WASHINGTON -- A new Brady Center report, “Missing Guns: Lost and Dangerous” shows that licensed gun manufacturers nationwide “lost” an average of at least 18 firearms every day over the last two and a half years, according to a Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence analysis of new data released in August by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
The “Missing Guns: Lost and Dangerous” report shows that, from 2009 to the middle of 2011, at least 16,485 firearms left gun manufacturers’ inventory without a record of being legally sold. This report follows a January 2011 Brady Center report, “Missing Guns,” which found that the nation’s gun retail dealers also "lost" more than 62,000 firearms since 2008.
Dennis Henigan, Acting President of the Brady Center, is outraged: “It is shocking that gun makers are so oblivious to public safety that they lose track of thousands of guns every year,” Henigan said. “ Given the lethality of its product, the gun industry has a special duty to act responsibly. Instead, it has a scandalous record of carelessness. ”
Firearms that leave gun manufacturers’ plants without records of sale are frequently trafficked by gun traffickers and prized by criminals because the guns are difficult, and often impossible, to trace. Some guns are taken from gun manufacturing plants before they have been stamped with serial numbers, making them virtually untraceable – a criminal’s delight.
In July, the Brady Center won a historic settlement against gun manufacturer Kahr Arms, which agreed to pay nearly $600,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by the Brady Center’s Legal Action Project. The lawsuit charged that Kahr allowed drug addicts and criminals to work at its Worcester, Mass., manufacturing plant and take unsecured guns from the plant.
The settlement was the largest damages payment ever by a gun manufacturer charged with negligence leading to the criminal use of a gun, and the first since a federal gun shield law, the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, was enacted. The suit claimed that a drug-addicted employee with a criminal record took Kahr Arms guns from the plant. One of the guns was used to kill a young father of two daughters and injure another man. The guns were taken before being stamped with serial numbers.
The 16,485 “missing” guns are likely a vast undercount of the total number of guns that left gun manufacturers without recorded sales in the last 30 months. The missing guns are noted at ATF compliance inspections of gun manufacturers. Nationwide there are 4,487 licensed gun manufacturers, but because of funding restrictions, ATF conducts compliance inspections each year at only about one-fifth of the nation’s licensed gun dealers and manufacturers.
Weak federal gun laws allow gun manufacturers and dealers to operate without security or inventory controls. In 2001, ATF proposed that gun sellers be required to take one physical inventory of their firearms each year to ensure that all firearms in their shops were accounted for. At the behest of the gun lobby, Congress in 2004 approved an appropriations provision proposed by then-Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-KS), known as the “Tiahrt Amendment,” blocking ATF from requiring that gun sellers track their inventory - and that prohibition remains the law today.
The Brady Center obtained the data for 2009 to 2011 from an ATF report presented to the gun industry last month. ATF did not reveal which gun manufacturers were responsible for the 16,485 missing guns. The Tiahrt Amendment also contains a secrecy provision that blocks public and media requests for data about guns missing from gun dealers and manufacturers, including which gun manufacturers are the source of the “lost” guns.
President Obama promised during his 2008 campaign to “repeal the Tiahrt Amendment,” but has instead kept the prohibition on ATF requiring gun seller inventory audits and the gun seller data secrecy provision in his budget proposals.