Explore The NRA Universe Of Websites

APPEARS IN News

Setting The Record Straight On BATF Firearms Traces

Saturday, January 10, 2004

"Gun control" advocates purposely mischaracterize BATFE firearm commerce tracing for several purposes, frequently to promote "assault weapon" (AW) bans. Before the 1994 Clinton Gun Ban (the federal "assault weapons" and "large" magazine ban), data from state and local law enforcement agencies, and federal prison inmate surveys, uniformly showed that AWs were used in only a small percentage of crime.1 Crime victim surveys indicated the figure is only 0.25%.2 Murders with knives, clubs and hands outnumbered those with AWs by more than 20-to-1.3

In order to portray AWs as commonplace crime guns, and gain support for the Clinton ban, the "gun control" lobby manipulated BATFE traces. Since AWs were a hot political issue, there was a particular interest in tracing them, so they were traced disproportionately, relative to their use in crime. Anti-gunners claimed, incorrectly, that because AWs were often traced, it meant that they were often used to commit violent crimes.4 Typical claims alleged that AWs were "traced to crime."

The claims were unsupportable. For one thing, BATFE doesn`t "trace guns to crime." A trace is merely a process by which BATFE contacts the manufacturer or importer of a specific gun, asks to whom the gun was sold, repeating that process down the chain of commerce in an attempt to identify the gun`s most recent purchaser. Traces are used to identify individuals involved in illegal gun purchases and sales.

Additionally, most guns that are traced have not been used to commit a violent crime, and most guns used to commit violent crimes are never traced. The Congressional Research Service reported in 1992:5

    • "The [B]ATF tracing system is an operational system designed to help law enforcement agencies identify the ownership path of individual firearms. It was not designed to collect statistics."

  • "Firearms selected for tracing do not constitute a random sample and cannot be considered representative of the larger universe of all firearms used by criminals, or of any subset of that universe."

  • "A law enforcement officer may initiate a trace request for any reason. No crime need be involved. No screening policy ensures or requires that only guns known or suspected to have been used in crimes are traced." BATFE "noted it is not possible to determine if traced firearms are related to criminal activity."

  • "Trace requests are not accurate indicators of specified crimes .... traces may be requested for a variety of reasons not necessarily related to criminal incidents. For example, a trace may be conducted on a firearm found at the residence of a suspect though the firearm itself is not associated with a criminal act. Traces may also be requested with respect to abandoned firearms, those found by chance, those seen by officers for sale at gun shows or pawn shops, or those used by suicide victims. . . . It is not possible to identify how frequently firearm traces are requested for reasons other than those associated with violent crimes."

  • "[B]ATF does not always know if a firearm being traced has been used in a crime. For instance, sometimes a firearm is traced simply to determine the rightful owner after it is found by a law enforcement agency."

With the Clinton Gun Ban scheduled to expire on Sept. 13, 2004, anti-gun groups are demanding that it be extended indefinitely, and expanded. In an attempt to justify an extension, they now claim that AW traces have decreased, so the ban must have reduced crime.6 These new claims suffer the same flaws as their predecessors, and more.

The study Congress required of the AW ban noted, "because the banned guns and magazines were never used in more than a fraction of all gun murders, even the maximum theoretically achievable preventive effect of the ban on gun murders is almost certainly too small to detect statistically." It also noted that the ban`s 10-round magazine limit isn`t a factor in multiple-victim or multiple-wound crimes.7 A follow-up study found "gunshot injury incidents involving pistols [which use magazines] were less likely to produce a death than were those involving revolvers" and "the average number of wounds for pistol victims was actually lower than that for revolver victims."8

Additionally, the ban couldn`t have had an effect on crime, because it banned only attachments (e.g., angled grips) that have nothing to do with crime. Moreover, AWs account for a smaller share of traces today because they are no longer a hot issue (there is less interest in tracing them) and BATFE now encourages traces on other guns. For more information on the AW issue, see the NRA-ILA Clinton Gun Ban and 1994 Crime Bill fact sheets.

