Washington, DC— Today Giffords, the gun violence prevention organization led by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, commended the introduction of legislation intended to identify and reduce gun trafficking by Rep. Sean Casten (D-IL). The Gun Trafficker Detection Act requires a gun owner to notify law enforcement within 48 hours of learning a gun has been lost or stolen. After multiple occurrences of such loss or theft, the individual would temporarily lose their eligibility to purchase more guns.
“During my 25 years as an ATF special agent, it was my responsibility to find and disrupt gun traffickers,” said David Chipman, senior policy advisor at Giffords. “That meant looking at patterns of behavior and identifying warning signs. If someone’s guns are ‘lost’ or ‘stolen’ time and time again, not only does it suggest they can’t be a responsible gun owner, but they may be up to something more dangerous. The Gun Trafficker Detection Act will help us react to these issues in real time, instead of after the fact, and treat gun trafficking like the serious offense it is.”
Survey data from across the country suggests that approximately 380,000 guns are stolen from individual owners each year. While federally licensed gun dealers are required to report loss or theft of guns to law enforcement, those individual gun owners are not. As a result, less than 240,000 gun thefts are reported to police each year, suggesting that 40 percent of lost or stolen guns go unreported.
Once a gun changes hands without a record of transfer, it is much more likely to be used in crime: one analysis of 23,000 stolen guns recovered by police between 2010 and 2016 found that the majority of these guns were recovered in connection with crimes, including violent crimes like murder, kidnapping, and armed robbery. Lost and stolen reporting laws similarly help to prevent straw purchases: without reporting laws, straw purchasers—individuals who legally purchase guns for someone who is legally prohibited—can too easily claim a gun they bought and handed off was lost or stolen in an unreported theft.