every
                            2 years, while the DEA and INS required annual physical inventories of
                            firearms.14 Despite these requirements, the OIG found that until it began its
                            review in 2001, FBI had not completed a firearms inventory since prior to
                            1993. In addition, the OIG found that DEA and INS did not properly



                            13
                             The BOP, DEA, and USMS audits identify firearms that were missing between October
                            1999 and August 2001. The FBI audit identifies firearms that were missing between October
                            1, 1999 and January 21, 2002. The INS audit identifies firearms that were determined
                            missing during an agencywide inventory of firearms conducted in August 1998, therefore,
                            reflecting losses over an extended period.
                            14
                                 Prior to 1998, INS required that firearms inventories be conducted every 2 years.




                            Page 15                                                         GAO-03-688 Firearms Control
                             conduct or document past inventories, including not inventorying all
                             firearms. For example, INS had not completed inventories in accordance
                             with its policies and procedures, including tracking inventory adjustments
                             and confirming that that appropriate property was inventoried. The OIG
                             found that BOP and USMS were generally current in conducting firearms
                             inventories.

                             According to the OIG, FBI and DEA officials stated that they had not
                             conducted or completed required inventories for a variety of reasons,
                             including not having the required funds to conduct the inventories and
                             relying on other methods to verify inventories.15 For example, FBI officials
                             said that they did not conduct all required inventories due to budgetary
                             and equipment limitations and due to the reassignment of personnel who
                             had conducted inventories in the past. At DEA, officials stated that they
                             relied on the physical check of assigned firearms during agents’ annual
                             firearms qualifications as a substitute for the required annual inventories.
                             Despite this reliance, however, DEA still reported firearms as lost or
                             stolen from its inventories.

Justice Agencies Did Not     While BOP and DEA initiated investigations of all missing firearms, FBI
Always Investigate Missing   and INS did not always initiate investigations, as required by agency
Firearms, but Generally      policies and procedures, or could not provide documentation that
Disciplined Responsible      investigations were conducted. Justice requires that component agencies
Employees                    investigate instances of missing property, including firearms, and grants
                             agencies the authority to discipline employees determined not to have
                             followed property control procedures. However, the OIG determined that
                             29 of 74 missing firearms incidents at the INS between January 1996 and
                             September 1999 were not investigated. In addition, the OIG could not find
                             evidence that the FBI investigated 141 of 212 missing firearms incidents
                             reported for the period October 1999 through January 2002.

                             Although the OIG found that investigations of missing firearms were not
                             always initiated, they found that investigations of missing firearms usually
                             resulted in employees found responsible for the loss being disciplined.16


                             15
                              The OIG did not report the reasons why INS had not conducted inventories in accordance
                             with its policies and procedures.
                             16
                               The OIG reported that BOP did not recommend disciplinary action for the two missing
                             firearms cases the OIG reviewed, but did not identify whether the BOP should have
                             recommended disciplinary action for those cases. For the 12 USMS cases reviewed, the
                             OIG found that no disciplinary action was taken because USMS did not find employee
                             negligence. The OIG’s review of INS, undertaken during a different time period, did not
                             address the issue of disciplining employees who lost firearms.



                             Page 16                                                    GAO-03-688 Firearms Control
                           For example, at the DEA, 10 of 15 missing firearms cases reviewed for the
                           period October 1999 through August 2001 resulted in disciplinary action,
                           including letters of reprimand and recommendations for suspensions
                           without pay. In another example, the OIG concluded that 37 of 70
                           investigations of missing property (firearms17 and laptops) at the FBI from
                           October 1999 through January 2002, resulted in recommendations for
                           disciplinary action, including letters of censure and suspensions without
                           pay.

Justice Agencies Did Not   Justice’s OIG found that agencies did not always report, or report in a
Always Report Missing      timely manner, missing firearms internally or to the NCIC. The OIG further
Firearms or Secure and     found that some agencies did not always follow established procedures for
Retrieve Firearms          storing firearms in vehicles or retrieving firearms from separating
                           employees. Table 2 identifies the average time taken for employees to
                           report missing firearms within their agency and the number of missing
                           firearms reported to the NCIC.

                           Table 2: Reporting and Investigating Missing Firearms by BOP, DEA, FBI, INS, and
                           USMS

                                                                      Average time taken to
                                                                      report firearms losses     Number of missing firearms
                               Agency                              internally after discovery         not reported to NCIC
                               BOP                                                    0.5 days       Reporting not requireda
                               DEA                                                     15 days                        3 of 16
                               FBI                                                   4.3 years                    14 of 276
                               INS                                                         NAb                   394 of 539
                               USMS                                                     7 days                         2 of 6c
                           Source: GAO analysis of Justice data.
                           a
                               BOP did not require the reporting of missing firearms to NCIC.
                           b
                            The OIG’s data regarding the timing of reported firearms losses within INS were not comparable to
                           data obtained from the other components.
                           c
                           According to the OIG, USMS identified that the two firearms had not been reported to NCIC because
                           both were destroyed and were, therefore, accounted for.


                           The OIG found that the average timeframe for employees reporting
                           missing firearms within their agency ranged from the same day at the BOP




                           17
                            The OIG did not report how many of the 70 investigations at the FBI were of missing
                           agency firearms.




                           Page 17                                                               GAO-03-688 Firearms Control
to 4.3 years at the FBI.18 While the USMS required the immediate reporting
of missing firearms, and DEA required reporting within 48 hours, the FBI
and BOP did not include a timetable for reporting missing firearms in their
policies and procedures. The OIG attributed delays for reporting missing
firearms at the FBI to the absence of a required timetable for reporting
missing firearms, but concluded that the BOP generally reported missing
firearms in a timely manner due to firearms being stored in a central
location. The OIG could not determine whether USMS experienced delays
in reporting missing firearms because agency loss reports did not identify
the date the loss was discovered. The OIG found reporting delays of 1 to
89 days in 11 of the 16 DEA lost firearms cases examined, but did not
identify the reasons for these delays.

The OIG also found that the agencies had inconsistent practices for
reporting missing firearms to the NCIC. The OIG discovered that all
agencies reviewed, with the exception of BOP,19 had policies and
procedures requiring that missing firearms be reported to NCIC. However,
the OIG found that FBI, DEA, and INS had not reported from 2 to more
than 300 of their missing firearms to the NCIC, and that only USMS had
reported all missing firearms.20 Reporting missing firearms to NCIC would
assist agencies in retrieving lost or stolen firearms recovered by the law
enforcement community, since the NCIC system is generally regarded by
law enforcement agencies as the primary nationwide method for tracking
stolen firearms.

In addition, Justice’s OIG found that some agencies did not always follow
established procedures for storing firearms in vehicles or retrieving
firearms from separating employees. Specifically, the OIG found that 4 of
16 firearms losses at DEA, for the period October 1999 through September



18
 Justice commented that while local officials completed internal notification on a timely
basis, the notifications of lost firearms were not always forwarded to the National Firearms
Program or Property Management Units until such time as the weapons were called for
destruction. The failure to report losses or thefts to the National Firearms Program
resulted in the OIG determining a higher average reporting time.
19
 BOP officials said that they are in the process of revising their policies to require the
immediate reporting of all lost, stolen, or missing firearms to the NCIC.
20
   Justice said that prior to 2000, NCIC only had a category for stolen firearms, not lost or
missing firearms, resulting in some lost or missing firearms not being reported.
Additionally, officials reported that some firearms that the OIG identified as not being
entered into NCIC were entered, but subsequently deleted, because the information was
not updated after a certain time period.




