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The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence produced the video above (860 views at the time of writing). The following editorial from National Shooting Sports Foundation jefe Larry Keane [via] debunks its claims:

After years of evidence that the vast majority of federally licensed firearms retailers (FFLs) are law-abiding business owners that comply with a complex regulatory system the government has created, the anti-gun crowd is again arguing that there are “bad apple” retailers that must be legislated or sued ( ) out of existence. While this is an improvement from arguing our industry is comprised entirely of crooks and liars who want to sell as many guns to as many people as possible – even if criminals or mentally ill –their arguments are still rotten . . .

Case in point: recently the Brady Campaign blasted out an email from an FFL that claims to be a “gun dealer who follows Brady’s Code of Conduct” and who refuses to sell a firearm to “any individual who hasn’t definitively passed a Brady background check, whether after three business days or sixty business days.” This self-described “responsible gun dealer,” Chris Kitaeff, calls on the Brady email list to join him in calling on the Justice Department and ATF to “do everything in their power to compel ‘bad apple’ gun dealers to adhere to Brady’s Code of Conduct or shut down.”

Forget for a moment that FFLs are hardly in need of a lesson in best practices from those who are opposed to their very existence, and let’s take a look at the standard bearer Brady has chosen to carry this message.
Chris Kitaeff does indeed hold a license to sell firearms. He owns gun-related website domains that are not in use. But there is no evidence he is actually in the business as most people would understand it.  In fact, his FFL is registered to this residence.

This isn’t the first time this FFL-holding hedge fund investment professional has carried ammo for the anti-gun crowd. He has been quoted in the news in the past as an exemplary FFL. The irony is, the Brady Campaign and its predecessor Handgun Control Inc. have made it a priority to rid the country of FFLs who do not have storefronts. Going back decades, this organization has vilified so-called “kitchen table dealers” as an unregulated problem.

So the gun control group that hates FFLs without storefronts has found one to be its poster-child. This is fitting for a campaign that is centered on misconstrued data.   The whole basis of the “bad apple” effort  ( ) is that “90% of guns used in crimes were supplied by just 5% of dealers.”

Where did this stat come from?  The Brady Campaign cites figures in a 15 year old ATF report, “Commerce in Firearms in the United States, February 2000.” The Brady Campaign has for just as long knowingly misinterpreted the ATF’s trace data in this report. In fact, the unsuccessful Brady Campaign-backed municipal lawsuits that sought to drive the industry into bankruptcy in this period were predicated on the misuse and distortion of ATF trade data.

The fact that a small share of licensed retailers account for a large share of gun traces cannot legitimately be interpreted to mean that any of these retailers did anything wrong, such as knowingly selling guns to traffickers or their straw-purchaser associates. First, just because a trace led law enforcement back to a retailer does not indicate whether there was any illegal or improper activity on the part of the retailer. The traced gun may have been legally sold to an eligible buyer, later stolen, perhaps re-sold on the street, used in a crime and recovered by police.

ATF acknowledges this by cautioning in reports that, “ATF emphasizes that the appearance of a Federal firearms licensee (FFL) or a first unlicensed purchaser of record in association with a crime gun [i.e. traced gun] or in association with multiple crime guns [i.e. traced guns] in no way suggests that either the FFL or the first purchaser has committed criminal acts.”

Even if there are many firearms traced back to a single retailer, it’s not safe to assume you’re looking at a “bad apple.” For one thing, the most successful retailers have the highest volume of sales to eligible buyers. This means a larger number of firearms are circulating that could be stolen and later used in a crime. As even  anti-gun researcher Garen J. Wintemute shows, even the most law-abiding and ethical dealer can have high trace counts solely if he sells many guns.

ATF echoes this in a 2003 press release that notes, “It is misleading to suggest that a gun dealer is corrupt because a large percentage of the guns sold in his store are subsequently used in crime. Many other factors – including high volume of sales, the type of inventory carried and whether the gun is located in a high crime area – contribute to the percentages cited by the Brady campaign.”

Another reason why a conscientious law-abiding gun retailer will have higher numbers of crime guns traced back to him is high rates of crime, especially residential burglary, in the area from which the FFL draws his customers.  The higher these rates, the higher the share of the retailer’s legally eligible customers who will have their guns stolen.  Once stolen, many guns will be used to commit crimes or otherwise be recovered by police, and be traced by ATF back to the dealer who originally sold the gun.

