With little fanfare, the federal government has substantially increased the number of licenses it has taken away from gun dealers over the past five years, the Baltimore Sun reports. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives pulled federal firearms licenses from 22 gun dealers across the country in 2001. That number increased almost six-fold last year when ATF revoked 131 licenses. Still, license revocations remain exceedingly rare; the number pales in comparison with the 105,000 people and businesses nationwide permitted to sell firearms and ammunition.
Advocates for stronger gun control said an increase in license revocations is more than appropriate after years of poor regulation. “It’s out of control. There is no responsibility. There is no accountability. There is a problem in the neighborhoods in this country with the drastic proliferation of guns,” said Joseph J. Vince Jr., former chief of ATF’s firearms division, who now runs a private consulting company specializing in helping local law enforcement agencies track firearms. “The laws are so lax that there is almost no enforcement.” Gun rights advocates are worried about new emphasis on “technical” paperwork errors that could shut down legitimate gun shops. “There is a Damocles’ sword that’s hanging over dealers’ heads,” said Stephen Schneider, president of the Maryland License Firearms Dealers Association. “We’re a legitimate business, and yet they feel like they may not be in business the next year for record-keeping violations.”