Eleventh-Hour NRA Amendment to Justice Department Appropriations Bill Would License Tens of Thousands of New “Kitchen-Table” Gun Dealers

For Release:  Monday, July 21, 2003

Amendment Would Also Severely Weaken Gun Dealer Oversight By ATF

WASHINGTON, DC—A National Rifle Association (NRA)-backed amendment inserted by Representative Todd Tiahrt (R-KS) at the last minute into fiscal year 2004 appropriations legislation for the Commerce, Justice and State Departments would dramatically increase the number of “kitchen-table” gun dealers across America, the Violence Policy Center (VPC) charged today. The surprise amendment, adopted last week by the House Appropriations Committee by a vote of 31 to 30, would require the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to issue Federal Firearms Licenses (FFLs) to “kitchen-table” gun dealers, applicants who do not actually run stocking gun stores, but instead operate out of homes and offices.

The Clinton Administration implemented policies to significantly reduce the number of illegitimate gun dealers, which numbered more than 245,000 in 1994. At that time, there were more gun dealers in America than gas stations. Today, there are approximately 58,500 gun dealers in the U.S. Efforts to reduce the number of “kitchen-table” dealers occurred after studies—including the VPC’s 1992 More Gun Dealers Than Gas Stations—and anecdotal evidence showed that “kitchen-table” dealers contributed heavily to criminal gun trafficking. Many of these dealers sold guns out of cars or apartments in urban areas where gun possession is tightly regulated. A chart showing the drop in the number of dealers in your state from 1994 to 2003 is below.

Tiarht’s amendment would prohibit ATF from refusing gun dealer licenses to applicants “due to a lack of business activity.” Current federal law requires dealers to engage in a specified level of business activity to ensure that licensees are actually engaged in legitimate business. Prior to 1994, when the Clinton Administration began vigorously enforcing this “engaged in the business” requirement, a large percentage of gun dealers held licenses only to buy guns at wholesale prices and acquire them for themselves, friends, or neighbors. Others used their licenses to funnel guns to gangs, drug dealers, and other criminals.

“The Tiarht amendment will take us back to the days when America had more gun dealers than gas stations and `kitchen-table’ dealers were a main source of guns for criminals. The House of Representatives should reject Representative Tiarht’s dangerous proposal to balloon the number of licensed gun dealers and subvert ATF’s already weak oversight authority,” states VPC Legislative Director Kristen Rand.

The amendment would also severely undermine the ability of ATF to ensure that gun dealers are obeying federal gun laws. ATF would be limited in its ability to obtain records of firearm acquisition and disposition from dealers. In addition, the agency would be barred from implementing regulations to monitor dealer inventory. Such information may be essential in determining how criminals gain access to firearms—a matter still under investigation in the Washington, D.C.-area sniper case.

National and Selected States Total of Type 1 Federal Firearms License (FFL) Holders,
January 1994 
Total of Type 1 Federal Firearms License (FFL) Holders,
May 2003
Number Decrease From 
1994 to 2003
Percent Decrease From 1994 to 2003
U.S. Total  245,628 58,520 187,108 76%
Alabama 3,235 832 2,403 74%
Arkansas 3,096 775 2,321 75%
California 20,148 2,842 17,306 86%
Florida 9,970 1,721 8,249 83%
Georgia 5,589 1,272 4,317 77%
Idaho 2,295 708 1,587 69%
Illinois 8,959 2,120 6,839 76%
Iowa 3,877 1,247 2,630 68%
Kansas 3,653 995 2,658 73%
Kentucky 4,679 1,111 3,568 76%
Louisiana 4,864 1,058 3,806 78%
Michigan 12,076 2,713 9,363 78%
Mississippi 3,080 848 2,232 72%
Missouri 7,624 2,050 5,574 73%
New York 9,726 2,231 7,495 77%
North Carolina 6,466 1,505 4,961 77%
Oklahoma 4,024 1,030 2,994 74%
Pennsylvania 11,799 3,004 8,795 75%
Tennessee 4,736 1,221 3,515 74%
Texas 18,041 4,321 13,720 76%
Virginia 6,942 1,564 5,378 77%
Washington 5,724 1,007 4,717 82%
West Virginia 3,234 839 2,395 74%




About the Violence Policy Center
The Violence Policy Center is a national educational organization working to stop gun death and injury. Follow the VPC on TwitterFacebook, and YouTube.

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Sally Martinelli
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