Page 18                                                        GAO-03-688 Firearms Control
15, 2001, occurred as a result of vehicle thefts. In some cases, the
employees stored their firearms in unattended vehicles, despite internal
policies prohibiting this practice. At FBI, the OIG found that some of the
5221 firearms stolen from FBI or privately owned vehicles, during the
period October 1999 through January 2002, were due to firearms not being
properly secured in vehicles. In addition, 3 of the 6 firearms losses at
USMS were due to thefts from vehicles.22 Both FBI and USMS allowed the
storage of firearms in vehicles either temporarily (FBI) or indefinitely
(USMS), as long as the vehicle was secured and the firearm was placed in
a locked container.

The OIG also found weaknesses in the agencies’ use of accountable
property checklists designed to retrieve property from separating
employees, sometimes resulting in instances of firearms not being
retrieved. Department of Justice policies require that each agency develop,
maintain, and distribute an accountable property checklist for employees
to complete prior to separating from the department to help facilitate the
return of agency property, including firearms. Despite this requirement,
the OIG found weakness in the use of these checklists at all of the
agencies reviewed, including (1) failure to enforce the use of the checklist;
(2) lack of relevant accountable signatures; and (3) failure to include key
identifying information, such as the firearm’s serial number. As a result,
firearms were not always retrieved from separating employees. For
example, the OIG reported that in 2001, FBI found that at least 31 firearms
of separated employees could not be accounted for.




21
 The OIG did not report how many of the 52 cases (out of total of the 212 missing firearms
cases reviewed) of FBI firearms stolen from vehicles were the result of the firearms not
being properly stored.
22
   The loss of two BOP firearms for the period October 1999 through February 2002 were
determined to have not been lost or stolen from employees vehicles. BOP stated that while
these missing firearms were not reported to NCIC, they were reported to the agency and
were investigated. The investigations found that the airlines lost one weapon from checked
baggage and the second was discovered missing after the transfer of several weapons by
mail between facilities. In addition, the OIG did not report firearms losses from vehicles at
INS.




Page 19                                                      GAO-03-688 Firearms Control
Treasury’s OIG and TIGTA      Treasury’s OIG and TIGTA reviewed the firearms control activities of the
Found Agencies                ATF, U.S. Customs Service, U.S. Secret Service, BEP, the U.S. Mint, and
Safeguarded Firearms, but     Internal Revenue Service/Criminal Investigation (IRS/CI) for fiscal years
                              1999 through 2001. The purpose of these reviews was to determine
Could Strengthen and          whether the agencies’ inventory practices were sufficient for controlling
Enforce Controls in Some      items that, if lost or stolen, might compromise the public’s safety, national
Areas                         security, or ongoing criminal investigations. The OIG and TIGTA
                              concluded that the agencies generally conducted periodic firearms
                              inventories; investigated instances of missing firearms; and disciplined
                              employees for not maintaining firearms as required by agency policies and
                              procedures. However, the OIG determined that the U.S. Mint did not
                              follow all policies and procedures related to conducting periodic
                              inventories or identify its firearms from its property management records.
                              In addition, TIGTA determined that IRS/CI did not appropriately record
                              and report missing firearms data.

Treasury Agencies Generally   Treasury’s OIG and TIGTA found that the agencies reviewed, with the
Conducted Firearms            exception of the U.S. Mint, conducted periodic inventories at least
Inventories, Investigated     annually, as required by their internal policies and procedures. For
Missing Firearms, and         example, at ATF, the OIG concluded that frequent, independent physical
Disciplined Employees         inventories reduced the risk that weapons would be lost or stolen without
                              being promptly detected. At IRS/CI, TIGTA found that property inventories
                              were conducted locally on an annual basis and in accordance with
                              established policies and procedures. However, the OIG determined that
                              the U.S. Mint had not conducted a complete annual physical inventory of
                              firearms during fiscal years 1999, 2000, or 2001, and the firearms inventory
                              completed in October 2001 was not conducted in accordance with agency
                              policies and procedures.

                              In addition, Treasury found that ATF, U.S. Customs Service, Secret
                              Service, and IRS/CI investigated instances of firearms losses and
                              appropriately considered employee discipline, as required by agency
                              policies and procedures.23 For example, the OIG determined that ATF’s
                              Professional Review Board investigated 15 of 16 instances of missing
                              firearms identified during the period October 1, 1998 through September
                              30, 2001, and appropriately considered employee discipline in each of
                              those cases. The board recommended employee suspensions in 9 of the




                              23
                                Treasury’s OIG determined that the U.S. Mint and BEP did not have any firearms losses
                              for the periods October 1, 1998 through September 30, 2001.




                              Page 20                                                    GAO-03-688 Firearms Control
                               cases and no disciplinary action in 3 of the cases. The remaining 3 cases
                               were still under investigation at the completion of the OIG’s review.

                               The OIG also determined that the U.S. Customs Service’s Board of Survey,
                               the unit responsible for investigating missing firearms, investigated all
                               72 missing firearms identified during the period October 1, 1998 through
                               September 30, 2001. The OIG determined that employees were held
                               financially responsible for losses in 26 of the cases and not financially
                               responsible in 37 of the cases. The remaining 7 cases were still under
                               investigation at the completion of the OIG’s review.

U.S. Mint and IRS/CI Did Not   The OIG determined that the U.S. Mint could not provide a listing of
Always Record or Report        firearms from its property management records to support reported
Firearms Information           firearms inventories, as required by their policies and procedures. The OIG
                               concluded that without this list it would not be possible to reconcile the
                               firearms that were on-hand against recorded inventory counts, resulting in
                               the possibility that missing firearms might not be identified. The OIG
                               concluded that these and other factors, including the number and storage
                               of its firearms at several locations, increased the Mint’s risk of lost or
                               stolen firearms.

                               TIGTA reported that it could not determine the number of IRS/CI missing
                               firearms from its management information system and that the hard copy
                               reports of IRS/CI missing firearms were not always prepared or
                               completed. Specifically, TIGTA found that IRS/CI’s inventory management
                               system did not differentiate between lost or stolen firearms and, as a
                               result, TIGTA could not rely on that system to identify IRS/CI missing
                               firearms inventories accurately. Although TIGTA was able to review and
                               comment on hard copy reports from IRS/CI field offices in order to
                               identify missing firearms, TIGTA found that some of these reports were
                               not completely prepared.

Justice and Treasury           Justice and Treasury agencies have taken many actions designed to
Agencies Are Taking            strengthen and enforce firearms controls, based on recommendations
Action to Strengthen           made by the OIGs and TIGTA. Specifically, in reports issued in March
                               2001 and August 2002, Justice’s OIG made a total of 63 recommendations
and Enforce Firearms           to INS, BOP, DEA, FBI, and USMS designed to improve firearms control
Controls                       activities. Treasury’s OIG and TIGTA also made five firearms-related
                               recommendations in reports to the U.S. Mint in May 2002 and to IRS/CI in
                               November 2001 and March 2002. According to the OIGs and TIGTA,
                               agencies agreed to all recommendations and have taken, or are in the
                               process of taking, corrective action addressing all identified weaknesses.



