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30-State Study On City Gun Violence Highlights Need for Strong ATF Action to Keep Guns Out of Illegal Market

September 20, 2021

Data from 226 cities across 30 states shows a relationship between the prevalence of illegal guns and firearm homicide, strengthening the case for action to keep guns out of the illegal market, according to a new study.


Assessing the results of their analysis, the authors from Rutgers University, the University of Denver, and the University of South Carolina conclude the study provides strong support for policy and enforcement action. “These findings support a need for further efforts to reduce gun violence by limiting the availability of illegal firearms in the U.S.,” they write.


Specifically, the authors say their findings support action against “illicit market players at multiple levels,” a strategy the Biden-Harris administration has pursued as part of its violence prevention agenda. Earlier this year, President Joe Biden laid out a new comprehensive strategy to reduce gun violence that includes:

  • the creation of new ATF strike forces to take on gun trafficking
  • efforts to hold rogue gun dealers accountable for violating federal laws
  • action to address the supply of ghost guns, the fastest-growing gun safety threat in the country
  • publishing an annual report on gun trafficking 

The authors of the new study on illegal guns also highlight the potential impact of stronger gun laws in combating city gun violence, noting that “states with non-restrictive gun laws tend to have an outsize influence on illegal markets in cities within more legally restrictive states.” Read the full study here.


According to a groundbreaking gun trafficking analysis from Everytown for Gun Safety, over a five-year period law enforcement across the United States recovered and fully traced 1,161,303 guns used in crime. Of those, nearly a third, or 330,350, were recovered in a different state from where the original retail sale occurred, and 84,389 of those traced crime guns were purchased with the explicit intent to traffic them. 

This is due to a patchwork of state background check laws that makes it easy for individuals to traffic firearms from states with weaker gun laws. In states without background check laws, people can easily access guns through online marketplaces — like Armslist, where 1 million ads per year are posted in states that don’t require a background check — and gun shows, where gun traffickers can meet strangers and acquire firearms with no paperwork, background check or questions asked.

Everytown’s trafficking report showed that of the 330,350 traced guns that crossed state lines, 76% originated in states without background check laws. This factor is even more pronounced for likely trafficked guns: 82% of the 84,389 traced guns recovered across state lines within three years came from states without background check laws.

In March, Everytown and the City of Baltimore announced a first-of-its-kind data intelligence tool to identify illegal firearms, solve crimes, and combat gun trafficking. The Gun Trafficking Intelligence Platform generates custom leads by examining specific trends and patterns in the data. In April, Everytown Law filed a lawsuit on behalf of the City of Chicago against an Indiana gun store tied to over 850 crime guns recovered by the City.

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