An “open-ended” partnership between the federal government and the gun industry offers thousands to credible tipsters in gun store theft cases, but how often rewards get paid out remains shrouded in mystery.
So far this month, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the National Shooting Sports Foundation have offered a combined $32,000 for information regarding robberies at federally-licensed firearms dealers across the nation.
Typically, rewards range from $5,000 to $10,000, with NSSF matching the ATF reward dollar for dollar. In the case of a Houston-area FFL robbery committed June 4, however, the agency and the industry pledged a $12,000 reward.
“We have found that additional media attention is generated when ATF and NSSF join forces in a reward offer,” said Mike Bazinet, an NSSF spokesperson, in an email to Guns.com last week. “ATF field division agents have told us on numerous occasions that the matching reward program is greatly appreciated as the funding they have available to offer rewards is limited.”
In a 2015 interview with NSSF, Steven Gerido, special agent in charge of the ATF’s Nashville field division, called the partnership “a tremendous asset.”
“Normally, more than not these are smash and grabs where you have violent individuals or a violent group responsible for more than one or two of these FFL burglaries,” he said. “It’s been a tremendous asset. It’s a tremendous tool in the tool box for us. We are able to bring countless criminals off the streets when we get it up to that $5,000.”
Still, both ATF and NSSF remain tight-lipped about how often the rewards entice would-be informants to come forward, though Bazinet said the association’s discretion is necessary.
“We generally do not discuss publicly cases solved with the use of matching reward money since in many cases to do so would be to possibly identify the person who provided information,” he said, noting the association never discloses the amount its pledged to the program nor how much has been paid out.
“Most thefts are solved without a payout being made or without the full amount being paid, since all rewards are ‘up to,’” he added.
ATF Deputy Chief of Public Affairs Josslyn Aberle told Guns.com Friday the agency and law enforcement often solve investigations before paying rewards, which are doled out based on the accuracy of the information provided.
“However, just because ATF offers a reward, does not mean that it has been or will be claimed,” she said. “When NSSF matches our reward amount, it is our hope that citizens view the total reward as enticing enough to want to provide credible tips about a particular FFL burglary or robbery.”
Though details of its successes remain under wraps, Bazinet said the program will continue “for the foreseeable future.”