The Reno, Nev., offices of the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration are picking up the slack with firearms cases while a disagreement continues between the Nevada U.S. Attorney’s office and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the Reno Gazette-Journal reported Tuesday.
The FBI and DEA are handling some firearms cases, but not firearm sales or trafficking cases, according to the Reno Gazette-Journal. An investigation revealed that the ATF office in Reno essentially closed its doors this summer after a disagreement with federal prosecutors at the Nevada U.S. Attorney’s office, stalling prosecutions.
Problems between the Reno ATF and local federal prosecutors were no secret, but the reasons behind them were less clear. The Reno Gazette-Journal’s ongoing investigation points to allegations that local ATF agents “left because they wanted to work cases that stopped the flow of illegal weapons through Reno but the federal prosecutors would not take the cases.” The report also suggests that federal prosecutors in Reno became angry when local ATF agents declined to participate in their task force, which focused on cases that were generated by local law enforcement.
The Reno Gazette-Journal reported that annual gun data shows a drop in illegal firearms recovered last year.
“We understand there’s an issue between them but it’s not something the FBI is involved in,” Patrick Turner, FBI spokesman in Las Vegas, said to The Reno Gazette-Journal. “We have a good working relationship with ATF and with the U.S. Attorneys, too, and the local [District Attorney]. The problems have not affected our work.”
FBI agents are authorized to do undercover firearms trafficking cases but Turner was unsure if the FBI had done any in Reno.
DEA agents sometimes seize weapons during a drug deal, but that this is not the primary aim of the agency, Mike Bakios, Reno DEA office’s resident agent in charge told the Reno Gazette-Journal.
“We focus on drugs,” Bakios said. “But if we find guns, we reach out to Las Vegas and they’ll trace them for us. It’s not something we do. We don’t have the expertise,” adding that “If we have any leads on gun trafficking, I’ll pass them along to Las Vegas.”
As reported last week, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) sent letters to ATF Acting Director B. Todd Jones and Nevada U.S. Attorney Dan Bogden giving both parties until today to call his office to set up a briefing on the problems. Grassley’s spokeswoman, Beth Levine, said that the ATF has been working with the senator’s office to set a time. As of late Tuesday, Bogden had not reached out, the paper reported.
Grassley, the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was heavily involved in the congressional inquiry into the botched gun-walking operation Fast and Furious and said he is concerned that the disagreement between the parties could lead to increased gun violence in and around Reno.