Congressional Budget Restrictions Hinder Efforts to Stop the Disappearance of Guns from Gun-Dealer Inventories

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Every year tens of thousands of guns are discovered to be missing from the inventories of federally licensed gun dealers. Guns that go missing from dealer inventories, whether they are stolen, illegally sold without proper documentation, or misplaced due to negligent recordkeeping, pose two main risks to public safety:

  1. Guns stolen from dealers often end up in criminal hands. Following a two-year study of gun-trafficking investigations, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, or ATF, reported that 14 percent of gun-trafficking investigations involved guns stolen from gun dealers.
  2. Guns lost or stolen from dealers are more difficult to trace because there is no record of who initially purchased the gun from the dealer. When these guns are used in crimes, any investigative lead offered by finding the gun at the crime scene goes cold when it is discovered that the gun dealer has no record of who purchased it.

Since 2004 Congress has imposed restrictions on ATF in its annual budget that make it especially difficult for the agency to police lost and stolen guns. One such restriction prevents ATF from requiring gun dealers to conduct an annual inventory, a process that would allow dealers to promptly identify and report missing guns. In the administration’s fiscal year 2014 budget request to Congress, however, President Barack Obama requested for the first time that Congress remove this harmful budget rider.

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