Where Are All Those ‘Ghost Guns?’

Want to get all hot and bothered about nothing? Last week you had the supply-chain ‘crisis.’ This week you can have ‘ghost guns.’

The media is all over the ‘ghost guns’ story. Just imagine that now we can’t even figure out who bought the gun that killed little Johnny innocently playing in his back yard because the gun that fired the bullet that went through Little Johnny’s head came from a gun that wasn’t actually bought or sold.

Well, maybe the guy who made the gun by buying some parts online and putting the gun together did sell it to someone else. But since the gun wasn’t manufactured by a federally-licensed gun maker, it doesn’t have a serial number so it can’t be traced. And since the whole point of giving every gun a unique serial number is to allow the ATF to trace a gun from the factory to the wholesaler, from the wholesaler to the gun shop, from the gun shop to the buyer, from the buyer to the guy he sold the gun to who then shot little Johnny, we’ll never figure out who actually shot little Johnny because the shooter used a gun without a serial number, which is what we call a ‘ghost gun.’

There’s only one little problem with the scenario I just described which shows how a serialized gun, as opposed to a ‘ghost gun,’ can be traced. In fact, most if not nearly all guns that are used to commit crimes can’t be traced so that the cops can figure out who actually was the end-user of that gun.

To begin, of the nearly 400,000 traces that the ATF completed in 2020, less than 20% involved guns that were connected to violent crimes. Second, despite the ATF’s statements that their traces provide an invaluable service to local law enforcement to help solve crimes, in fact the ATF has absolutely no data on the number of traces which result in a crime being solved.

Second, the ATF also says that its tracing activity is hampered by the fact that it can get information on the initial transfer of a gun from a dealer to a customer because that’s the point at which a background check is performed and gun dealers are required to maintain the NICS-FBI background-check information for 20 years.

As regards this issue, the ATF is lying. Or to be more precise, the agency is blatantly lying. The data which all federally-licensed gun dealers must maintain consists of information which describes the acquisition of every gun that came through the shop and the disposition of every gun which left the shop. This is referred to as the A&D book.

The dealer must also be able to produce the completed 4473 form which gives specific

Information on every gun and every customer who went through the background-check process before buying a gun, as well as the same information on customers who failed the background check and couldn’t buy a gun.

Now — read the next sentence very carefully.

All of this data is owned by the ATF, the dealer is the custodian. What this means is that an ATF agent can walk into a gun shop unannounced at any time and examine this data for as long as he likes. He doesn’t have to tell the gun dealer why he’s in the shop or why he’s examining the A&D book, or the 4473 forms, or both.

If an ATF agent walked into my shop and looked at the A&D book, he would discover that not only was 40% of the inventory used guns, but in many cases the gun had come back through the shop several times. Need new tires for the truck? Sell a gun. Need a new washing machine for the house? Sell a gun.

The ATF, on the other hand, would like you to believe that they can only look at information which covers the initial transfer of a new gun. And since they make no effort to examine my paperwork to determine whether any particular gun has been sold multiple times in my shop, in effect every time I sell a used gun to a customer, I have created a ‘ghost gun.’

Want to get hot and bothered about anything having to do with how guns are bought and sold in the United States? Just spend a bit of time thinking about how the federal agency responsible for regulating the gun business can’t be bothered to tell the truth about what it does.

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