Violence Policy Center


IndexOnline NewsPress ReleasesFact SheetsPublicationsLinksHomeAbout VPC
Looking for something?

Less Gun Dealers, Less Crime

The Drop in Federally Licensed Firearms Dealers in the Midwest

Section Five: What Next?

The drop in the number of gun dealers in the United States has been an important�and little noticed�effect of the Brady Law. Yet even with a national drop in the number of gun dealers of 72 percent, evidence suggests that FFLs are still being abused to funnel guns to criminals. As noted above, 56 percent of FFLs still operate out of residential premises. Thirty-one percent of FFLs had not sold a single firearm in the previous year, a disturbingly high percentage for a class of people who are "engaged in the business" of selling firearms.9

While at first glance it may seem that an FFL that does not sell any firearms is not a threat to public safety, it must be remembered that this reflects only sales reported to ATF. Many sales by kitchen-table dealers take place "off the books" without the licensee logging the guns into their firearms acquisition book or confirming the identity of the purchaser as required by law.

Kitchen-table dealers remain a source for criminal gun traffickers. In the June 2000 study Following the Gun, ATF took a random sample of their FFL trafficking investigations and found that 23 percent of the investigations were of kitchen-table dealers.10 The only earlier trafficking study to look at the role of kitchen-table dealers was 1990's Project Detroit, detailed earlier, which found that 31 percent of the dealers involved in supplying guns to criminals were kitchen-table dealers. Because Project Detroit was a local study it is difficult to compare its results to those of ATF's most recent study. However it is clear from both studies that kitchen-table dealers play a key role in making firearms available to criminals.

The Violence Policy Center recommends the following steps to build on the FFL reforms enacted under the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993 and the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994:

  • All federally licensed firearms dealers should be required to operate from a storefront business, not a residence. Licenses should be limited to businesses devoted primarily to the sale of firearms. Gun shops should be conspicuously identified to the public as such.

  • ATF should have the authority to suspend a dealer's license or assess civil penalties�in addition to revocation authority�when a dealer violates the law.

  • ATF's ability to inspect a licensee's premises to ensure compliance with recordkeeping requirements should be expanded from once a year to at least four times per year.

  • The loophole should be eliminated which allows dealers to divert firearms from their business inventory to their "personal collections" and then sell those guns without performing the Brady background check.

  • Dealers should be required to safely and securely store their inventory of firearms.

All of these gun dealer reforms are contained in federal legislation known as the ENFORCE Act. The bill was introduced in the House of Representatives and the Senate during the 106th Congress and is expected to be introduced again in the 107th Congress.

Go to Endnotes

Return to Table of Contents


  All contents � 2000 Violence Policy Center


The Violence Policy Center is a national non-profit educational foundation that conducts research on violence in America and works to develop violence-reduction policies and proposals. The Center examines the role of firearms in America, conducts research on firearms violence, and explores new ways to decrease firearm-related death and injury.