                               Page 21                                           GAO-03-688 Firearms Control
                      Specifically, the INS, BOP, DEA, FBI, and USMS have implemented 29
                      of the 63 recommendations made by the Justice OIG, and are in the
                      process of implementing the remaining 34 recommendations. Of the
                      34 recommendations that have not been implemented, management has
                      begun taking corrective actions and is working with the OIG to ensure
                      their efforts address the weaknesses identified. Completed and ongoing
                      actions include establishing procedures requiring periodic firearms
                      inventories on an annual basis and the appropriate segregation of duties
                      during physical inventories. The agencies are also requiring that missing
                      firearms be immediately reported and minimum timeframes for
                      completing investigations of missing firearms be established. In addition,
                      agencies are requiring that all missing firearms cases be adjudicated and
                      that controls for securing firearms in vehicles and recovering firearms
                      from separating employees be strengthened.

                      In addition, the U.S. Mint and IRS/CI have implemented all five
                      recommendations made by the Treasury OIG and TIGTA. The U.S. Mint
                      now requires the performance and documentation of an independent
                      physical inventory of firearms annually and the reconciliation of those
                      inventories against property management records. Furthermore, IRS/CI
                      agreed to change its inventory management system to be able to
                      differentiate between lost, stolen, and damaged items in their property
                      management system, and now requires that missing firearms reports be
                      completely prepared. IRS/CI also established guidelines addressing the
                      types of lost or stolen equipment that should be referred to TIGTA for
                      investigation.


                      Fifteen of the 18 federal law enforcement agencies we surveyed reported
Majority of Federal   firearms as lost, stolen, or otherwise not in their possession during some
Law Enforcement       point in time between September 30, 1998 and July 2002. Agency officials
                      reported that although some firearms were lost due to negligence, some
Agencies Reviewed     losses occurred despite appropriate precautions being taken by
Reported Missing      employees. Audits conducted by Justice’s and Treasury’s OIGs found that
                      some missing firearms were recovered during the commission of a crime,
Firearms              or in connection with a criminal investigation.




                      Page 22                                           GAO-03-688 Firearms Control
Fifteen of 18 Agencies   Fifteen of the 18 federal law enforcement agencies we surveyed reported
Surveyed Reported        1,012 firearms as lost, stolen, or otherwise not in their possession during
Missing Firearms         some point in time between September 1998 and July 2002.24 As of July
                         2002, 188 of these firearms had been subsequently recovered, leaving
                         824 still missing.25 While we could not determine the exact percentage of
                         agency firearms that were reported lost, stolen, or missing, it appears that
                         these firearms generally accounted for less than one percent of agencies’
                         total firearms inventories.26 Only BEP, the U.S. Mint, and Veterans Affairs
                         reported having no lost, stolen, or missing firearms. Agencies identified
                         missing firearms using internal reporting systems, through which
                         personnel reported weapons as missing, and from periodic physical
                         inventories of firearms. Table 3 identifies firearms as lost, stolen, or
                         otherwise not in an agency’s possession for the 18 agencies surveyed,
                         those firearms subsequently recovered, and those firearms still missing as
                         of July 2002.




                         24
                          Of these missing firearms, 178 had been converted to dummy firearms (e.g., training
                         weapons) and rendered inoperable. FBI officials said that these weapons could not be
                         easily converted to live firearms.
                         25
                           Agencies could not identify which firearms recovered or still missing were dummy
                         firearms.
                         26
                          Since the firearms inventory and missing firearms data were developed from different
                         bases, such as inventory counts or internal agency reporting systems, and are based on
                         different time periods, they are not directly comparable.




                         Page 23                                                    GAO-03-688 Firearms Control
Table 3: Firearms Reported Missing, Recovered, and Unaccounted for between September 30, 1998 and July 2002 at Selected
Federal Law Enforcement Agencies

                                                      Firearms identified as
                                                             lost, stolen, or                                            Firearms still lost,
                                                        otherwise not in the         Firearms subsequently         stolen, or otherwise not
                                                       agency’s possession               recovered between                  in the agency’s
                                                     between September 30,          September 30, 1998 and                possession as of
 Agency                                                 1998 and July 2002a                      July 2002
                                                                                                           a
                                                                                                                                  July 2002a
 ATF                                                                       16                             7                                9
 BEP                                                                        0                             0                                0
 BOP                                                                        2                             0                                2
 DEA                                                                       63                             4                               59
 FBI                                                                    458b                             72                              386
 Federal Emergency Management Administration                                2                             0                                2
 Federal Protective Service                                                 3                             0                                3
 Fish and Wildlife Service                                                 27                             1                               26
 INS                                                                    114c                             13                             101d
 IRS/CI                                                                     6                             3                                3
 National Institutes of Health                                              3                             0                                3
 National Park Service                                                   196                            63                               133
 Postal Inspection Service                                                 14                             0                               14
 U.S. Customs Servicee                                                     94                            20                               74
 USMS                                                                      10                             3                                7
 U.S. Mint                                                                  0                             0                                0
 U.S. Secret Service                                                        4                             2                                2
 VA                                                                         0                             0                                0
 Total                                                                 1,012                           188                               824
Source: GAO survey of these agencies.
                                        a
                                            Data were not independently verified.
                                        b
                                         FBI reported that 458 of its firearms were lost, stolen, or otherwise not in the agency’s possession
                                        during the period September 30, 1998 through July 2002. FBI reported to the Senate Judiciary
                                        Committee that, as of July 2001, 449 of its firearms were not accounted for; of these firearms, 161
                                        were training weapons.
                                        c
                                         INS reported that 114 of its firearms were lost, stolen, or otherwise not in the agency’s possession
                                        during the period September 30, 1998 through July 2002. The more than 500 missing INS firearms
                                        reported by the Justice OIG included those firearms found missing during an INS agencywide
                                        inventory conducted in August 1998.
                                        d
                                        INS officials said that of the 101 missing firearms, 13 were lost; 74 were stolen; and 14 were
                                        otherwise missing.
                                        e
                                         The U.S. Customs Service reported 22 lost and 72 stolen firearms; it also reported additional
                                        firearms destroyed in the World Trade Center bombing.




                                        Page 24                                                             GAO-03-688 Firearms Control
                              Of the 1,012 firearms that agencies reported lost, stolen, or otherwise not
                              in their possession,27 most missing firearms were pistols (541). Agencies
                              also reported 187 revolvers or other handguns, 157 training weapons,
                              92 shotguns, 38 rifles, 19 submachine guns, and 1 stun gun as missing.

                              Agency officials recognized that firearms were sometimes lost due to
                              negligent behavior, such as employees not properly securing firearms in
                              locked vehicles, as required by agency policies and procedures. However,
                              officials also identified that some firearms were lost despite appropriate
                              precautions being taken by the employee. For example, one agency
                              reported that four firearms were stolen while in the custody of the airlines,
                              and that the theft did not occur due to the negligent behavior of the
                              employee. Specifically, the firearms were checked in a locked, hard-sided
                              gun case, in accordance with agency policies and procedures. Due to the
                              manner in which the agencies recorded missing firearms data, they usually
                              could not readily identify, for the missing firearms we reviewed, the
                              number of firearms determined to have been lost due to negligence.

                              Agencies also identified cases where lost firearms, although not in the
                              agency’s possession, were not recoverable and could not be used to harm
                              the public. For example, several agencies reported firearms being lost in
                              the ocean or in a river. These weapons were considered unrecoverable
                              and therefore did not pose a threat to the public.

