The number of gun dealers in the U.S. has plummeted 78 percent in the past 10 years as tens of thousands of home-based dealers surrendered their federal licenses. The Minneapolis Star Tribune says the drop shows how the gun debate has moved from a national stage to local zoning boards that are creating a growing web of fees and regulations that indirectly restrict firearms sales. “The gun control agenda has evolved from the halls of Congress and the courts,” said Andrew Arulanandam, director of public affairs for the National Rifle Association. “Now we’re seeing it evolve to the micro level in local municipalities.”
“Most of these guys [who are no longer licensed] were just home-based dealers who did gun shows on the weekends as a part-time job,” said Mark Koscielski, who is fighting a zoning battle remain the last gun store in Minneapolis. “Now they revert to private collectors, so they’re free to sell without federal background checks. They’re private sales.” Gun enthusiasts dispute that the number of gun dealers — or guns — has much to do with the number of gun deaths, which declined by almost 25 percent between 1993 and 2003. “It doesn’t mean there are fewer guns out there to be purchased or manufactured or sold,” said Hamline University law school Prof. Joseph Olson, a gun rights advocate. ATF says the number of guns in the U.S. was at an all-time high last year, with an estimated 223 million firearms. Experts say sales continue to increase in commercial gun stores.