012 -For the Love of Guns

Sheer Quantity

  • 3% of gun owners own almost 50% of all civilian guns. These 7.7mm “super owners”  own between 8-140 guns (on average 17)15
  • In 2013, U.S. gun manufacturers built 10,844,792 guns, and we imported an additional 5,539,539; the number dropped slightly in 2014.16
  • There are over 300 million guns owned by civilians (legal and illegal)11
  • The government holds approximately 2.7mm guns
NPR.org stacked bar chart showing firearms by type and year


National Firearms Act of 1934 (NFA)4

In 1934 Congress passed a law taxing the makers and distributors of firearms as a way to curtail the usage of weapons commonly used in gang activity at the time. It also required firearms to be registered with the Secretary of Treasury and compelled holders of unregistered firearms to register them and be subject to prosecution for having an unregistered firearm. This provision was ruled to have violated the 5th Amendment to the Constitution (against self-incrimination) in 1968. At this point the NFA was unenforceable.

Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA)1

The assassination of JFK prompted this law because Oswald’s weapon was purchased from a mail-order catalog. The NRA supported this measure, and its passage in October 1968 came after recent assassinations of MLK and Robert Kennedy. The bill banned mail-order sales and prevented felons, drug users and mentally ill citizens from owning guns. The bill required firearms sellers to be licensed and prevented various interstate transactions unless they took place under a federally licensed dealer.

The bill established that persons over 18 could purchase rifles and shotguns, and one must have been over 21 to purchase a handgun. People would have to fill out Form 4473, the Firearms Transaction Record, when purchasing a gun from a dealer to certify that they are none of these prohibited parties6. The bill also required that all guns made or imported into the US bear a serial number and removal of that identifier became a felony offense. Furthermore, this bill closed the loophole in the NFA by preventing the registration of a firearm from being used as evidence in any crime occurring before the time of registration.

President Johnson, who asked for provisions of the bill, wanted it to also license individuals and said it fell short of protecting Americans at a time when 160 million guns existed in the US2. Johnson stated that the gun lobby defeated this measure. In 1993, the Brady Bill enhanced this by requiring more stringent background checks before selling a gun to a purchaser.

Firearm Owners’ Protection Act of 1986 (FOPA)3

In 1982 a Senate subcommittee report found that 75% of ATF prosecutions regarding firearms targeted ordinary, law-abiding citizens on technicalities or entrapment. This report and lobbying prompted the passage of FOPA in 1986. The law loosened restrictions on interstate gun sales and mailed ammunition, banned machine guns made after the bill passed from being sold to the general public, and limited ATF inspections to once a year, generally.

Registry Prohibition

  • A key part of FOPA was the restriction that the government cannot require firearms, their owners, or transactions involving firearms to be reported to any government entity.
  • The ATF is barred from consolidating or centralizing dealer records
    • The bureau consolidated 252 million records of active shop owners from 2000-2016, but had to delete them after the GAO found they did not comply with FOPA
  • According to Pew Research Center, most Americans favor a federal database to track gun sales (70% overall, 55% Republicans)13

Partisan Views of Gun Proposals


  • 1,500 / day or 373,000 / year in 2015 by 50 Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) agents
  • Urgent traces done in 24 hours; average trace takes 5 business days
  • These records are stored in 15,000 boxes
  • Required to be “unsearchable” – no keyword searches, sorting by date or anything else.
  • Some records are on toliet paper or napkins (a snub by shop owners who dislike the reporting requirement)
  • As of 2013, 70% of traces ID the buyer of a gun14
  • 285 million records from closed up shops saved in 25 “data systems”7 known as the Firearms Tracing System (FTS)
    • All bullets below are from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Firearm_Owners_Protection_Act
    • Multiple Sale Reports. Over 460,000 (2003) Multiple Sales reports (ATF F 3310.4 – a registration record with specific firearms and owner name and address – increasing by about 140,000 per year). Reported as 4.2 million records in 2010.
    • Suspect Guns. All guns suspected of being used for criminal purposes but not recovered by law enforcement. This database includes (ATF’s own examples[citation needed]), individuals purchasing large quantities of firearms, and dealers with improper record keeping. May include guns observed by law enforcement in an estate, or at a gun show, or elsewhere.[citation needed] Reported as 34,807 in 2010.
    • Traced Guns. Over 4 million detail records from all traces since inception. This is a registration record which includes the personal information of the first retail purchaser, along with the identity of the selling dealer.
    • Out of Business Records. Data is manually collected from paper Out-of-Business records (or input from computer records) and entered into the trace system by ATF. These are registration records which include name and address, make, model, serial and caliber of the firearm(s), as well as data from the 4473 form – in digital or image format. In March, 2010, ATF reported receiving several hundred million records since 1968.
    • Theft Guns. Firearms reported as stolen to ATF. Contained 330,000 records in 2010. Contains only thefts from licensed dealers and interstate carriers (optional). Does not have an interface to the FBI’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC) theft data base, where the majority of stolen, lost and missing firearms are reported. See eTrace below.

Hawaii & the “Rap Back” FBI database12

  • In 2016, Hawaii became the first state to require gun owners names to be posed to the FBI “Rap Back” database. This allows them to be notified if a gun owner from their state is arrested for a crime anywhere in the US.
  • Visitors to Hawaii packing heat must register and be placed on the list, but they request to be removed from the database after departure.



  • When a gun is recovered at a crime scene, it can and usually is ran through a firearms trace with the ATF. This is done through a system called eTrace.
  • eTrace is a digital system that tracks submissions and trace results
  • It is more dynamic and usable because once a gun is in this system, it may be searched by owner name, serial number, etc.
  • However, non-crime scene guns are not in this system

ATF 2014 Firearms Trace Data10

The top 10 states with the most recoveries and traces are:

  1. California
  2. Florida
  3. Texas
  4. Illinois
  5. Georgia
  6. North Carolina
  7. Ohio
  8. Pennsylvania
  9. Maryland
  10. New York

In 2014, the number of firearms recovered and traced = 246,087

Top Categories of Recovered Firearms

  • Pistol – 131,562
  • Revolver – 43,799
  • Rifle – 38,854
  • Shotgun – 29,970
  • Derringer – 2,197
  • Receiver/Frame – 1,301
  • Machinegun – 717
  • The national possessor age is 36 years old.
  • In 2014, pistols and revolvers accounted for the majority of traced firearms.
  • National time-to-crime average is 10.88 years.



  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_Control_Act_of_1968
  2. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=29197
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Firearm_Owners_Protection_Act
  4. https://www.atf.gov/rules-and-regulations/national-firearms-act
  5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Firearm_Owners_Protection_Act
  6. http://www.gq.com/story/inside-federal-bureau-of-way-too-many-guns
  7. https://www.thetrace.org/2016/08/atf-ridiculous-non-searchable-databases-explained/
  8. https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/gun-deaths/
  9. https://www.atf.gov/resource-center/fact-sheet/fact-sheet-national-tracing-center
  10. https://www.atf.gov/resource-center/atf-2014-firearms-trace-data
  11. http://www.npr.org/2016/01/05/462017461/guns-in-america-by-the-numbers
  12. https://news.vice.com/article/hawaii-track-gun-owners-fbi-rap-back-crime-database
  13. http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/01/05/5-facts-about-guns-in-the-united-states/
  14. https://www.reference.com/government-politics/track-owner-gun-its-serial-number-1027e7316a578d2c#
  15. http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2016/09/gun-ownership-america-super-owners
  16. https://www.atf.gov/resource-center/docs/2016-firearms-commerce-united-states/download


Gunslinger by The Long Ryders via FreeMusicArchive.org

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