President Biden’s pledged crackdown on “rogue” gun dealers is unlikely to put a dent in gun crime, only a tiny minority of which is committed with weapons bought from licensed dealers, according to federal statistics and studies on the subject.
The Biden administration on Wednesday announced “zero tolerance” for gun dealers who willfully violate the law, as part of the administration’s strategy to combat what the Department of Justice (DOJ) calls a “staggering” surge in violent crime.
The “zero-tolerance” policy targets federally licensed firearms dealers who “willfully” transfer a weapon to someone prohibited from owning one or ignore a tracing request from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The ATF would seek to revoke the dealer’s license after the first offense, a senior White House official said.
Biden, standing next to Attorney General Merrick Garland, told Americans on Wednesday that “enough rogue gun dealers” – whom he described as “merchants of death” – “feel like they can get away with selling guns to people who aren’t legally allowed to own them.”
But a Fox News review of data on the subject raises serious questions about the extent to which “rogue gun dealers” are driving the nationwide spike in violent crime.
A 2016 survey, conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics under DOJ, of federal and state inmates found that the overwhelming majority of inmates who used a gun while committing their crimes didn’t buy their weapon from a licensed dealer.
“Among prisoners who possessed a gun during their offense, 90% did not obtain it from a retail source,” which includes flea markets and pawn shops, in addition to licensed gun dealers, Department of Justice statisticians noted in a 2019 analysis of that data. Roughly 7% obtained their guns directly from licensed dealers, the analysis noted.
“Of the approximate 7% that purchased their weapon through an FFL [federal firearms licensee], almost 100% of those sales were completed in compliance with the laws and regulations that govern the sale of a firearm, meaning at the time they purchased the firearm, they were most likely not prohibited from doing so,” former acting director of the ATF and former county and federal prosecutor Michael Sullivan told Fox News, referring to the DOJ study.
Similarly, a 2018 Northwestern University study focusing on how Chicago gang members obtained their guns found that “very few gang members buy their guns new from a dealer. Only 2% were purchased directly from an FFL in a documented sale. Of course, that leaves the possibility of undocumented sales, but they also are a minor part of the picture: at most 5% of guns found in the hands of gang members were sold out the back door by ‘dirty dealers.'”
Sullivan said that “rogue” federal firearms licensed (FFL) dealers are not the problem and Biden’s “political rhetoric” implies that ATF was not already executing its regulatory inspection work, which is untrue.
“Claiming ‘rogue licensed dealers’ are the problem may appease some in the anti-gun community but it is simply not true and not supported by any facts,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan said that FFL dealers have been a “valued partner” to ATF and other federal, state, county and local law enforcement agencies and that Biden’s announced strategy targeting gun shops will “have no impact in reducing violent crime statistics.”
“Instead of attacking and disparaging these lawful businesses, our leaders should be recognizing them for the work they that have done in creating jobs, having positive impact on our economy, enhancing public safety, and allowing for the exercise of one of our Constitutional rights,” said the former acting ATF director.
A spokesperson for the National Rifle Association (NRA) told Fox News in a statement that Biden is simply playing politics and his zero-tolerance policy will not reduce rising crime rates.
“This is a political red herring aimed at hiding the real and abysmal failures of the Biden administration. Crime rates are high because of the efforts to defund the police and a failure to prosecute career criminals. The simple fact is strict enforcement of existing laws – including gun laws – coupled with support of law enforcement and prosecutors to do their jobs would result in a dramatic decrease in crime. But, the president would rather play politics than make Americans safer.”
The White House didn’t return a request for comment by publication time.
Brooke Singman contributed reporting.
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