Justice and Treasury          Audits conducted by Justice’s and Treasury’s OIGs identified several
Audits Identified Instances   incidents where missing firearms had been recovered in connection with
of Recovered Firearms         criminal activity or during a criminal investigation.28 The OIGs made this
                              determination during separate audits of agency controls over weapons,
Used in Criminal Activity     laptops, and other sensitive items at FBI, DEA, INS, U.S. Secret Service,
                              and U.S. Customs.29

                              For example, Justice’s OIG reviewed 16 missing firearms cases reported to
                              the DEA Board of Professional Conduct, for the time period



                              27
                                   FBI data came from the Justice OIG report.
                              28
                                To determine if missing agency firearms were used in connection with criminal activity,
                              the OIGs reviewed missing firearms recovered from October 1, 1999 through August 27,
                              2001, and October 1, 1998 through September 30, 2001, respectively. For DEA, the Justice
                              OIG reviewed cases for the period October 1, 1999 through November 15, 2001.
                              29
                               See appendix VI for a complete listing of related reports issued by the Departments of
                              Justice and Treasury OIGs.




                              Page 25                                                     GAO-03-688 Firearms Control
             October 1, 1999 through November 15, 2001, and found that 3 had been
             recovered by local law enforcement during an arrest of an individual for a
             handgun violation, and 2 in connection with searches during unrelated
             criminal investigations. In another example, Treasury’s OIG reviewed 10 of
             13 firearms reported missing and recovered by U.S. Customs Service, for
             the time period October 1, 1998 through September 30, 2001, and found
             that
             5 of the 10 firearms had been recovered in connection with a robbery, a
             drive-by shooting, or during the execution of a search warrant.


             The Federal Managers’ Financial Integrity Act requires that executive
Conclusion   agencies establish and maintain controls that provide reasonable
             assurance that all assets are safeguarded against waste, loss, unauthorized
             use, and misappropriation. Standards and guidance for effectively
             maintaining and controlling firearms inventories are available to assist
             federal law enforcement agencies in designing controls to safeguard their
             firearms. Although these controls provide a framework to assist agencies
             in controlling and safeguarding their firearms, agencies should tailor these
             controls to meet their unique needs and circumstances, as well as their
             risks for firearms losses. Accordingly, the appropriate mix of controls may
             vary for each federal law enforcement agency.

             When agencies discover lost, stolen, or missing firearms, they should
             reassess their firearms controls to determine why they were not effective
             and if they should be modified. This is particularly important when
             agencies find that existing controls have not been implemented or have
             been implemented but have not prevented the loss of agency firearms, as
             was the case with some agencies reviewed by the Departments of Justice
             and Treasury OIGs. Internal controls that have been established to
             safeguard firearms, but were not appropriate controls based on the
             agencies’ needs, or were not implemented or properly applied, provide
             little assurance that firearms are safe from loss, theft, or misuse.

             In addition, agencies should document their firearms controls in policies
             and procedures. Without documenting these controls, employees may not
             know of their requirement, and the controls may not be uniformly applied
             agencywide. In addition, it may be difficult for management to enforce a
             control that is not required by policy and procedures, such as disciplining
             employees who do not adhere to firearms controls.

             The need for an assessment of firearms controls, and documentation of
             controls in policies and procedures, is demonstrated by the majority of


             Page 26                                           GAO-03-688 Firearms Control
                  agencies reviewed reporting missing firearms. These firearms may pose a
                  serious risk to the public, including the risk that they may be used to inflict
                  bodily harm or to further criminal activity.


                  The Attorney General; the Secretaries of the Treasury, Interior, Veterans
Recommendations   Affairs, and Homeland Security; the Director of the National Institutes of
                  Health, and the Postmaster General should

                  •   periodically assess existing policies and procedures designed to control
                      and safeguard firearms and determine whether they have been
                      effective, or should be modified to help prevent future firearms losses.
                      In assessing firearms controls, agencies should use as guides
                      (1) internal control standards issued by GAO, Joint Financial
                      Management Improvement Program, and Commission on Accreditation
                      for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc; and (2) audits conducted by the
                      Department of Justice OIG, Department of the Treasury OIG, and
                      TIGTA of agencies firearms controls, and

                  •   document internal controls in agency policies and procedures to the
                      maximum extent practical to help ensure that they are consistently
                      understood and applied.

                  We requested and received comments on a draft of this report from the
Agency Comments   Attorney General, Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of the Interior,
                  Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Secretary of Homeland Security, the
                  Director of the National Institutes of Health (Department of Health and
                  Human Services), and the Postmaster General. Officials generally agreed
                  with the information presented. Six agencies provided technical changes
                  that have been incorporated, as appropriate. Four agencies—the NIH, Fish
                  and Wildlife Service (Department of the Interior), U.S. Postal Inspection
                  Service, and Department of Veterans Affairs—provided comments on the
                  report recommendation. NIH and Fish and Wildlife Service agreed with the
                  recommendation and identified actions taken to strengthen their controls
                  over firearms. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service also identified actions
                  taken to strengthen firearms controls consistent with the
                  recommendation. The Department of Veterans Affairs expressed
                  concerned about our recommendation, saying that its controls were
                  effective in preventing firearms losses. Appendixes VII, VIII, X, and XI
                  include the written comments from these four agencies. In addition,
                  although the Department of Justice did not comment on the
                  recommendation, its letter presents general observations regarding
                  standards for control over agency firearms and is included in appendix IX.



                  Page 27                                             GAO-03-688 Firearms Control
NIH agreed with the recommendation, saying that in response to a review
conducted by the department’s OIG, NIH has taken numerous steps to
strengthen its controls over firearms. These efforts include updating and
including accurate descriptions of firearms in its firearms inventory
database, and appointing and training property custodial officers for the
NIH Police Branch. The Fish and Wildlife Service also agreed with the
recommendation, and said that as a result of an internal assessment, the
Service will (1) develop a Web-based firearm training guide addressing
various internal controls over firearms, (2) conduct unscheduled random
checks of firearms against property records, and (3) annually review
reports of any lost and/or stolen firearms to determine if policies and
procedures should be modified to prevent future losses.

Although not saying whether it agreed with our recommendation, the U.S.
Postal Inspection Service said that it had reviewed the Standards for
Internal Control in the Federal Government and will assess these
standards along with the results of a firearms review conducted by the
Inspection Service Firearms Task Force. In addition, the Service provided
us with a copy of its proposed policy update that it plans to incorporate
into its firearms inventory and accountability procedures. We appreciate
that the Service provided the proposed update and look forward to
receiving the final updated policy.

VA expressed concerned about our recommendation, saying that its lack
of firearms losses during the time period of our review was due to its
having appropriate internal controls over firearms. VA further said that its
police officers document the handling of firearms on a daily basis;
generally do not remove their firearms from department property; check
their assigned firearms out of and into the armory each day; conduct
monthly inventories of all firearms, ammunition, and magazines; have
unannounced inventories and spot checks; and conduct independent
annual inventories of firearms.

