Let’s be clear about this: the Washington Post and the mainstream media have not been clear about the definition of a “crime gun.” And yet a proper explanation of the term is crucial to any discussion about the relevance of weapons traces run by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosive (and Really Big Fires). If you don’t define “crime gun” properly, anything you say about the importance of these ATF traces is meaningless. And the WaPo and its camp followers have saying a lot; prattling on about thousands of ATF traces on “crime guns” run by both U.S. and Mexican law enforcement officials. Yeah, well, the hive mind at Wikipedia has been busy. Here’s their recently posted, annotated and TTAG-approved definition of the term . . .
All traced guns are called “crime guns” by ATF, regardless of involvement in a crime. ATF has defined “crime gun” to mean “any firearm that is illegally possessed, used in a crime, or suspected to have been used in a crime. An abandoned firearm may also be categorized as a crime gun if it is suspected it was used in a crime or illegally possessed.”  Since any firearm “might” have been involved in a crime, ATF considers any firearm to be a “crime gun” or a “suspect gun” and any trace to be a “bona fide law enforcement investigation”. ATF sometimes track (or trace) every gun in a dealer’s records to see if any had ever been linked to a crime. ATF’s position is that gun tracing is voluntary for law enforcement jurisdictions; however, some agencies trace all recovered guns as a matter of policy or state law, while others trace guns only when needed for specific investigations, if at all. However, ATF urges law enforcement to trace every firearm under the “bona fide law enforcement investigation” rationale.
In other words, the ATF consider any gun the police encounter a crime gun, regardless of whether or not it was used in a crime. How Orwellian (or Catch-22) is that? The WaPo and its dupes have been seriously misleading their readers on this subject, acting as if all ATF gun traces represent guns used in gun crimes. Not so. And they know it. Or if they don’t, they should.