Yesterday I wrote a comment about how our friends at The Trace have published a rather interesting piece about the ATF’s policy covering gun shop inspections and basically gotten It all wrong. Today I’m going to continue my little exercise in correcting mistakes made by journalists who think they understand the gun industry when they don’t understand it at all, covering yet  another issue that The Trace discussed which adds up to zilch.

              I’m referring to the following statement about the scope of the ATF’s regulatory activities: “The ATF is responsible for policing the 78,000 gun dealers, manufacturers and importers in the U.S. In the 2020 fiscal year, as the coronavirus pandemic snarled government operations, the ATF inspected only 5,827 licensed dealers, or 7.5 percent — the lowest annual inspection rate since 2004.”

              The ATF can’t even inspect one out of every ten retail stores? That’s a pretty piss-poor job if you ask me. Because if 90% of the gun dealers can go a whole year without having to worry about running their business in a legal and legitimate way, no wonder so many guns wind up in the street and are used to commit so many violent crimes.

              Ready? Here we go.

I have been listening to this nonsense about how the country is inundated with gun dealers for years. The statement has absolutely no connection to the reality of the gun business at all. Not one bit.

The fact that someone sends the ATF $300, passes a background check, and is issued a federal dealer’s license doesn’t mean that he will ever sell a single gun to another soul. On the other hand, if I want to open a retail store and sell products to the public – guns, coffee, cat litter, anything else – getting a license from the Feds because it’s guns I’m going to sell is the least licensing requirement I need to worry about.

Before I open my doors to my first customer, I’m going to need to register with the state revenue people because I have to charge, collect, and remit sales tax. In most jurisdictions I’ll also need a local and/or state business license, along with insurance, a commercial bank account and maybe I should register as a corporation just in case.

How many of those almost 80,000 people holding those ATF dealer, manufacturer and importer licenses have gone to the trouble of actually setting up a place to do business, going out and getting all the licenses and fulfilling all the other paperwork and commercial requirements that have to be met before they can sell one, blessed thing?

              Take my state, which is Massachusetts. Right now, there are 364 residents in Massachusetts who hold a current gun dealer’s license from the ATF.  Presently there are 36 retail gun dealers doing business in this state.

              The ATF says it conducted 11 inspections in Massachusetts from 2015 through 2017. So, if we follow the argument made by The Trace, it looks like the ATF inspected 3 percent of the gun dealers in Massachusetts over those three years. In fact, they inspected roughly one-third of all the locations where someone can actually purchase a gun.

              Nearly all the folks holding federal gun licenses use these licenses to buy guns for themselves either directly from other dealers or from wholesalers because on such a direct purchase they will save upwards of 30 percent or more of what they would pay if they walked into a gun shop and bought the same gun over the counter in a retail sale.

Mail-order sales to individuals across state lines were outlawed by the federal gun-control law passed in 1968 (GCA68), because that’s how Lee Harvey Oswald acquired the rifle which he used to assassinate JFK. And which Federal agency did GCA68 designate to regulate dealer-to-dealer movement of guns? That’s right – the ATF.

I am still waiting for the first gun journalist who writes about the shockingly large number of gun dealers selling all those guns that end up in the ‘wrong’ hands to sit down and take the trouble to figure out how many physical locations actually exist where someone can legally purchase a gun.

This exercise has not yet been performed by my friends at The Trace, but they know ‘for a fact’ that the ATF only inspects less than 10% of all gun dealers every year.

They know. Yea, right.