Although VA did not report missing firearms during the time period of our
review, the potential exists that firearms could be lost or stolen at some
point in the future. Accordingly, we believe that VA and other agencies we
reviewed should periodically assess their firearms controls, particularly
when their organizations or operations have changed, or when firearms
are identified as missing. These assessments should be conducted to
determine whether established controls have been effective, are still
relevant, or should be modified. For example, VA recently reported that as
of March 2003, police officers at more than 100 of its field sites were
assigned firearms. Prior to 2000, officers at only 27 sites were armed. We


Page 28                                           GAO-03-688 Firearms Control
believe that this is a good example of when an organizational change
necessitates a reevaluation of an agency’s firearms controls to reduce the
risk of potential firearms losses. We further believe that federal internal
control standards and other criteria included in our report provide a useful
framework from which to conduct these assessments, and identify
appropriate firearms controls when an agency’s environment has changed,
or when existing controls have not been effective.

In addition, six agencies requested that we change some of their original
responses to our survey regarding firearms controls, usually to identify
that they had a written policy and procedure addressing a specific control.
We made these technical changes in all cases in which the agency
provided documentation of its policy. However, if the agency said that the
policy change was planned but had not yet been made, we did not change
the original response and look forward to receiving documentation
identifying changes that have been incorporated into its policy.

As agreed with your offices, unless you publicly release its content earlier,
we plan no further distribution of this report until 30 days from its issue
date. At that time, we will provide copies of this report to the appropriate
congressional committees, the Attorney General, Secretary of the
Treasury, Secretary of the Interior, Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Secretary
of Homeland Security, the Director of the National Institutes of Health,
and the Postmaster General. We will also make copies available to others
on request. In addition, the report will be available at no charge on GAO’s
Web site at http://www.gao.gov.

If you or your staffs have any questions on this report, please call me on
(202) 512-8777. Key contributors are listed in appendix XII.




Cathleen A. Berrick, Acting Director
Homeland Security and Justice Issues




Page 29                                           GAO-03-688 Firearms Control
              Appendix I: Objectives, Scope, and
Appendix I: Objectives, Scope, and
              Methodology



Methodology

              We reviewed federal law enforcement agencies’ control over firearms to
              determine (1) the extent to which these agencies’ policies, procedures,
              and practices for controlling and safeguarding firearms were consistent
              with federal internal control standards and related criteria issued by law
              enforcement and management organizations; (2) whether reviews
              conducted by the Department of Justice and Department of Treasury
              identified instances of noncompliance with firearms policies and
              procedures, and whether agencies have taken actions to correct identified
              weaknesses, particularly regarding (a) conducting inventories, (b)
              investigating missing firearms, and (c) disciplining employees; and (3) the
              number of firearms that selected federal law enforcement agencies
              identified as lost, stolen, or otherwise not in their possession between
              September 30, 1998 and July 2002. We also determined how selected
              agencies maintained control and accountability over weapons other than
              firearms and weapons components. (See app. II.)

              To answer objectives 1 and 3, and to determine how agencies maintained
              and controlled weapons other than firearms and weapons components, we
              selected for review 18 out of 33 federal civilian law enforcement agencies
              in the executive branch identified by the Department of Justice’s Bureau
              of Justice Statistics (BJS), as of June 2000, as having personnel with the
              authority to carry firearms and make arrests.1

              We systematically selected the agencies for our review. First, we stratified
              the 33 agencies according to size, based on whether the agency had
              (1) 1,000 or more, (2) 500—999, (3) 100—499, or (4) less than 100 law
              enforcement personnel. We then selected all agencies with 1,000 or more
              law enforcement personnel (11 agencies) and the 2 agencies with the
              largest number of law enforcement personnel in each of the remaining
              3 strata (6 agencies in total). To account for all Department of Justice and
              Treasury law enforcement agencies, we also included BEP, which fell into
              the 100—499 strata (1 agency). These 18 agencies employed about 96
              percent (76,510) of the total personnel employed by the federal civilian
              law enforcement agencies (79,910) that are authorized to carry firearms
              and make arrests, as reported in the BJS. Table 4 identifies the 18 agencies
              selected for review, along with the strata from which they were selected.



              1
               Bureau of Justice Statistics, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice,
              Federal Law Enforcement Officers, 2000 (Washington, D.C.: July 2001). Although the
              survey on which this report was based included certain OIGs, we did not include these
              offices in our review.




              Page 30                                                    GAO-03-688 Firearms Control
                                             Appendix I: Objectives, Scope, and
                                             Methodology




Table 4: Eighteen Federal Law Enforcement Agencies Included in Our Survey of Federal Firearms Control Policies,
Procedures, and Practices

                                                                            Agencies categorized by number of personnel authorized the
                                                                                             arrest and carry firearms
                                         Number of personnel
                                       authorized to arrest and
Agency                                  carry firearms in 2000a             1,000 or more        500-999            100-499        Less than 100
BEP                                                         211                                                        X
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and
Firearms                                                      1,967               X
DEA                                                           4,161               X
FBI                                                          11,523               X
Federal Bureau of Prisons                                    13,557               X
Federal Protective Service                                      803                                  X
FEMA Security Division                                           33                                                                        X
INS                                                          17,654               X
IRS-Criminal Investigation
Division                                                      2,726               X
National Institutes of Health Police                             39                                                                        X
National Park Service (Interior)
Division of Ranger Activities
U.S. Park Police                                                                  X
U.S. Customs Service                                         10,522               X
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service                                  888                                  X
U.S. Mint                                                       354                                                     X
USMS                                                          2,735               X
U.S. Postal Inspection Service                                3,412               X
U.S Secret Service                                            4,039               X
Department of Veterans
Affairs/Veterans Health
Administration/Police Serviceb                                   342                                                    X
                                             Source: GAO analysis of BJS data.

                                             a
                                              By 2003, some agencies reported increases in the number of personnel with the authority to make
                                             arrests and carry firearms. For example, ATF reported to have 2031 personnel; VA, 2,200 personnel;
                                             and Customs, approximately 14,165 personnel with such authorities.
                                             b
                                              VA has authority to arm its police officers under 38 U.S.C. 904. An initial pilot program to arm its
                                             officers was established at 5 VA sites and then expanded to 12 sites. Prior to 2000, police officers at
                                             27 sites were armed; as of March 2003, more than 100 sites have armed officers.


                                             We surveyed the 18 agencies using a detailed questionnaire. We pretested
                                             the questionnaire with 2 of the 18 agencies and a third federal law
                                             enforcement agency, not included in the final survey, and made relevant
                                             changes to the questions based on these pretests. We also surveyed the
                                             18 agencies using a follow-up questionnaire to obtain additional related
                                             information. See appendixes IV and V for the initial and follow-up
                                             questionnaire, respectively.



                                             Page 31                                                             GAO-03-688 Firearms Control
Appendix I: Objectives, Scope, and
Methodology




In the questionnaire, we asked agencies about their firearms inventories
and the policies, procedures, and practices currently in place to control
their firearms. We also asked agencies to provide the results of their most
recently completed 100-percent inventory since September 30, 1998, and
the date of the inventory. We asked the 18 agencies to identify their
policies and procedures related to recording firearms inventory data,
controlling firearms inventories, ensuring personal and supervisory
accountability for agency firearms, and investigating missing firearms and
administering associated employee discipline. We also asked agencies to
identify the number of firearms reported missing since September 30,
1998, the number of those missing firearms recovered up to the time of our
survey, and the sources of the missing firearms information.

To determine how federal law enforcement agencies maintained control
and accountability over weapons other than firearms and weapons
components, specifically ammunition, explosives, and gas and chemical
agents, we surveyed the 18 agencies regarding their policies, procedures,
and practices for tracking and controlling these items.

