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Following the Gun: Enforcing Federal Laws Against Firearms Traffickers

NCJ Number
Date Published
June 2000
75 pages
This report demonstrates the effectiveness of State and local law enforcement agencies and prosecutors in joining with the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) in "following the crime gun" to the gun's illegal supplier and targeting that supplier and others in the chain of illegal transfers.
Many criminals obtain their guns from the illegal market supplied by a variety of sources: unlicensed sellers who buy guns to resell them; "fences"; corrupt Federal firearms licensees; and straw purchasers who buy guns for other unlicensed sellers, criminal users, and juveniles. It is the responsibility of the ATF, often working with State and local law enforcement agencies, to investigate this criminal trafficking in firearms, arrest the perpetrators, and refer them to U.S. Attorneys for prosecution. To report on the problem and the Federal enforcement response to it, ATF has documented and analyzed the criminal investigations involving firearms traffickers initiated by the ATF from July 1996 through December 1998, from commencement of the investigation to sentencing by a court. This review builds on an earlier examination of the illegal acquisition of firearms by juveniles, prepared in response to a request by Congress. The information for both reports was obtained from surveys of the ATF special agents responsible for the investigations. This analysis documents a productive effort that led to the prosecution, conviction, and sentencing of hundreds of firearms traffickers during this period. It also suggests that this effort could be still more effective with continued improvement in investigative techniques and enforcement tools. 21 tables and appended statutes relating to firearms trafficking, study methodology, and survey forms