Center for American Progress

RELEASE: Report Calls out Illinois Firearm Dealers for Failing to Maintain Inventory Control, Calls On Congress to Act
Press Release

RELEASE: Report Calls out Illinois Firearm Dealers for Failing to Maintain Inventory Control, Calls On Congress to Act

Read the report.

Washington D.C. — A new report released today by the Center for American Progress sheds light on how Congress has hindered law-enforcement efforts to prevent and investigate thefts from gun dealers. The report calls on Congress to remove an appropriations rider that prevents the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, or ATF, from exercising its authority to require gun dealers to conduct a once-a-year audit of their inventories for missing guns. In April President Barack Obama indicated his support for this measure by omitting this rider from his fiscal year 2014 budget proposal to Congress.

“Theft from gun stores is one of the main ways criminals get guns, but instead of helping police crack down on illegal gun trafficking, Congress has made it harder to ensure that guns do not go missing,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel of Chicago. “ATF needs the ability to monitor gun dealers and review their inventory. I commend President Obama for removing this dangerous restriction from his budget request and for calling on Congress—especially the leaders in our delegation—to take out this anti-police budget rider.”

Every year tens of thousands of guns are discovered to be missing from the inventories of federally licensed gun dealers based on inspections of just 20 percent of those dealers. These missing guns—whether they are stolen, illegally sold, or misplaced due to negligent record keeping—pose serious threats to public safety. Guns stolen from dealers often end up in criminal hands.

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, known as the lost and stolen gun rider, prevents ATF from requiring gun dealers to conduct an annual inventory—a process that would allow dealers to promptly identify and report missing guns.

The report explores the problem of lost and stolen guns from gun dealers and how the rider plays a contributing role. The report specifically details 12 noteworthy examples of gun dealers failing to maintain control of their dangerous inventory, including:

  • Breit & Johnson Sporting Goods Company, Inc., Oak Park, Illinois: ATF had conducted periodic compliance inspections of Breit & Johnson Sporting Goods Company since 1977, each time finding numerous violations of federal firearms laws, including failure to properly complete acquisition and disposition paperwork. During an inspection in 1998, ATF inspectors found continued paperwork violations, including discrepancies in the records regarding the disposition of approximately 2,000 guns that had been taken into inventory. For these repeated violations—and upon finding that Breit & Johnson was the source of the second-highest number of crime guns among dealers in Illinois—ATF revoked Breit & Johnson’s license. A federal court affirmed this action.

The report’s authors, Arkadi Gerney and Chelsea Parsons, argue that ATF should have the authority to require federally licensed gun dealers to regularly reconcile their inventory with their acquisition and disposition records to ensure that all guns are accounted for and that all missing guns are promptly reported to law enforcement. Congress should act this year to remove the appropriations rider that prevents ATF from exercising this authority.

“Legislation to expand gun background checks remains a top priority in Congress,” said CAP senior fellow Arkadi Gerney. “But another step Congress can take to help law enforcement keep guns out of the hands of criminals is removing the antipolice budget rider that contributes to the epidemic of lost and stolen guns.”

Read the report: Lost and Stolen Guns from Gun Dealers by Arkadi Gerney and Chelsea Parsons

See also: Blindfolded, and With One Hand Tied Behind the Back: How the Gun Lobby Has Debilitated Federal Action on Firearms and What President Obama Can Do About It by Winnie Stachelberg, Arkadi Gerney, and Chelsea Parsons

To speak with an expert on this topic, contact Katie Peters at [email protected] or 202.741.6285