Because this was not a sample survey, there are no sampling errors.
However, the practical difficulties of conducting any survey may introduce
errors, commonly referred to as nonsampling errors. For example,
difficulties in how a particular question is interpreted, in the sources of
information that are available to respondents, or in how the data are
entered into a database or were analyzed can introduce unwanted
variability into the survey results. We took steps in the development of the
questionnaires, the data collection, and the data editing and analysis to
minimize these nonsampling errors. In addition, to the extent possible, we
obtained and reviewed agencies’ firearms control policies and procedures
to verify their responses to our questionnaire.

To answer objective 2, we reviewed the results of audits conducted by the
Departments of Justice and Treasury Offices of Inspector General (OIG)
and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA).
These audits evaluated the extent to which Justice and Treasury law
enforcement agencies adhered to internal controls over firearms
inventories and other sensitive properties and were completed between
March 2001 and August 2002. (See app. VI for audit reports and dates
issued.) In addition, we reviewed documents from selected Justice and
Treasury law enforcement agencies detailing their firearms control
policies, procedures, and practices. We also reviewed selected agencies’
internal reports on compliance with firearms control policies and



Page 32                                           GAO-03-688 Firearms Control
Appendix I: Objectives, Scope, and
Methodology




procedures and interviewed officials on corrective actions taken in
response to OIG and TIGTA recommendations.

We conducted our review between August 2001 and May 2003 in
accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards.




Page 33                                          GAO-03-688 Firearms Control
                        Appendix II: Agency Controls Over Weapons
Appendix II: Agency Controls Over Weapons
                        Other than Firearms and Weapons
                        Components


Other than Firearms and Weapons
Components
                        Federal law enforcement agencies generally reported establishing
Agencies Established    inventory controls to account for weapons other than firearms and
Controls to Account     weapons components. The 18 agencies we surveyed reported maintaining
                        accountability for their stocks of explosives, gas and/or chemical agents,
for Other Weapons       and ammunition through conducting periodic physical inventory counts of
and Weapons             the items, or maintaining running balances through perpetual inventories.
                        Agencies also reported using other methods, such as tracking the
Components              distribution of items to individuals or organizational units and limiting
                        access to areas in which inventories are stored, or a combination of
                        methods, to account for the inventories.


                        The 18 federal law enforcement agencies we reviewed reported having
Agencies Reported       explosives, gas and/or chemical agents, and ammunition. Table 5 identifies
Having Inventories of   weapons other than firearms and weapons components reported by the
                        agencies surveyed.
Explosives, Gas
and/or Chemical         Table 5: Agencies’ Reported Use of Weapons Other than Firearms and Weapons
Agents, and             Components

Ammunition                                                                   Gas and/or chemical
                            Agency                              Explosives         agents          Ammunition
                            ATF                                     X                 X               X
                            BEP                                                       X               X
                            BOP                                     X                 X               X
                            Customs                                 X                 X               X
                            DEA                                                                       X
                            FBI                                     X                X                X
                            Federal Protective Service                               X                X
                            Fish and Wildlife Service                                                 X
                            FEMAa                                                                     X
                            INS                                                      X                X
                            IRS/CI                                                   X                X
                            U.S. Mint                               X                X                X
                            National Park Service                                                     X
                            NIH                                                                       X
                            U.S. Postal Service                                                       X
                            U.S. Secret Service                     X                X                X
                            USMS                                    X                X                X
                            VA                                                       X                X
                            Total                                   7                12               18
                        Source: GAO survey of these agencies.
                        a
                            FEMA is the Federal Emergency Management Agency.




                        Page 34                                                      GAO-03-688 Firearms Control
                       Appendix II: Agency Controls Over Weapons
                       Other than Firearms and Weapons
                       Components




                       While all 18 agencies reported having ammunition, only 7 reported having
                       explosives, and 12 reported having gas and/or chemical agents. Seven
                       agencies reported inventory in all three categories, including BOP, FBI,
                       USMS, ATF, U.S. Customs Service, the U.S. Mint, and U.S. Secret Service.

                       Agencies reporting inventories of explosives and gas and chemical agents
                       responded that the weapons were primarily diversionary devices,
                       defensive chemical sprays, and chemical projectiles. Included were items
                       such as flash-bangs that distract with a flash and bang effect and smoke
                       grenades that dispense chemically based inflammatory agents or
                       membrane irritants.

                       The 18 federal law enforcement agencies we reviewed reported having
Agencies Used          accountability procedures for weapons other than firearms and weapons
Inventory Counts and   components, and these agencies generally reported that they relied on
                       inventories to account for these items. As shown in table 6, the agencies
Other Methods to       reported that they controlled weapons and weapons components through
Control Weapons and    monthly and annual inventory counts, or by maintaining a running
                       summary of the quantities on hand through perpetual inventories.
Weapons Components




                       Page 35                                         GAO-03-688 Firearms Control
Appendix II: Agency Controls Over Weapons
Other than Firearms and Weapons
Components




Table 6: Agencies’ Reported Use of Inventory Procedures for Explosives, Gas
and/or Chemical Agents, and Ammunition

                                                  Ammunition inventories
 Agency                                 Annuala    Monthly     Perpetual      Othera
                                                                                 b
 ATF
 BEP                                                               X
 BOP                                                               X
 Customs                                                                         X
 DEA                                      X
 FBI                                                 X             X
 Federal Protective                                                              X
  Service
 Fish and Wildlife Service                                                       Xc
 FEMAd                                    X
 INS                                      X                        X
 IRS/CI                                                                          X
 U.S. Mint                                X          X             X
 National Park Service                    X          X
 NIH                                                 X
 U.S. Postal Service                                                             X
 U.S. Secret Service                      X          X             X
 USMS                                                              X
 VA                                                  X
Source: GAO survey of these agencies.




Page 36                                                      GAO-03-688 Firearms Control
                              Appendix II: Agency Controls Over Weapons
                              Other than Firearms and Weapons
                              Components




         Explosives inventories                                          Gas and/or chemical agent inventories
Annual   Monthly       Perpetual           Othera               Annual         Monthly        Perpetual        Othera
  X                        X                 X
                                                                    X                   X
                          X                                                                                X
                                             X                                                                                 X

                                             X                                                                                 X
                                                                                                                               X




                                                                    X                                                          X
                                                                                                                               X
                                                                    X                   X                  X




  X         X             X                                                                                                    X
                                             X                                                                                 X
                                                                                                                               X

                              a
                               Other refers to a variety of practices in addition to those identified that agencies used to account for
                              ammunition, explosives, or gas/chemical weapons. For example, Customs reported using quarterly
                              or trimester inventories to account for these items.
                              b
                               At the time of our survey, ATF reported that it was in the final stage of review for a draft order
                              “Ammunition Accounting Procedures” to safeguard its ammunition.
                              c
                              The Fish and Wild Life Service controlled ammunition by monitoring its distribution and limiting
                              access to supply.
                              d
                                  FEMA is the Federal Emergency Management Agency.


