The Justice Department today announced the publication of the first volume of the National Firearms in Commerce and Trafficking Assessment (NFCTA), a four-part, comprehensive examination of commerce in firearms and the diversion of firearms to illegal markets.
“Last year, I directed ATF to undertake its first comprehensive study of criminal gun trafficking in over two decades,” said Attorney General Merrick Garland. “The first volume published today provides critical, data-driven insights on firearms commerce and technology trends that will inform our efforts to understand and disrupt gun trafficking networks. We will continue to work alongside our partners to provide valuable lessons that will help agents, prosecutors, and policymakers tackle modern criminal gun trafficking enterprises.”
“We can only address the current rise in violence if we have the best available information and use the most effective tools and research to fuel our efforts” said Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco. “This report is an important step in that direction. The Department will continue to gather the data necessary to tailor our approach at the most significant drivers of gun violence and take shooters off the streets.”
In April 2021, as part of the department’s strategy to combat the rise in violent crime, President Biden and Attorney General Garland directed the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to issue a comprehensive report on firearms commerce and trafficking. Volume I of the NFCTA, issued today, is a broad overview of firearms commerce in the United States, covering data from 2000 to 2020.
Volume I 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. The report highlights trends in firearm commerce, noting that – for example – over the last decade, the pistol has become the dominant firearm type manufactured and imported into the U.S., and the number of short-barreled rifles manufactured annually has increased 24,080% between 2000 and 2020.
Volume I also analyzes the past 20 years of technological developments affecting firearms commerce. One of the most significant developments in this period has been the proliferation of privately made firearms (PMFs). Since the early 2000s, advances in firearm manufacturing and design, combined with the ready online availability of the parts and information necessary to assemble PMFs, have made it easier for unlicensed persons to make a firearm at home without any records or a background check. These PMFs lack identifying markings, and often have no associated recordkeeping, making it difficult for law enforcement to know how many are made and distributed into commerce. The data available, however, makes it clear that criminals are actively making, using, and distributing PMFs 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. To curb the proliferation of PMFs, the Department announced a new rule that updates the regulatory definitions for firearms and clarifies that background checks are required for buy-build-shoot firearms kits that are sold commercially.
To produce the NFCTA, the ATF assembled a team of subject experts from ATF, as well as from academic and related fields. Although ATF issues a variety of public and law enforcement reports and bulletins regarding firearm commerce, trafficking, and related issues every year, it has not undertaken a joint academic study on the scale of the NFCTA in more than 20 years.