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ATF Trafficking Report Reiterates Futility of “Universal” Background Checks

Monday, April 15, 2024

ATF Trafficking Report Reiterates Futility of “Universal” Background Checks

So-called “universal” background checks were back in the news last week. The Biden administration and the regime press were promoting the impression that ATF’s new “engaged in the business” rule closed the non-existent “gun show loophole” and prohibited all private firearm transfers – it did nothing of the sort. Lost in the conversation about Biden’s unlawful dictate was whether so-called “universal” background checks are even effective at anything other than encumbering law-abiding gun owners – they aren’t.

Don’t take our word for it.

“Universal” background checks are “universal” in name only and don’t stop criminals from stealing firearms, getting them on the black market, or getting them from straw purchasers. On April 8, ATF published a report on the agency’s firearm trafficking investigations. The “trafficking channel” for roughly two-thirds of the reported cases (65-percent) were “trafficking in firearms by a straw purchaser or straw purchasing ring,” “trafficking in firearms stolen from an FFL,” or “trafficking in firearms stolen from private persons.” For those unfamiliar with the term, “straw purchasing” is when a person buys a firearm, lying on ATF Form 4473 and undergoing a background check, on behalf of a person prohibited from possessing firearms.

This might seem familiar. In June 2000, ATF published a firearm trafficking report titled, “Following the Gun: Enforcing Federal Laws Against Firearms Traffickers.” The report explained, ““[t]he most frequent type of trafficking channel identified in ATF investigations is straw purchasing from federally licensed firearms dealers. Nearly 50 percent....”

Further, Department of Justice surveys of prison inmates show that criminals acquire firearms in ways unlikely to be interdicted by a background check. According to a 2016 DOJ survey, 75 percent of criminals in state and federal state prison who had possessed a firearm during their offense acquired the firearm through theft, “Off the street/underground market,” or “from a family member or friend, or as a gift.” Less than one percent got firearms from dealers or non-dealers at gun shows.

As it turns out, those willing to commit violence with firearms don’t pay much attention to flouting the federal government’s paperwork regime.

That is probably why in January 2013, Barack Obama’s National Institute for Justice poured cold water on the whole “universal” background checks scheme in a document titled, “Summary of Select Firearm Violence Prevention Strategies.” The memo made clear that “universal” background check “effectiveness depends on… requiring gun registration” – something Americans have repeatedly and wisely rejected.

Moreover, the report stated that the scheme’s “effectiveness depends on the ability to reduce straw purchasing,” noting, “straw purchasers are the primary source of crime guns.” There didn’t appear to be much appetite for a serious enforcement campaign targeting straw purchasers back in 2013. Now, with so many Democrats in a soft-on-crime mood and the president’s son facing charges alleging he lied on a Form 4473 to acquire a gun, the idea that the Biden administration would lead a vigorous effort to prosecute straw purchasers seems fanciful.

Rather, the Biden administration’s latest efforts are aimed at curtailing the rights of well-meaning gun owners – which is what gun control is all about.

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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.