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Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

ATF Press Release

For Immediate Release
Monday, April 8, 2024

ATF Releases Comprehensive Firearms Trafficking Report

LOS ANGELES – The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) releases firearms trafficking report, illustrating what types of firearms are being trafficked and who is moving the guns. The third volume of the National Firearms Commerce and Trafficking Assessment (NFCTA), a four-part, examination of commerce in firearms and the diversion of firearms to illegal markets was released last week. This Volume incorporates input from the most comprehensive national survey of the ATF special agents who conduct trafficking investigations, to provide the first in-depth analysis of firearm trafficking in more than two decades. This report examines 9,708 closed ATF firearm trafficking investigations initiated between 2017 and 2021. In April 2021, Attorney General Garland directed the ATF to undertake its first comprehensive study of criminal gun trafficking.

The full report is available on National Firearms Commerce and Trafficking Assessment (NFCTA): Firearms Trafficking Investigations - Volume Three | Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (  

ATF firearm trafficking investigations documented nearly 230,000 firearms trafficked in 7,779 cases between 2017 and 2021. Most firearm trafficking investigations involved the diversion of a relatively small number of firearms with an overall mean of 16 firearms trafficked per investigation. In nearly 58% of the cases, five or fewer firearms were trafficked.

Nearly 56% of the firearms trafficked were handguns. Rifles accounted for the second highest percentage of firearms in these investigations at nearly 19%. In National Firearms Act (NFA) trafficking investigations, all types of NFA weapons including machineguns, machinegun parts, machinegun conversion devices, silencers, silencer parts, and short-barreled rifles were trafficked.

ATF identified 12,416 firearm traffickers across 80% (7,762 of 9,708) of the cases in the study period. Firearm traffickers tended to be white (53%), male (84%), and U.S. citizens (95%).  Approximately 37% had no known criminal activity; about 27% had prior felony convictions, and more than 16% had a prior arrest without a known prohibiting conviction. Other noteworthy characteristics included being a drug user (20%) or known gang member or associate (17%).  The most prominent age group was young adults (age 25 to 34) at 39%. Finally, while identified traffickers were predominately male, females identified in the investigations were primarily involved as straw purchasers (72%).

The three violations most frequently identified by ATF was dealing in firearms without a license (Title 18 U.S.C. § 922(a)(1)(A)), providing false information to an FFL which is associated with straw purchasing (Title 18 U.S.C. § 922(a)(6)), and convicted felon in possession of a firearm(s) (Title 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1)). In instances where trafficked firearms had been used in a crime, the most frequently identified violation was felon in possession of a firearm, in more than 40% of the cases.   

Trafficked firearms were also used in aggravated assaults in nearly 19% of cases, homicide in approximately 11% of cases, and attempted homicide in more than 9% of cases. The recipients or end users of the trafficked firearms tended to be previously convicted felons (60%) and young adults aged 25 to 34 (48%).

Among convicted defendants sentenced to prison, the most frequent sentence range was one to 24 months accounting for approximately 35% (1,030 of 2,933) of defendants. Of defendants sentenced to prison, approximately 78% received a sentence of six years or less. 

ATF recognizes the role firearms play in violent crimes and pursues an integrated regulatory and enforcement strategy. Investigative priorities focus on armed violent offenders and career criminals, narcotics traffickers, narco-terrorists, violent gangs, and domestic and international arms traffickers. ATF works with its local, state and federal partners to investigate firearms-related charges and provide resources to reduce violent crime in our communities. For more information about Los Angeles ATF visit and follow ATF on X @LosAngelesATF.


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