What is the ENHANCED INSPECTIONS INITIATIVE?
Brady’s Enhanced Inspections Initiative focuses on identifying and reforming problematic gun dealers by providing state and local authorities with the tools necessary to optimize their gun dealer inspection processes. State and local gun industry oversight is necessary because the ATF inspects only about 7% of licensed gun businesses each year. Even when the ATF does inspect a federal firearms licensee (FFL), it often fails to adequately enforce the law.
Through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and litigation, Brady has obtained and analyzed over 15,000 pages of ATF inspection data. Using this and other data, Brady has created a method for identifying key characteristics of dealers more likely to violate the law. Our method is 4.5 times more likely to identify a problem dealer than random selection. We expect its accuracy to increase as we gain access to more data.
Brady is working to integrate its proprietary data-analytics tool into state and local inspection processes. This tool allows state and local authorities to focus their limited resources on dealers who are likely to be violating the law. In doing so, states and localities will be able to fill the oversight void that currently exists due to ATF constraints, and conduct their own, more efficient oversight of dealers.
Together with our partners, the Enhanced Inspections Initiative combines analytics with Brady’s expertise and national resources to better understand urban firearm gun homicide and violence, identify problem dealers, and stem the flow of guns into impacted communities.
PUBLIC RECORDS REQUESTS
Federal law requires those “engaged in the business of dealing in firearms” to be licensed by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). There are approximately 135,000 federally licensed firearm dealers in the United States. With a license comes legal obligations that federal firearm licensees (FFLs) must comply with, such as conducting background checks, reporting lost or stolen guns, and a paperwork trail that is maintained by ATF and other government agencies.
The ATF’s internal goal is to inspect each dealer once every three to five years; however, the ATF’s oversight of these dealers is limited. Instead, the ATF inspects an average of only 7% of FFLs per year – meaning that a majority of FFLs are not inspected within any five-year period. Some dealers go more than a decade without any agency ensuring compliance with the laws that were enacted to ensure public safety. Even dealers who are inspected are treated leniently by the ATF: From October 2016 to October 2017, federal agents inspected only 11,000 of the 135,000 FFLs in the United States — and cited over half of those inspected for violations — yet revoked the licenses of less than 1%.
Brady creatively leverages both federal and state open records acts to determine the worst FFL offenders, to learn more about how the ATF is combatting dealers who violate the law, and to determine how gun lobby influence has stymied governmental efforts to hold the worst FFL offenders accountable. These open records acts, with their focus on governmental transparency, allow the public to submit requests to all levels of government in order to obtain governmental records, documents, and communications.
For example, using the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), Brady has obtained two years of ATF FFL inspection data. We have analyzed it to identify what gun dealer characteristics correlate with violations of the law that best predict dangerous gun dealer behavior. With this data, we can provide advocates, law enforcement, and policymakers with the information they need to make their communities safer.