DOJ Report Rebukes Some Government Claims on Gun Trafficking

ATF Police Raid IMG ATFHQ Instagram
ATF Police Raid IMG ATFHQ Instagram

The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) has released the third volume of the “National Firearms Commerce and Trafficking Assessment” (NFCTA).

The NFCTA is an “examination of commerce in firearms and the diversion of firearms to illegal markets.” The assessment is based on a survey completed by special agents conducting trafficking investigations for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). The report examined 9,708 closed ATF firearm trafficking investigations that took place between 2017 and 2021. This assessment is the first assessment of gun trafficking by the DOJ in 20 years.

“This report makes clear that black-market guns sold by unlicensed dealers without a background check are increasingly being found at crime scenes,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “Under the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, the Justice Department has proposed a new rule to clarify when gun dealers must get licenses and conduct background checks. The Department is also vigorously enforcing the new provisions Congress passed in the Act to prohibit illegal gun trafficking and straw purchasing. This report reminds us of the urgency of our work, and I am grateful to the extraordinary professionals of the ATF who put their lives on the line to help keep our communities safe and whose tireless work is responsible for the most comprehensive look at America’s crime gun data in over two decades.”

According to the report, nearly 80% of all trafficked firearms originated from unlicensed dealers and straw purchases. For years, anti-gun groups and Democrat politicians have screamed about closing the “gun show” loophole. Even though gun shows have been demonized by anti-gun politicians and activists for supplying guns to criminals, this report rejects that notion. According to the report, only 3% of trafficked firearms originated from gun shows.

“The new report that was just published doesn’t seem to fit the anti 2A agenda and narrative.” said Jordan Vinroe, owner of Eagle Shows, Mac Shows, and Big Reno gun shows. “All firearm sales, no matter where they take place in America, are required to follow both federal and state law.”

Recently Bryan Malinowski, who was an Executive Director of the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport was shot and killed by the ATF while the Bureau was executing a no-knock warrant on Mr. Malinowski’s home. The ATF claimed that the man was acting as an unlicensed dealer at gun shows. Many believe that the raid on the gun owner’s home was an overreaction by the ATF, who have been criticized in the past for raids at Ruby Ridge and Waco.

Another demonized segment of the gun market is privately manufactured firearms (PMFs). Although President Joe Biden has railed against what he calls “ghost guns,” and New Jersey calls the sale of homemade firearms kits the “iron pipeline,” this report rejects that notion. The report shows that only 3% of trafficked guns are built from kits or 3D printed. Millions of American tax dollars have been spent on trying to shut down the “gun show loophole” and prevent Americans from exercising their right to make their own guns. After this report, many wonder if this money has been wasted.

“The assessment still proves that 97% of trafficked firearms are stolen or acquired within lawful commerce,” Cody Wilson of Defense Distributed said. “Ghost guns are yet to pose a meaningful or tangible threat.”

Another area President Biden and others have claimed is an issue is guns that are trafficked by so-called “rogue gun dealers.” The ATF has used its new “zero tolerance” policy to shut down hundreds of federal firearms licensees (FFLs), and other politicians claimed that 50% of FFLs are dependent on cartel business. The DOJ report shows these concerns might be overblown. According to the report, less than 2% of trafficked guns are from FFLs.

Another boogeyman to anti-gun politicians and activists is internet marketplaces like Armslist and Gun Broker. Armslist, in particular, has been sued multiple times by anti-gun groups, but the report shows that less than 4% of trafficked guns come from these sites. Over 96% of the people who use online marketplaces to buy firearms are law-abiding citizens. This reality is a far cry from the claims made by certain people who claim these sites are dependent on the illegal trafficking of firearms to stay in business.

“The ATF’s recent publication confirmed that Armslist and other online marketplaces account for virtually no illegal firearms sales,” said Jon Gibbon, President of Armslist. “According to the ATF, all online marketplaces combined represent less than 5 percent of illicit transfers. We applaud the ATF for identifying the real culprits: unlicensed dealers and straw purchasers. Unfortunately, the ATF continues to parrot partisan talking points by lumping law-abiding marketplaces like Armslist in with scofflaws. As ATF’s own analysis shows, Armslist and other online marketplaces are not significant trafficking channels for illegal transfers.”

What this report shows is that trafficked firearms originate from the two sources that gun owners have always claimed. These sources are stolen firearms, which account for 26% of all firearms trafficked, and straw purchases which accounts for another 39% of guns trafficked. This fact leads to the question that many in the gun community have been asking for years: Why is the government so concerned with cracking down on the avenues that mostly only affect law-abiding citizens?

About John Crump

John is a NRA instructor and a constitutional activist. Mr. Crump has written about firearms, interviewed people of all walks of life, and on the Constitution. John lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and sons and can be followed on Twitter at @crumpyss, or at

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