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.
“This morning, ATF released a report showing that Pennsylvania is the number one state in the country when it comes to guns going missing from gun dealers — a position that no state wants to be in,” said Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams. “In our state, we’re fighting gun crime everyday and fighting in Harrisburg for a lost and stolen gun reporting law. Today’s report shows that instead of helping police track down lost and stolen guns, Congress has inserted a budget rider that prevents ATF from requiring gun dealers to conduct a once-a-year inventory to detect missing guns. That’s dangerous. It’s irresponsible. And it’s got to change.”
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:
- Taylor’s Trading Post, Biglerville, PA – ATF conducted its first compliance inspection of Taylor’s Trading Post in more than 30 years in January 2010 and discovered that the store’s owner could not properly account for more than 3,000 guns that had been bought or sold during the previous three years. After an extended investigation, ATF concluded that 168 firearms were missing from the store’s inventory. ATF revoked the store’s federal firearms license, although it remains open pending various appeals.
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