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Gun Trafficking


Gun Trafficking

What is the problem?

Criminals get their hands on tens of thousands of guns every year through illegal trafficking. States with weak gun laws often serve as suppliers of guns to states with stronger gun laws. Law enforcement is constrained by insufficient laws to crack down on gun trafficking.

The U.S. lacks a strong federal gun trafficking law to crack down on illegal networks that supply guns to criminals. Prosecutors who want to fight traffickers must rely on a law that prohibits “selling guns without a federal license.” This weak law carries the same punishment as trafficking chicken or livestock. Nearly a third of traced guns were brought across state lines before being used in a crime—8 of these 10 states did not have background check laws during the study period. A strong federal trafficking law would enable law enforcement to crack down on gun traffickers—and keep trafficked guns off our streets.


Why is it an issue?

States with weak gun laws supply guns to criminals in other states.

Tens of thousands of guns are trafficked across state lines and into the hands of criminals every year. These guns can enter the illegal market through a variety of channels. This includes corrupt licensed gun dealers, straw purchasers, unlicensed gun sellers, and theft or loss from sellers, shipping companies, and private gun owners, among other means. States with weak gun laws often serve as suppliers of crime guns in states with stronger gun laws and within their own states.

By the numbers

You might be wondering…

  1. 1 How do guns enter the illegal market?
  2. 2 How many guns are trafficked to other states each year?
  3. 3 What is a straw purchaser?