For Immediate Release
Assistant Director: 202-898-0792.
Gun Dealers "Lost" More than 62,000 Firearms Since 2008
Many Likely Sold "Off the Books"
WASHINGTON - Licensed gun dealers nationwide “lost” an average of at least 56 firearms every day over the last three years, according to a Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence
analysis of new data released last week by the Bureau of Alcohol,
Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) at a gun industry trade show.
From 2008 to 2010, at least 62,134 firearms left gun dealers’ inventory
without a record of being legally sold.
Firearms that leave gun shops without records of sale are frequently trafficked by gun traffickers
and prized by criminals because the guns have no record of sale and are
virtually untraceable. Corrupt gun dealers also attempt to disguise
illegal off-the-book sales by claiming that the firearms were lost or
“It’s the height of irresponsibility for gun dealers to allow tens of thousands of firearms to leave their shops without background checks
or a record of sale. Congress is also to blame for its refusal to fully
fund and staff the ATF and to strengthen our nation’s weak guns,” said
Paul Helmke, President of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
“Every gun that leaves a gun shop without a background check is one that
fuels the illegal gun market and endangers our communities.”
62,134 “missing” guns are likely a vast undercount of the total number
of guns that disappeared from gun shops in the last three years. The
missing guns are noted at ATF compliance inspections of licensed gun
dealers, but ATF has conducted compliance inspections each year at only
about one-fifth of the nation’s gun shops. Gun dealers inspected by ATF
could not account for 22,770 guns in 2008, 18,323 guns in 2009, and
21,041 in 2010.
Weak federal gun laws allow gun dealers to
operate without security or inventory controls. In 2001, ATF proposed
that gun dealers be required to take one physical inventory of their
firearms each year to ensure that all firearms were accounted for in
their shops. At the behest of the gun lobby, Congress in 2004 approved
an appropriations provision proposed by then-Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-KS),
known as the “Tiahrt Amendment,” blocking ATF from requiring that gun dealers track their inventory - and that prohibition remains the law today.
Tiahrt Amendment also contains a secrecy provision that blocks public
and media requests for data about guns missing from gun shops, including
which gun dealers are the source of the most “lost” guns. The Brady
Center obtained the data for 2008 to 2010 from an ATF report presented
to the gun industry last week. Data have previously shown that a small
number of gun dealers are responsible for most missing guns. In 2005,
ATF found that 12,274 firearms disappeared from gun shops without
background checks or records of sale in fiscal year 2005, and 11,640 of
those guns were from just 97 gun shops.
President Obama promised
during his 2008 campaign to “repeal the Tiahrt Amendment,” but has
instead kept the prohibition on ATF requiring gun dealer inventory
audits and the gun dealer data secrecy provision in his budget
Criminals frequently obtain firearms from gun dealers
who have large numbers of guns “disappear” from their inventory. The
Brady Center report “Death Valley: Profile of a Rogue Gun Dealer"
highlights the record of Sandy Abrams, a three-term NRA board member,
and owner of Valley Gun shop in Baltimore, Maryland, who was cited for
more than 900 violations of federal gun laws. Abrams failed to account
for firearms in his gun shop, with 422 guns missing in a 2003
inspection, amounting to more than one-quarter of his store’s
inventory. Abrams’ shop had over 483 firearms traced to crimes
including 41 assaults and 11 homicides. Despite Abrams’ record of
violations, weak gun laws allowed Abrams to stay in business for nearly a
decade before ATF could shut him down. Even after his license was
revoked, Abrams continued selling guns.
D.C.-area snipers also obtained their assault rifle from a gun dealer
that had a long history of missing firearms. At least 238 guns,
including the snipers’ assault rifle, “disappeared” from Bull’s Eye
Shooter Supply of Tacoma, Washington during just three years. The
snipers killed 10 people in the D.C. area in their 2002 shooting spree.
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