Majority of Gun Dealers Haven’t been Inspected in Last 5 Years

Friday, April 26, 2013

Federal inspectors have not checked nearly 60% of the licensed firearms dealers in the United States in the last five years, much to the consternation of gun-control advocates.


An audit of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) by the U.S. Department of Justice’s inspector general found that 58% of gun sellers have operated since 2008 without any government inspections.


The IG also uncovered that it takes anywhere from one to three years for ATF to revoke a gun dealer’s license after finding serious violations.


Violations of record-keeping rules went up 276% over a nine-year period, according to the report, while the number of firearms licenses revoked dropped 43%.


Josh Horwitz, executive director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, told USA Today that ATF has “an appalling lack of resources” to do its job.


He added that the gun industry and its supporters in Congress have opposed new gun-control laws, claiming the government should do a better job of enforcing existing statutes. “They’re saying we can’t pass more gun laws until the ATF does more enforcement, and then won't give them money for more enforcement. They’re in a Catch-22.”


The ATF stated, in a formal response, that shifting resources to routine inspections isn’t an option because the law requires the agency to make other issues a priority, such as processing new gun-dealer applications within 60 days.


A 1986 federal law bans the agency from making more than one unannounced inspection every year, unless inspectors find multiple violations that would require a reinspection.


Between 2004 and 2011, ATF inspections discovered that 174,679 firearms were stolen or lost from gun dealer inventories.


These missing firearms pose a clear problem for law enforcement. “They are untraceable,” according to George Semonick, an ATF spokesman and former field inspector.

-Noel Brinkerhoff, Aaron Wallechinsky


To Learn More:

ATF Falls Behind on Inspecting Licensed Gun Dealers (by Gregory Korte, USA Today)

Review of ATF’s Federal Firearms Licensee Inspection Program (U.S. Department of Justice, Inspector General) (pdf)

Drug Cartels Love Houston Gun Shops (by David Wallechinsky and Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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