The ATF’s Previous Definition of a “Crime Gun”

Earlier today, I cautioned readers that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosive (and Really Big Fires) labels ANY GUN submitted by law enforcement for an ATF trace a “crime gun”—regardless of whether or not it’s been used in a crime. The recent media reports—specifically and egregiously The Washington Post’s series The Hidden Life of Guns—accepts and perpetuates this profoundly misleading definition. I forgot to mention that this is a new definition, a stark change from previous agency usage. Click here for the official ATF document on the subject from 1989. Here’s the money shot . . .

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.  Rather, such information may provide a starting point for further and more detailed investigation.

And now gun dealers with more traces are now more guilty of corrupt sales. What’s that all about? Hint: the ATF’s fight for prestige, power, funding and survival.


  1. avatar Ralph says:

    My definition of a crime gun is any gun used or owned by ATF.

  2. avatar david says:

    The hidden life of guns that I own is pretty boring actually. One is hidden in a secure holster inside my jacket. One is hidden next to my bedside. One is hidden inside my vehicle. They only get to come out every couple of weeks for practice. Hidden life is nothing much to write about, unless needed. The Washington Post should do a series on the hidden gun and the lives that they saved and crimes that were aborted. Guess I won’t hold my breath for that.

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