One thing the gun control crowd doesn’t mention is that the average “time to crime,” or the time span between when a traced firearm was legally purchased and when it was used in a crime, is about 11 years.

There is absolutely nothing in the Brady Campaign data – or in any other data – to indicate that anything other than high sales volumes and higher local gun theft rates completely account for the higher numbers of crime guns traced back to those FFLs that Brady arbitrarily labeled as “bad apple” dealers.

Is there any truth to the broader claim that misbehaving licensed gun retailers account for a large share of guns getting into criminals’ hands?  The best evidence indicates “no.”

ATF and other law enforcement agencies find very few FFLs violating the law, and those they find were responsible for only a negligible share of the guns getting into criminal hands.  In fiscal year 2014, ATF detected so little misconduct that they revoked the licenses of just 0.71% of retailers.

About NSSFThe National Shooting Sports Foundation is the trade association for the firearms industry. Its mission is to promote, protect and preserve hunting and the shooting sports. Formed in 1961, NSSF has a membership of more than 6,000 manufacturers, distributors, firearms retailers, shooting ranges, sportsmen’s organizations and publishers. For more information, log on to

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  1. Chuck’s gun shop again? Good folks-I won’t even go in that Riverdale,IL neighborhood. They provide a service for a community that has precious few businesses. 860 views-pathetic dangerous clowns…

    • There may be more than one way, but when an FFL turns in his bound book to the ATF, well…

      Also there’s probably a record of distributors’ sales to FFLs.

    • Tracing a gun to the original dealer isn’t that hard. The manufacturer knows what distributor it went to, the distributors know which dealer the sold to, the dealer knows the customer. All that info is in the bound books kept by each party. The dealer has the 4473 in their possession for 20 years. When we get a call for a trace it doesn’t take that long for us to find the item in the book and match to a form. The form is then faxed to the ATF. If the forms are 20+ years old then we won’t have the forms.
      However the info we have in no way assures the person we sold to is the last owner of that weapon. As far as the stats in the video go? Total bullsheet.

      • Thanks for that info. I take it you are an FFL/employee. If so, I have a question for you.

        I have the impression that FFL file their 4473 forms alphabetically by customer name, then by date of sale. As such, if a customer buys a handgun one day and another the next day and so forth, the FFL can easily recognize whenever a given customer has bought enough handguns in a short period of time that the series of sales becomes reportable.

        If I’m on the right track here, this organization of the FFL’s archives makes it exceedingly expensive – and risky – for the FFL to purge his files of aged-out records in the 21st year. He needs to have a clerk carefully pick through every form looking for forms dated in 1994 (or, whatever). There is considerable risk that the clerk might pull a form dated 1995 or 1996, etc. and pull it mistakenly identifying it as a 1994 record. God forbid the FFL should get a trace request in the next year for that particular gun.

        The next year, the clerk would repeat this tedious process looking for forms dated 1995; the following year, looking for forms dated 1996.

        So, I imagine that FFLs simply defer purging their archives maintaining forms that might be 25 or 30 or more years old. Eventually, the FFL will go out of business. At that point the FFL isn’t going to be much interested in purging the forms that aged-out. He will simply send all the forms to the ATF which will put all the forms into an imaging system.

        If so, our FFLs are gradually accumulating a complete record of 1st retail sales. In 100 years, the FFLs files plus the ATFs files will contain nearly all the the guns in operating condition.

        Is this the picture?