                              In addition to relying on monthly, annual, and periodic inventories to
                              control weapons other than firearms and weapons components, some
                              agencies reported using additional procedures, or a combination of
                              procedures, to account for their inventories. For example, IRS/CI reported
                              controlling ammunition and pepper spray by tracking their distribution to
                              field installations from a headquarters procurement office, while the
                              National Park Service reported that it controlled ammunition by
                              monitoring its distribution to law enforcement personnel. In addition, the
                              Fish and Wildlife Service reported that it controlled ammunition by
                              monitoring its distribution and limiting access to supply. In another



                              Page 37                                                               GAO-03-688 Firearms Control
Appendix II: Agency Controls Over Weapons
Other than Firearms and Weapons
Components




example, the FBI reported maintaining its supply of gas and/or chemical
agents at a military storage facility, thereby reducing access and the
potential for unauthorized use or loss.

In addition, the FBI, INS, USMS, ATF, Secret Service, and the VA reported
using a combination of methods to account for these weapons and
weapons components. For example, the FBI reported controlling access to
ammunition supplies in addition to maintaining a record of each time
ammunition was received or disbursed. INS reported that, in addition to
conducting annual inventories of ammunition and gas and chemical
agents, it maintains logs at all locations that record receipts from
manufacturers and issuances for operational purposes. In another
example, the ATF reported controlling explosives by maintaining a
separate record of acquisitions and removals; keeping a daily, perpetual
record of transactions; and conducting annual inventories and inspections.




Page 38                                         GAO-03-688 Firearms Control
Appendix II: Agency Controls Over Weapons
Other than Firearms and Weapons
Components




Page 39                                     GAO-03-688 Firearms Control
                                                           Appendix III: Presence of Key Firearms
Appendix III: Presence of Key Firearms                     Activities in Agency Policies and Procedures



Activities in Agency Policies and Procedures

Table 7: Key Firearms Control Activities in Agency Policies and Procedures as Reported by Selected Federal Law
Enforcement Agencies

                                                                                                           Selected federal law enforcement agencies




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Description of control
 Inventory data
   Information required to be included in permanent property
   record on receiving new firearms
   Date of physical receipt                                       W     W     W    W   W   W   W   W   W    W   W   W    W   W   W   W    W   W
   Specific identification                                        W     W     W    W   W   W   W   W   W    W   W   W    W   W   W   W    W   W
   Organizational unit or functional area to which firearm is     W     W     W    W   W   W   W   W   W    W   W   W    W   W   N   W    W   W
   assigned
   Person firearm assigned to                                     W     W     W    W   W   W   W   W   W    W   W   W    W   N   W    W   W   W
 Adjustments made to firearms inventory records as a result       W     W     W    W   W   W   N   W   W    W   W   W    W   W   W    W   W   W
 of physical inventory counts
 Update property management systems to identify firearms          W     W     W    W   W   W   U   W   W    W   W   W    W   W   N   W    W   W
 being disposed of as out-of-service
 Update property management system to remove firearms             W     W     W    W   W   W   U   W   W    W   W   W    W   W   N    W   W   W
 being disposed of from agency's firearms inventory

 Inventory control
   Written policies and procedures for issuing agency-owned       W     W     W    W   W   W   W   W   W    W   W   W    W   W   W   W    W   W
   firearms to individuals
   Written policies and procedures for assigning agency           W     W     W    W   W   W   W   W   W    W   W   W N/A W N/A W         W   W
   owned firearms to organizational units or functional areas
   Requires periodic firearms counts                              W     W     W    W   W   W   W   W   W   W    W   W   W    W   W   W    W   W
   Guidance for firearms counts
      Objectives for inventory established                        W     W     W    W   W   W   W   W   W    W   W   W    W   W   U   W    W   W
      Timing of counts established                                W     W     W    W   W   N   W   W   W    W   W   W    W   W   W   W    W   W
      Instructions for conducting inventories established         W     W     W    W   W   N   U   W   W    W   W   W    W   W   U   W    W   W
   Integrity of inventories
      Training or instruction provided to firearms counters       W     W     W    N   W   U   U   U   W    U   W   W    W   W   U   W    U   W
      Employees involved in controlling and safeguarding          N     W     W    W   W   N   N   N   N    W   W   N    W   N   W   N    N   W
      firearms precluded from counting firearms
      Counters have no prior knowledge of inventory               W N/A W N/A N/A N            U   N   N N/A    U   N N/A N N/A U         N N/A
      2-member (or more) count teams                              W W W N/A N/A U              U   N   W N/A    U   U W N U N             U N/A
      Counters required to verify firearms ID numbers             W W W W W W                  W   U   W W      U   W W W U W             W W
      Counters required to verify descriptive information about   W W W W W W                  W   U   W W      U   W W W U W             W W
      the firearm
   Use occasions other than inventory to check firearms
      During employee retraining or testing in firearm use        W W         W    U W W       W   N   W    W   N   W    W   W   W   W    W   W
      Unannounced inspections of employee's firearms               N W        W    N W W       W   U   W    N   N   N    U   U   N   W    N   W
      Other                                                       N/A W       W    W N/A W     U   N   W    N   N   N    U   N   U   W    N   W




                                                           Page 40                                                                GAO-03-688 Firearms Control
                                                            Appendix III: Presence of Key Firearms
                                                            Activities in Agency Policies and Procedures




                                                                                                                           Selected federal law enforcement agencies




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                                                                                                          U
Description of control
 Access limited to secured firearms storage areas or facilities
   Single person has access                                             W    N       W       N   U    N       U    N   N N/A N        N     N    N    N N/A U N/A
   Single person and his/her designees                                  W    W       W       U   U    W       U    U   W N/R U        N     W    W    U N/A U N/A
   Single person, his/her designees, and others with one-time           N    N       W       N   N    N       U    U   N N/A U        U     U    W    U N/A N N/A
   access authorizations

  Personal and supervisory accountability
  Individuals must safeguard assigned firearms from
    Damage                                                              W    W       W     W     W    W   W        W   W   W    W     W     W    W    W    W   W   W
    Loss                                                                W    W       W     W     W    W   W        W   W   W    W     W     W    W    W    W   W   W
    Theft                                                               W    W       W     W     W    W   W        W   W   W    W     W     W    W    W    W   W   W
    Unauthorized use                                                    W    W       W     W     W    N   W        W   W   W    W     W     W    W    W    W   W   W
  Individuals must store firearms in:a
    Lock box and/or trigger lock and/or secured gun case                W    N       W     W     W    W   W        W   W    W   W     W     W    W    W    W   N   W
    Lock box only                                                       W    W       U     U     W    N   U        N   N    N   N     N     N    N    N    W   N   W
    Trigger lock only                                                   W    N       W     U     W    N   U        N   N    N   N     N     N    N    W    W   W   W
    Secured gun case                                                    W    N       U     U     W    N   U        N   N    N   N     N     N    N    N    W   N   N
    Other                                                               N    N       U     U     W    N   N        W   W    N   N     N     W    W    W    W   N   N
  Individuals are held accountable for firearms inventory
    Individuals assigned responsibility for conducting firearms         W     N      W     W     N    N       U    N   W    W   W     W     W    N    W    W   W   W
    inventories in job descriptions
    Individuals' performance in conducting firearms inventories         W     U      W     W     N    N       U    N   W    N   U     U     W    N    N    W   W   U
    assessed during performance evaluations
  Supervisory Oversight of firearms inventories                         W     N      W     W     N    N       U    N   W   W    W     W     W    W    N    W   W   U

  Investigations and discipline
  Investigations
    Require investigation of physical count discrepancies of            W    W       W     W     W   W    W        W   W   W    W     W     W    W    W    W   W   W
    firearms
    Instructions for investigating discrepancies                        W    W       W     W     W    W       U    W   W   W    W     W     W    W    W    W   W   W
    Require investigations be conducted by inspector general            W    N       W     W     W    U       U    W   W   W    W     W     W    W    W    W   W   W
    or independent authoritya
    Report missing firearms to NCICa                                    W    W       N     W     W    U   W        W   W    W   W     W     W    W    U    W   W   W
  Employee discipline
    Disciplinary action for failure to report missing firearmsa         W    W       W     W     N   W        U    W   W   W    W     W     W    W    U    W   W   W
    Disciplinary action for persons failing to take appropriate         W    W       W     W     W   W        U    W   W   W    N     U     W    W    U    W   W   W
    firearms safeguardsa

                                                                  W =        Written policy or procedure                     N/A =        Not applicable
                                                                  U =        Unwritten practice                             Other =       Includes response other and may include
                                                                  N =        No policy, procedure, or practice                            additional responses not specified

Source: Agency responses to our survey.                           a
                                                                      These are practices that, while not specified in the criteria, reflect the criteria.




