GUNSUnlicensed Dealers Illegally Trafficked 68,000 Guns Over 5 Years

Published 5 April 2024

Unlicensed dealers who aren’t required to perform background checks illegally trafficked more than 68,000 firearms in the United States over a five-year period, according to new data released Thursday by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The Justice Department on Thursday announced the publication of Firearm Trafficking Investigations, the third volume of the National Firearms Commerce and Trafficking Assessment (NFCTA), a four-part, comprehensive examination of commerce in firearms and the diversion of firearms to illegal markets. This Volume incorporates input from the most comprehensive national survey of the special agents who conduct Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) trafficking investigations to provide the first in-depth analysis of firearm trafficking investigations in more than two decades. This report examines 9,708 closed ATF firearm trafficking investigations initiated between CY 2017 and 2021. In April 2021, Attorney General Garland directed the ATF to undertake its first comprehensive study of criminal gun trafficking, the intentional movement of one or more firearms into the illegal market for a criminal purpose or possession.

“This report makes clear that black-market guns sold by unlicensed dealers without a background check are increasingly being found at crime scenes,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “Under the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, the Justice Department has proposed a new rule to clarify when gun dealers must get licenses and conduct background checks. The Department is also vigorously enforcing the new provisions Congress passed in the Act to prohibit illegal gun trafficking and straw purchasing. This report reminds us of the urgency of our work, and I am grateful to the extraordinary professionals of the ATF who put their lives on the line to help keep our communities safe, and whose tireless work is responsible for the most comprehensive look at America’s crime gun data in over two decades.”

“Thanks to the hard work of ATF, we now have fresh data and cutting-edge insights on the key drivers of illegal firearms trafficking,” said Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco. “Among other trends, the report shows the high frequency of traffickers selling firearms without a license to evade federal law, and the widespread impact of straw purchasers concealing the true recipients of illegally diverted firearms. This report will help agents and prosecutors target investigations, prosecute offenders, and reduce gun violence.”