The mission of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms is in part to control the flow of pistols and rifles within the US. One measure of how effectively and competently the ATF accomplishes its mission might be how well it handles its own weapons — and that’s bad news for the ATF. According to John Diedrich and Raquel Rutledge of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, ATF agents lost track of dozens of its own weapons … including those left on top of the car when they drove off (via Gabriel Malor):

ATF agents have lost track of dozens of government-issued guns, after stashing them under the front seats in their cars, in glove compartments or simply leaving them on top of their vehicles and driving away, according to internal reports from the past five years obtained by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Agents left their guns behind in bathroom stalls, at a hospital, outside a movie theater and on a plane, according to the records, obtained Tuesday by the news organization under the federal Freedom of Information Act.

In December 2009, two 6-year-old boys spotted an agent’s loaded ATF Smith & Wesson .357 on a storm sewer grate in Bettendorf, Iowa. The agent lived nearby and later said he couldn’t find his gun for days but didn’t bother reporting it — until it hit the local newspaper.

In Los Angeles in 2011, an agent went out to a bar drinking with other agents and friends, reportedly consuming four alcoholic beverages. The next morning he woke up and realized his ATF-issued Glock was gone. It was not found.

The Journal Sentinel has been reporting on the ATF for more than a year. A storefront operation in Milwaukee to “sting” illegal gun dealers collapsed with no prosecutions, but with tens of thousands of dollars in stolen merchandise sitting in the store. The ATF allowed a highly-restricted automatic machine gun to get loose from their control and out onto the streets of Milwaukee, and ever since the MJS has taken a high interest in the federal agency’s operations.

The incidents listed — 45 of them in just a four-year span — involve mostly handguns, but also a couple of so-called “assault rifles” as well. In a previous five-year span (2002-7), 76 ATF weapons went missing. In fact, of all federal agencies, the ATF had the worst record for safekeeping its own weaponsas determined by the Justice Inspector General in 2008.

By the way, the car-top loss was not just a singular incident. It’s happened more than once:

In June 11, 2012, an agent was dropping off his children at a soccer game in Plainfield, Ill., when he put his government-issued Smith & Wesson revolver on his car’s roof, forgot about it and drove away, according to the report. The gun was found on an off-ramp of I-55 and turned in to police.

On July 20, 2009, in Fargo, N.D., an agent put his ATF gun on top of his car and went to water his lawn, according to the report. He forgot it was there, and his daughter took the car to a friend’s house. The agent scoured the area and could not find the gun, according to the report.

We used to laugh at that notion:

Be sure to read it all. And then muse upon the irony of the idea of giving more control over our own firearms to the federal agency with the worst track record of handling its own.