Only one fifth of dealers that were the most frequent suppliers of firearms linked to crimes in the late 1990s are no longer in business, a gun-control group said yesterday. Americans for Gun Safety found the vast majority of “high-crime dealers” continuing to operate, with little federal oversight, writes the Los Angeles Times. The group found that most of the dealers had not been federally inspected since 2000, and that criminal prosecutions of dealers by the Justice Department declined 25 percent in 2002, compared with the last year of Clinton’s presidency.
The study identified 120 dealers out of 80,000 federally licensed to sell guns nationally that were the source of firearms used in 200 or more crimes between 1996 and 2000. Together, those dealers supplied weapons used in nearly 15 percent of gun crimes in the period. “If a few fast-food chains were responsible for 15% of food poisoning cases in the nation, there is little doubt that government would take steps to alert citizens about which restaurants were responsible,” said Jim Kessler, the group’s policy director. “Known high-crime dealers are being shielded from public scrutiny, rather than investigated by the government.”
The group called on Congress and Attorney General John Ashcroft to create a “High-Crime Dealer Watch List” and step up investigations and prosecution of “corrupt stores.”
Monica Goodling, a Justice Department spokeswoman, said that based on 2003 data, the number of dealer prosecutions was rising if state prosecutions are included. She added that Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives field offices were increasingly focusing on dealers that had been identified as having sold guns later recovered by law enforcement.