Now that Hillary has released her gun-control plan, we have something substantive from one Presidential candidate. The GVP community, myself included, might as well ignore the Republicans going forward because even when someone walks into a community college classroom and drops caps on nine people, they don’t consider this to be an act of ‘gun violence’ at all. To her credit, Hillary uses the phrase again and again. I’m going to devote some space to exploring how her plan will and I’m going to start with her recommendations for better regulation of gun dealers, since I was a retailer from 2001 until early last year.
Hillary says “we must do more to crack down on gun stores that flood our communities with illegal guns” and claims that 58% of gun stores have not been inspected within the past 5 years. Worse is that 38% of dealers inspected in 2011weren’t following the laws under which they are supposed to operate, but only half of 1% of all inspected dealers had their licenses revoked. The root of the problem, says Hillary, is underfunding of the ATF, which she will reverse after she takes office in 2016.
I was one of those non-compliant gun dealers following an inspection that covered years during which I sold somewhere around `12,000 guns. When the inspection was concluded I reported all missing or stolen guns to the ATF in Atlanta – a grand total of six guns, one of which later turned up. It wasn’t clear that any of these guns were really missing or stolen. I just couldn’t produce the requisite paperwork (Form 4473) to show who had purchased the gun. I probably could have found all the guns had I taken the time and trouble to conduct an online search of the state database, but I would have had to look up every, single recorded sale in order to find the five guns, and neither I nor the ATF really cared.
The absence of paperwork on these guns made me a non-compliant dealer. And what then made me a seriously non-compliant dealer was the fact that my Acquisitions & Disposition log, the A&D book, contained thousands of incomplete notations regarding the source of many of my guns. Of the 12,000+ gun acquisitions listed in the A&D, I had bought at least half of them from one wholesaler who happened to be located near my shop. This is not unusual for most retailers because guns are heavy, they have to be shipped overnight air express, and if you can drive a few miles and pick the guns up directly from the wholesaler you save the cost of a lot of freight.
Except that under ATF rules, when you receive a gun from a wholesaler you have to list his federal license number alongside the description of the gun. I didn’t do this for any of the 5,000 guns that I received from this wholesaler so I was non-compliant more than 5,000 times. To their credit, the ATF inspectors knew this egregious failure to follow the regulations didn’t constitute even the slightest reason to suspect that I was, as the saying goes, dealing ‘out the back door.’ But in the inspection report that I was given, this failure was duly noted and the numbers of non-compliant notations were no doubt rolled up into the ATF local, then regional, then national report.
Hillary used one of these reports for her comments about non-compliant dealers, and while of course there are bad apple dealers, what I’m suggesting is that numbers alone don’t’ really tell you very much. The report states that between 2004 and 2011, there were 174,679 guns missing or stolen from federally-licensed dealers; during that same period there were probably two million guns stolen out of private homes. None of the guns I couldn’t find ended up in the wrong hands but every gun stolen from someone’s house winds up in a place it shouldn’t be. I don’t notice the word ‘theft’ mentioned in Hillary’s plan.