Skip to content

New Here?

Groundbreaking Gun Trafficking Analysis Shows 3 in 4 Crime Guns Traced to an Out-of-State Seller Were First Sold in States with No Background Check Laws, Underscoring Need for Federal Action

May 24, 2021

82% of Likely-Trafficked Guns Came from States Without Background Check Laws 

Findings Come as U.S. Senators Continue Bipartisan Conversations on Life-Saving Background Checks Legislation

New Crime Gun Dashboard Lets Users Explore ATF Data on Incoming, Outgoing Crime Guns for Every State In the U.S

NEW YORK — Everytown for Gun Safety, the country’s largest gun violence prevention organization, today unveiled Five Things to Know About Crime Guns, Gun Trafficking, and Background Checks, a report analyzing firearms trace data from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives on the source of crime guns recovered in all 50 states. As bipartisan conversations continue in the Senate on background checks legislation and with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) committing to putting gun safety legislation on the Senate floor, Everytown’s findings are the latest proof that gun traffickers seek out states without background check laws as sources of firearms, underscoring the need for the Senate to close the federal background check loophole. 

Key findings include:

  • An estimated 84,389 crime guns were likely trafficked between 2015 and 2019, defined as having crossed state lines and having been used in a crime within three years of first retail purchase. 
  • 82% of these likely-trafficked guns came from states without background check laws. 
  • Of the 330,350 traced guns that crossed state lines during the five year study period, three-quarters originated in states without background checks laws.

“This analysis is the latest proof that background checks matter,” said Nick Suplina, managing director for law and policy at Everytown for Gun Safety. “Gun tracing data makes it clear that criminals are exploiting our patchwork of laws to traffic guns across state lines, overwhelmingly from states that do not require background checks on all gun sales. In the coming weeks, every Senator must ask themselves whether they’re okay with keeping interstate gun traffickers in business— or whether they’ll back life-saving federal background checks legislation that the public overwhelmingly supports.”

As part of today’s report, Everytown also unveiled The Crime Gun Dashboard, an interactive platform letting users explore ATF data on crime guns going into and out of every state in the U.S.

While federal law requires background checks for all gun sales by licensed gun dealers, it does not require background checks for the people who buy guns from unlicensed dealers, even in instances when they sell guns online or at gun shows.  The loophole has created a large, unregulated marketplace that makes it easy for gun traffickers to buy and sell guns without background checks or scrutiny. 21 states and Washington, D.C. require background checks on all handgun sales, and states that do not are the source of a disproportionate number of trafficked guns. Prior research shows that state laws requiring background checks for all handgun sales are associated with 29 percent lower rates of gun trafficking across state lines.

In order to quell gun trafficking, Congress needs to pass life-saving background check legislation to address the hundreds of thousands of crime guns that were trafficked out of states without a background check law. After years of inaction, the U.S. Senate now has an opportunity to act on background checks, as bipartisan conversations continue. 

Ninety-three percent of Americans, including 89 percent of Republicans and 89 percent of gun owners support background checks, and there’s a good reason why: background checks save lives. In addition to being associated with lower rates of gun trafficking, states that require background checks for all gun sales are associated with 10 percent lower homicide rates, as well as lower rates of firearm suicide. 

Federal inaction on gun violence has led to more than 100 Americans being killed every day, and hundreds more wounded, costing U.S. taxpayers an average of $35 million each day

If you're a member of the media, please send inquiries to [email protected]