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
Kentucky: Committee to Consider Firearm Seizures Without Due Process

Friday, November 15, 2019

Kentucky: Committee to Consider Firearm Seizures Without Due Process

On Friday, November 22nd, the Kentucky state Interim Joint Committee on Judiciary will consider so called “red-flag laws.” Though no legislation has been introduced, such laws usually allow for Second Amendment rights to be suspended ...

A New Candidate for Confiscator-in-Chief

News  

Monday, November 11, 2019

A New Candidate for Confiscator-in-Chief

Former Texas Congressman Robert Francis O’Rourke abandoned his run for President last week, once again leaving a void for the most strident anti-gun candidate seeking the Democrat nomination. Even before declaring his candidacy for President, ...

Strong Firearms Preemption Laws are More Important Than Ever

News  

Gun Laws  

Monday, November 11, 2019

Strong Firearms Preemption Laws are More Important Than Ever

Photo Courtesy of Jeremy Tremp In recent weeks, gun owners have been given two prime examples of just how important strong firearms preemption laws are to the vibrant exercise of Second Amendment rights. On October ...

Guide To The Interstate Transportation Of Firearms

Gun Laws  

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Guide To The Interstate Transportation Of Firearms

CAUTION: Federal and state firearms laws are subject to frequent change. This summary is not to be considered as legal advice or a restatement of law.

News  

Friday, June 27, 2008

Heller: The Supreme Decision

Leaders of the National Rifle Association (NRA) praised the Supreme Court’s historic ruling overturning Washington, D.C.’s ban on handguns and on self-defense in the home, in the case of District of Columbia v. Heller.

Wisconsin: Gov. Evers Calls for Firearm Confiscation & Criminalizing Private Transfers

Friday, September 20, 2019

Wisconsin: Gov. Evers Calls for Firearm Confiscation & Criminalizing Private Transfers

On September 19th, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers, Attorney General Josh Kaul, Representative Melissa Sargent (D-48), and Senator Lena Taylor (D-4) held a press conference calling on the Legislature to violate the Second Amendment by: 1) ...

National Hearing Conservation Association Supports Suppressors

News  

Monday, November 4, 2019

National Hearing Conservation Association Supports Suppressors

Photo Courtesy of Silencer Shop On October 28th, the National Hearing Conservation Association sent its new position paper on firearms suppressors to the American Suppressor Association. The paper, in short, recognizes the important role that ...

NRA Endorses Hyde-Smith for U.S. Senate

News  

Monday, August 13, 2018

NRA Endorses Hyde-Smith for U.S. Senate

FAIRFAX, Va. – The National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund (NRA-PVF) announced on Monday its endorsement of Cindy Hyde-Smith to represent Mississippi in the U.S. Senate. 

New Hampshire: Firearm Seizure Bill Headed to House Floor

Thursday, October 31, 2019

New Hampshire: Firearm Seizure Bill Headed to House Floor

On October 30th, the New Hampshire state Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee sent House Bill 687 to the House floor for further consideration after a motion to kill the bill failed by a vote ...

NRA Statement on Walmart's Decision to Change Firearms Policy

News  

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

NRA Statement on Walmart's Decision to Change Firearms Policy

Fairfax, Va.— The National Rifle Association released the following statement today regarding Walmart's decision to change its firearms and ammunition policies:"The strongest defense of freedom has always been our free-market economy. It is shameful to see ...

MORE TRENDING +
LESS TRENDING -

More Like This From Around The NRA

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.