As reported by The Trace and USA Today, new data from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) shows that the Biden-Harris Administration is following through on its promise to implement a zero-tolerance policy for rogue gun dealers.
Despite decades of chronic underfunding and underenforcement, the ATF, led by Steve Dettelbach, the first Senate-confirmed director of the agency in nearly a decade, is cracking down on willful violations by gun dealers — which make it easier for gun traffickers to access the guns that lead to violence in communities across the country.
Key findings from the new ATF statistics include:
- In the 2022 fiscal year, ATF revoked FFL licenses at a higher rate than in any year since 2006.
- The ATF revoked 92 FFL licenses in FY 2022, which more than triples the number of licenses revoked in 2021.
- Another 136 dealers inspected received warning conferences, the steepest penalty short of revocation.
This announcement comes on the heels of a nationwide push to demand gun industry accountability. Just yesterday, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison sued gun dealer Fleet Farms, alleging it negligently sold stockpiles of guns to a gun trafficker. And Everytown Law, the litigation arm of the Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, represents the City of Chicago in active litigation against Westforth Sports, alleging that the gun store is engaged in a pattern of negligently and unlawfully selling firearms to persons that it knows are engaged in straw purchasing and unlicensed dealing in firearms.
But the release of ATF statistics on inspections and revocation also makes plain the work still left to do at the ATF. For instance, the number of FFL inspections conducted by the ATF still badly lags pre-pandemic levels. The Trace reported the ATF conducted “just over 7,000 inspections in 2022, compared to more than 13,000 in 2019.” This means, at present, ATF is only conducting inspections at approximately 5% of FFLs in a given year. Moreover, ATF inspection data from 2015 to 2021 demonstrates that approximately half of inspections result in some type of violation, warning letter, or other discipline. Adequate funding and robust enforcement of existing laws focused on problematic gun dealers is essential to stopping illegal guns from entering our communities.
In June 2021, the Biden-Harris Administration established a zero-tolerance policy for rogue gun dealers that willfully violate the law. Absent extraordinary circumstances that would need to be justified to the ATF Director, ATF will seek to revoke the licenses of dealers the first time that they violate federal law by willfully 1) transferring a firearm to a prohibited person, 2) failing to run a required background check, 3) falsifying records, such as a firearms transaction form, 4) failing to respond to an ATF tracing request, or 5) refusing to permit ATF to conduct an inspection in violation of the law.
To speak with an expert at Everytown about the role ATF plays in preventing gun trafficking, do not hesitate to reach out to [email protected].