Crime scene

What is a crime gun?

Crime scene

A crime gun is a gun that has been recovered by law enforcement after having been or suspected of having been used in a crime, or where the possession of the gun itself is a crime.

Most crime guns start in the legal market at a licensed dealer. Only 5% of gun dealers are responsible for 90% of recovered crime guns. Negligent, reckless, or even illegal business practices by gun dealers are a primary root cause of most crime guns.

Most crime guns start in the legal market at a licensed dealer, and incredibly only


of gun dealers are responsible for 90% of recovered crime guns.

However, critical information on the top sources of crime guns is shielded by federal law. In large part due to resource constraints and competing responsibilities, the ATF only inspects about seven percent of federal firearms licensees (FFLs) each year. Alarmingly, a recent report found that over 2,000 active FFLs had gone more than a decade without an inspection and that over half of active FFLs had only been subject to one inspection of any type between October 2010 and February 2022 (and only about one-fifth of those inspections were compliance inspections). Further, even when ATF does inspect dealers, they are often let off easy for serious violations of federal firearms laws: Between October 2010 and February 2022, ATF recommended the revocation of only 589 FFLs – only 1.04% of inspections where the dealer was found to have violated the law, and only 2.3% of inspections where the ATF inspector identified a violation that warranted license revocation.

Gun manufacturers and the small number of irresponsible gun dealers that knowingly or negligently supply the gun violence epidemic are a focal point of the Combating Crime Guns Initiative. For too long, these crime gun suppliers have avoided accountability for their role in perpetuating gun violence in our communities.

What is a Supply-Side Approach?

A comprehensive approach to ending gun violence must address the supply side – specifically the gun industry businesses that are contributing to and profiting from gun violence.

Reducing gun violence requires the same public health approach as any other epidemic, which includes identifying and addressing the sources. By holding gun dealers accountable both in civil suits and through regulation, we can encourage business reforms among problem dealers who disproportionately supply crime guns. Such reforms and supply-side solutions that complement existing intervention and prevention efforts, could help local communities experience a reduction in homicide and shooting rates in even the most impacted neighborhoods.

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