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Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

ATF Press Release

Contact: ATF PIO Ginger Colbrun
For Immediate Release
Wednesday, May 18, 2022

ATF Releases National Firearms in Commerce and Trafficking Assessment Report

Privately Made Firearms, Imports, Export Statistics Provided

LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles Field Division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) today announced the release of a comprehensive report on firearms commerce and trafficking examining how firearms enter the illegal markets. 

Although ATF issues a variety of public and law enforcement reports and bulletins regarding firearm commerce and trafficking, it has not undertaken a joint academic study on this scale in more than 20 years. Recognizing effective approaches to reducing gun violence are data-driven, grounded in research, and informed by multi-disciplinary input, the National Firearms in Commerce and Trafficking Assessment (NFCTA), a comprehensive examination of commerce in firearms and the diversion of firearms to illegal markets was created for transparency. 

NFCTA will issue its initial assessment in a series of four separate reports. To ensure NFCTA reports remain timely, ATF will be updating key findings annually. A critical part of ATF's mission is to regulate the lawful commerce in firearms to help prevent diversion of firearms from the legal to the illegal market. Understanding the firearm marketplace from the perspective of the general public, firearm owners, and the regulated firearm industry is essential to this mission.
Volume I of the NFCTA report, issued Tuesday, is a broad overview of firearms commerce in the United States. Volume I covers the period from 2000 to 2020; much of the analysis, however, focuses on the period for which the most comprehensive data is available, 2016 to 2020 (2020 is the most recent calendar year for which information was available at the time of the assessment). This volume presents and analyzes data collected by ATF and other federal agencies related to the manufacture, exportation, and importation of firearms. 

Between 2000 and 2020, the number of Gun Control Act (GCA) firearms and National Firearms Act (NFA) weapons that were domestically manufactured, exported by U.S. manufacturers, or imported into the U.S. increased by 187%, 240% and 350% respectively. This data illustrates the flow of new firearms into the domestic market over time which can help document trends and patterns in commerce. 

Trends in firearm commerce highlighted by this report include the pistol becoming the dominant firearm type manufactured and imported into the U.S. over the last decade, and an increase of 24,080% in annual manufacturing of short-barreled rifles in the period from 2000 to 2020. This volume analyzes technological developments that have occurred in the past 20 years. 

One of the most significant developments affecting lawful firearm commerce and law enforcement's ability to reduce illegal access to guns in this period has been the proliferation of privately made firearms (PMFs) also known as “ghost guns.” Since the early 2000s, advances in firearm manufacturing and design, combined with the readily online availability of parts and information necessary to assemble privately made firearms have made it easier for unlicensed persons to make a firearm at home without any records or a background check. These guns lack identifying markings or recordkeeping requirements making it difficult for law enforcement to completely know how many are being made and distributed into commerce. The data available, however, makes it clear that criminals are actively making, using, and distributing privately made firearms both domestically and internationally. The number of suspected PMFs recovered by law enforcement and subsequently traced by ATF increased 1,000% between 2016 and 2021. As is detailed in the report, to address the challenges posed by the proliferation of privately made firearms, the Department of Justice and ATF have recently updated the regulatory definitions applicable to the federal firearm laws. 

ATF strives to ensure the information provided in Volume I of the NFCTA, and in subsequent reports, will help federal, state, and local law enforcement, prosecutors, policymakers, and other stakeholders obtain a better understanding of commerce in firearms.
ATF remains committed to working with its local, state and federal partners to investigate firearms-related charges and provide resources to reduce violent crime in our communities. To view Volume I of the NFCTA report go to National  Firearms Commerce and Trafficking Assessment Report or For more information, follow ATF LAFD on Twitter @LosAngelesATF


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