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.
“Requiring licensed firearms dealers to conduct annual inventories of their stock is a common-sense requirement that imposes a minimal burden on dealers yet has the potential for enormous benefit to law enforcement in not only tracking the source of stolen guns used in crimes but also preventing violent criminal acts before they occur,” said Baltimore City State’s Attorney Gregg Bernstein. “We are working every day to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and to prosecute criminals who use guns. Riders like these undermine our law enforcement efforts.”
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. Specifically, the report details 12 noteworthy examples of gun dealers failing to maintain control of their dangerous inventory, including
- Valley Gun, Baltimore, Maryland: ATF conducted a compliance inspection of Valley Gun in 2003 and discovered that 422 guns were missing—more than a quarter of the store’s entire inventory. Additionally, this store was connected with more than 483 guns found at crime scenes, including 41 assaults and 11 homicides.
- Bel Air Gun Supply & Pawn, Fallston, Maryland: ATF inspected Bel Air Gun Supply & Pawn in 1999 and found that 86 guns were missing from the store’s inventory. Although ATF recommended annual inspections going forward, the gun shop was not inspected again until 2005. During this inspection, ATF found 817 violations of the Gun Control Act, including 124 guns missing from the store’s inventory. ATF revoked the dealer’s federal firearms license in 2006, and a federal magistrate judge upheld the revocation. The store’s owner, however, sold the business and its assets to his wife, who obtained a new federal firearms license and continues to operate the store. Inspections in 2008 and 2009 reportedly found additional violations of federal regulations.
- American Arms International, Rockville, Maryland: During a 2003 ATF inspection of American Arms International, inspectors discovered that 427 guns were missing from the store’s inventory and not accounted for in the disposition records. Further investigation by ATF determined that 146 of these firearms had been either lost or stolen. For this and numerous other violations of federal laws and regulations—which a federal appellate court described as “staggering”—ATF revoked the dealer’s license, and the federal courts upheld that decision.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or 202.741.6285