        • The actual process is not quite as complicated as it may sound; and the A/D book is not “bound” necessarily any more. The ATFE is satisfied during an audit if you have a looseleaf-format book, AND all pages are in order, with no missing numbers. I probably only do about 100 firearms transactions a year, but they always appear in the A/D book in the chronological order of acquisition. If I get a call from the ATFE, asking about the Disposition of firearm XYZ, that the distributor shipped to me on x/xx/2010. As mentioned in others’ responses, it’s really not that difficult to find the 4473, because each one has an individual FFL’s transaction number, like 150315, which, in my case would be the 15th 4473 I made out in March of 2015, and it’s printed both on the 4473 and the Disposition box of my A/D book. When the distributor gives ATFE the shipping date, even if I were a big-time dealer with 20-30 transactions per day, finding one manufacturer and serial number and its associated 4473 should take no more than a couple of minutes.
          What is so obvious to most of us whom are FFLs is that any figures that are based on FFL records will NOT have any real correlation to actual statistics of what actually exists. Even if there were to be an overnight Federal law prohibiting private sales, I’d estimate that perhaps 35% of the guns that existed in all FFL’s A/D books only 10 years ago have been legally, privately traded with friends in adjacent states and I’m willing to bet that that number is probably close to 55% of the documentation from 20 years ago.
          Any kind of “registration system” that was forced upon us now would have an accuracy of less than half.
          That’s just the smart gun owners, and does NOT include the persons from whom firearms have been stolen.
          Any system put into effect now would be tantamount to trying to unring a bell. You just have to sit back and chuckle at those who put forth “Common Sense” anything that just won’t accomplish any of what they justify it with, and that’s after you suppress the anger at the stupidity and lack of any real possibility of their agenda making the daily lives of any of us safer….. just sayin’

        • I’m willing to bet that if a UBC law were ever passed, all the rest of the firearms in the country would be sold privately by the day it went into effect. Every single one. So, before there was any measurable effect from such a law, we’d have to wait something over 100 years to assume all 376 million currently extant were no longer serviceable. Or maybe there will be a follow-on plan/law, what ya think?

  2. I don’t understand the average time-to-crime figure of 11 years. I have also read that the ATF doesn’t automatically respond to requests for traces on guns that were manufactured more than 10 years prior; unless the requesting agency insists on the trace. These two figures are unreconcilable on their face.

    The implication of an average time-to-crime of 11 years is that most guns being traced must have been stolen. It’s really hard to believe that straw-buys or trafficked guns would circulate for a decade (on average) before being picked-up in a crime. Something is wrong.

    If the average trace is really so long then it stands to reason that the average trace produces no useful information. It’s probably too expensive to track-down the 1st retail buyer and ask him what he can say that would explain why his gun showed up in a crime. What good does it do if his answer is that the gun was stolen? It’s unlikely that he will remember that that particular gun was the one he sold to his neighbor Joe.

    We ought to be pressing the ATF to come up with much more detailed data that we could use to justify a case for reducing the FFL mandatory retention period from 20 years to something like 10 or 7 or 5. I’m entirely satisfied with a record retention period that corresponds to the pattern of traces that produce useful results. Any retention mandate beyond the age that can be justified by useful trace results must be rolled-back.

    Generally, I imagine, FFLs will keep records well beyond the mandatory retention period. E.g., if the mandatory retention period were 7 years FFLs would probably cull their archives for 4473’s that are 10 years old. Thus, shortening the mandatory retention period would probably still allow ATF to pursue most traces beyond the mandatory limit.

    The benefit to a substantial reduction in the mandatory period would be to allow gun owners to be less fearful that Congress would ever dare to pass a law to collect 4473 forms generally; i.e., not in conjunction with a specific bona fide investigation. As long as the retention period is 20 years we have a grave concern that a call for collection of forms would be used to build a national database.

    • To my knowledge, Congress has shown zero tendency to pass such a law. OTOH, ATF has shown tendency several times to keep felonious records/registration schemes.

  3. Well, isn’t it obvious? The ATF must be in cahoots with the evil, baby-killing NRA and gun manufacturing industry! Duh!

  4. Put the vid up a year ago and it only has 863 views? I don’t think these are people we need to worry a whole lot about.

  5. It’s been my experience In the last 42 years of my life that people that use terms like Honest John Common sense, And things like that are the furthest thing from what they are representing

  6. And Mrs Brady She’s a real winner let me tell you Just because her husband was shot and eventually died years later from it She is on an all out war on the Constitution especially the 2nd amendment And anyone reading her propaganda And lies Needs to take a real long look in the mirror. They’ve got real emotional problems the whole gun control Occupation has real emotional problems That they don’t want to deal with I have a couple of words of wisdom for Miss Brady You need to go through the steps of grief and get over it People die it’s what we do. Blaming an inanimate object is ridiculous And so are they

  7. ” In fact, his FFL is registered to this residence.”

    Should this be “his residence”, instead of “this residence”?

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