                                                            Page 41                                                                                    GAO-03-688 Firearms Control
              Appendix IV: Survey Questionnaire
Appendix IV: Survey Questionnaire




              Page 42                             GAO-03-688 Firearms Control
Appendix IV: Survey Questionnaire




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Appendix IV: Survey Questionnaire




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Appendix IV: Survey Questionnaire




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Appendix IV: Survey Questionnaire




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Appendix IV: Survey Questionnaire




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Appendix IV: Survey Questionnaire




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Appendix IV: Survey Questionnaire




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Appendix IV: Survey Questionnaire




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Appendix IV: Survey Questionnaire




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Appendix IV: Survey Questionnaire




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Appendix IV: Survey Questionnaire




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Appendix IV: Survey Questionnaire




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Appendix IV: Survey Questionnaire




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Appendix IV: Survey Questionnaire




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Appendix IV: Survey Questionnaire




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Appendix IV: Survey Questionnaire




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Appendix IV: Survey Questionnaire




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Appendix IV: Survey Questionnaire




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Appendix IV: Survey Questionnaire




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Appendix IV: Survey Questionnaire




Page 62                             GAO-03-688 Firearms Control
              Appendix V: Follow-up Survey Questionnaire
Appendix V: Follow-up Survey Questionnaire




              Page 63                                      GAO-03-688 Firearms Control
Appendix V: Follow-up Survey Questionnaire




Page 64                                      GAO-03-688 Firearms Control
Appendix V: Follow-up Survey Questionnaire




Page 65                                      GAO-03-688 Firearms Control
                                            Appendix VI: Justice and Treasury Reports on
Appendix VI: Justice and Treasury Reports onInternal Controls Over Firearms and Other
                                            Sensitive Property


Internal Controls Over Firearms and Other
Sensitive Property
Table 8: Justice, Treasury, and Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration Reports on Internal Controls Over Firearms
and Other Sensitive Property

 Report title                                                                              Report number         Report issue date
 Justice, Office of the Inspector General
 The Department of Justice’s                                                               Report No. 02-31      August 2002
 Control Over Weapons and Laptop Computers - Summary Report
 The Federal Bureau of Prisons’                                                            Report No. 02-30      August 2002
 Control Over Weapons and Laptop Computers
 The Drug Enforcement Administration’s                                                     Report No. 02-28      August 2002
 Control Over Weapons and Laptop Computers
 The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s                                                     Report No. 02-27      August 2002
 Control Over Weapons and Laptop Computers
 Immigration and Naturalization Service                                                    Report No. 01-09      March 2001
 Management of Property
 The U.S. Marshals Service’s                                                               Report No. 02-29      August 2002
 Control Over Weapons and Laptop Computers
 Treasury, Office of Inspector General
 Protecting the Public: Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms’ Control Over              OIG-02-097            June 19, 2002
 Sensitive Property Is Adequate
 Protecting the Public: Bureau of Engraving and Printing’s Control Over Sensitive          OIG-02-092            May 30, 2002
  Property Needs To Be Improved
 Protecting the Public: U.S. Customs’ Control Over Sensitive Property Needs To             OIG-02-109            August 5, 2002
 Be Improved
 Protecting the Public: U.S. Mint’s control Over Sensitive Property Needs To Be            OIG-02-094            May 30, 2002
 Improved
 Protecting the Public: U.S. Secret Service’s Control Over Selected Sensitive              OIG-02-095            June 6, 2002
 Property Is Adequate
 Treasury, Inspector General for Tax Administration
 Management Advisory Report: Follow-on Review of Lost or Stolen Sensitive                  Reference Number:     March 2002
 Items of Inventory at the Internal Revenue Service                                        2002-10-065
 Management Advisory Report: Review of Lost or Stolen Sensitive Items of                   Reference Number:     November 2001
 Property at the Internal Revenue Service                                                  2002-10-030
Source: Compiled by GAO.




                                            Page 66                                                     GAO-03-688 Firearms Control
             Appendix VII: Comments from the Department of Health and Human Services
Appendix VII: Comments from the
Department of Health and Human Services




             Page 67                                                 GAO-03-688 Firearms Control
Appendix VII: Comments from the Department of Health and Human Services




Page 68                                                 GAO-03-688 Firearms Control
             Appendix VIII: Comments from the
Appendix VIII: Comments from the
             Department of the Interior



Department of the Interior




             Page 69                            GAO-03-688 Firearms Control
Appendix VIII: Comments from the
Department of the Interior




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Appendix VIII: Comments from the
Department of the Interior




Page 71                            GAO-03-688 Firearms Control
             Appendix IX: Comments from the Department
Appendix IX: Comments from the
             of Justice



Department of Justice




             Page 72                                     GAO-03-688 Firearms Control
Appendix IX: Comments from the Department
of Justice




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Appendix IX: Comments from the Department
of Justice




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Appendix IX: Comments from the Department
of Justice




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Appendix IX: Comments from the Department
of Justice




Page 76                                     GAO-03-688 Firearms Control
             Appendix X: Comments from the United
Appendix X: Comments from the United
             States Postal Service



States Postal Service




             Page 77                                GAO-03-688 Firearms Control
Appendix X: Comments from the United
States Postal Service




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Appendix X: Comments from the United
States Postal Service




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Appendix X: Comments from the United
States Postal Service




Page 80                                GAO-03-688 Firearms Control
         Appendix XI: Comments from the Department of Veterans
Appendix XI: Comments from the
         Affairs



Department of Veterans Affairs




                     Page 81                                     GAO-03-688 Firearms Control
Appendix XI: Comments from the Department of Veterans
Affairs




            Page 82                                     GAO-03-688 Firearms Control
Appendix XI: Comments from the Department of Veterans
Affairs




            Page 83                                     GAO-03-688 Firearms Control
                  Appendix XII: GAO Contacts and Staff
Appendix XII: GAO Contacts and Staff
                  Acknowledgments



Acknowledgments

                  Cathleen A. Berrick, (202) 512-3404
GAO Contact
                  Fredrick D. Berry, Miguel A. Salas, Barbara A. Stolz, Christine F. Davis,
Staff             Katherine M. Davis, Stuart M. Kaufman, David P. Alexander, Delois N.
Acknowledgments   Richardson, Daniel C. Harris, and Miko D. Johnson made key
                  contributions to this report.




(440079)
                  Page 84                                           GAO-03-688 Firearms Control
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