DEALERS MUST BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE -- (Senate - February 15, 2007)
Mr. LEVIN. Mr. President, the demand for firearms by criminals and other prohibited purchasers is high. Unfortunately, there are also some dealers willing to supply those firearms. The simple fact is that criminals would not be able to so readily acquire weapons without gun dealers who are willing to bypass gun sales laws. This willingness by some licensed gun dealers to supply gun traffickers with firearms provides a steady flow of guns into the illegal market.
Multiple sales of the same model of gun to an individual are considered by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, ATF, to be among the prime indicators that gun trafficking is occurring from a gun shop. Gun collectors generally do not collect duplicates of the same firearm. The attempt to make multiple purchases of the same weapon should raise a red flag for the dealer to the possibility of trafficking, and reports of multiple sales to the ATF by responsible gun dealers provide a significant percentage of leads for gun trafficking investigations. According to ATF reports, handguns sold as part of multiple sales comprised nearly a quarter of all guns sold in 1999 that were traced to crime that same year. Moreover, guns with obliterated serial numbers, a clear sign of trafficking, are substantially more likely to have been part of a multiple sale.
Dealers are responsible for the products they sell, and they must be held accountable to inquire about the purpose the buyer declares for purchasing multiple handguns at one time and report such suspicious behavior to the ATF. One step several States have taken in order to address the issue of multiple purchases is instituting a one-handgun-per-month purchasing restriction.
Another common tool traffickers use to acquire firearms from licensed dealers is to avoid multiple sale reporting requirements by waiting short periods of time between handgun purchases. During a police operation in Chicago, some dealers suggested to undercover officers that they space out their purchases in order to avoid detection by law enforcement. Under Federal law, dealers are required to report only sales of two or more handguns within a 5 day period to the ATF. By encouraging purchasers to stagger their purchases every 6 days, a dealer would be able to circumvent reporting potential trafficking to law enforcement.
Using in-store accomplices to fill out the required Federal paperwork is also a common method gun traffickers employ. The most obvious sign of this occurs when the person who fills out the Federal purchasing forms is not the person looking at, handling, or selecting the gun to be purchased or paying for the weapon. Even if the purchaser is buying only a single handgun, this type of sale should not be permitted by a licensed gun dealer.
These types of illegal transactions likely occur every day in some licensed gun dealerships across the country. We must make it harder for criminals to get guns to decrease the number of gun violence victims. Those gun dealers who willingly aid gun traffickers must be held accountable for their actions.