Gun Dealers Selling Record Numbers!

Gun Dealers Selling Record Numbers!Executives from several shuttered firms say that a booming market has not made up for the serious challenges rocking firearm distributors.

Federal law requires licensed firearms dealers to maintain records of gun sales for at least 20 years, including information about the firearm(s) being purchased, as well as the purchaser.2 Federal law prohibits the federal government from collecting firearm sales records in a central repository, however. Without a central repository of all firearm sales records, gun tracing is a slow, cumbersome process.

  • As described in a report from the Government Accountability Office,
    • the Bureau Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF) “must take a number of steps to trace a crime gun, including, as applicable, contacting the importer, manufacturer, and wholesaler of the firearm in order to identify the … retailer who sold the firearm to the first retail purchaser.”3
    • A 2010 report by the Washington Post found that a gun tracing investigation by ATF often involves making phone calls and poring over handwritten paperwork.4
    • According to a 2013 report from the Center for American Progress, this “antiquated and inefficient system” means that “a firearms trace can take days, or even weeks, thereby frustrating criminal investigations.”5

    Centralized records of gun ownership would greatly increase the efficiency of the tracing process. These records would also help law enforcement retrieve firearms from persons who have become legally prohibited from possessing them, and they could be used to alert law enforcement to the presence of guns at a private residence when they are responding to an emergency call.

    In order for law enforcement to have complete information about gun ownership, however, Congress would need to close the private sale loophole, which allows guns to be sold by individuals who are not licensed firearms dealers. As detailed in our summary on Universal Background Checks, unlicensed, private sellers may legally sell guns under federal law and are not required to maintain any records. As a result, collecting sales information from dealers falls short of a complete repository, except in jurisdictions that require private, unlicensed sellers to conduct transfers through licensed dealers. In a 2007 report, the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) found that the absence of a record keeping requirement for private sales means that guns sold through such sales “become more difficult to trace if lost, stolen or criminally misused, making crimes involving them more difficult to solve.