Notes:

    1. See Gary Kleck, Targeting Guns, 1997; Dave Kopel, "Rational Basis Analysis for ‘Assault Weapon` Prohibition," www.davekopel.com/2A/LawRev/rational.htm. Bureau of Justice Statistics: Survey of State Prison Inmates 1991 (3/93), Guns Used in Crime (7/95), Firearm Use by Offenders (11/01).
    1. Kleck, p.112. Basis: National Crime Victimization Surveys, which identify many crimes not reported to police.
    1. In 1993, the most recent year of statistics available when Congress passed the ban, knives were used in 13% of murders, clubs, 4 %; and bare hands, 5%. In 2002, it was knives, 13%; clubs, 5%; and bare hands, 7%. (FBI)
    1. Ex.: "Assault weapons are twenty times more likely to be used in crime." (HCI adv., "We Want a Nationwide Ban on These Weapons of Destruction!," Roll Call, April 18, 1994.)
    1. "Assault Weapons": Military-Style Semiautomatic Firearms Facts and Issues," May 13, 1992, 92-434 GOV.
    1. Ex.: "Trace requests for assault weapons in the 1993-95 period declined 20% in the first calendar year after the ban took effect." (www.bradycampaign.org/facts/gunlaws/awb.asp)
    1. Roth, Koper, et al., Urban Institute, "Impact Evaluation of the Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act of 1994," 3/13/97. Available at www.urban.org.
  1. Reedy and Koper, "Impact of handgun types on gun assault outcomes," Injury Prevention, Sept. 2003
IN THIS ARTICLE
Registration & Licensing
TRENDING NOW
Your Members of Congress Need to Hear from You on the Hearing Protection Act of 2017

News  

Friday, January 13, 2017

Your Members of Congress Need to Hear from You on the Hearing Protection Act of 2017

On Monday, Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID) – joined by co-sponsors Sens. Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Rand Paul (R-KY) – introduced S. 59, the Hearing Protection Act of 2017 (HPA). Similar legislation was introduced in the ...

Alert: WA State Proposes Draconian Gun Ban Bills

News  

Friday, January 13, 2017

Alert: WA State Proposes Draconian Gun Ban Bills

Inspired, perhaps, by Oscar Wilde (“Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess”), Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson has announced two new sweeping gun control bills, with Sen. David Frockt (D-Seattle) and Rep. ...

New Hampshire: Constitutional/Permitless Carry Bill Passes Senate!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

New Hampshire: Constitutional/Permitless Carry Bill Passes Senate!

Today, Senate Bill 12, legislation eliminating the requirement to obtain a permit in order to lawfully carry, passed the Senate without amendment, by a 13-10 vote.  SB 12 will now go to the House of ...

National Concealed Carry Reciprocity Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them

News  

Friday, January 13, 2017

National Concealed Carry Reciprocity Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them

On January 3rd, Congressman Richard Hudson (R-N.C.8th) introduced H.R. 38, the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017, which simply allows lawful firearm carriers from any state to carry a concealed firearm in any other state. The bill ...

Virginia: Senate Committee to Hear Numerous Gun Bills Tomorrow

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Virginia: Senate Committee to Hear Numerous Gun Bills Tomorrow

Tomorrow, January 18, the Senate Courts of Justice is expected to hear and possibly vote on several firearm-related bills.

Kansas: Bill Introduced Attempting to Repeal Pro-Self-Defense Law

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Kansas: Bill Introduced Attempting to Repeal Pro-Self-Defense Law

In 2013, the Kansas Legislature passed the Public Building Security Act, pro-gun legislation that amended the Personal and Family Protection Act. 

Supreme Court Asked to Review California’s Restrictive Carry Regime

News  

Friday, January 13, 2017

Supreme Court Asked to Review California’s Restrictive Carry Regime

On Thursday, the NRA-supported case Peruta v. California took an important step towards restoring the right to bear arms in California.  The plaintiffs in the case, California gun owners and the California Rifle and Pistol ...

NRA Statement on Nomination of Ryan Zinke to Secretary of the Interior

News  

Friday, December 16, 2016

NRA Statement on Nomination of Ryan Zinke to Secretary of the Interior

Chris W. Cox, executive director of the National Rifle Association's Institute for Legislative Action, issued the following statement on the nomination of Congressman Ryan Zinke to be the Secretary of the Interior

Indiana: Legislative Session Begins with Numerous Pro-Gun Bills Filed

Friday, January 13, 2017

Indiana: Legislative Session Begins with Numerous Pro-Gun Bills Filed

With the 2017 Indiana legislative session underway, we are happy to report that a number of pro-gun bills have been filed.

NRA Applauds the Introduction of the Hearing Protection Act, H.R. 367

News  

Hunting  

Monday, January 9, 2017

NRA Applauds the Introduction of the Hearing Protection Act, H.R. 367

FAIRFAX, Va. – The National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) applauded Congressmen Jeff Duncan (SC) and John Carter (TX-31) on Monday for introducing the Hearing Protection Act, an important bill that gives gun owners and sportsmen ...

MORE TRENDING +
LESS TRENDING -
NRA ILA

Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.