Have you ever lost a firearm in the mail? The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) would like to know. The agency announced a proposal on Tuesday that would change how retailers, gunmakers, and importers deal with firearms that are lost in transit. Under federal law, dealers and manufacturers are required to report any lost or stolen firearms within a 48-hour period. However, that does not apply to guns that go missing in the mail. The ATF is now proposing that the same rule be applied to firearms lost during shipping.
“This proposal seeks to ensure that such losses and thefts do not continue to go unreported by clarifying that it is the sender or transferor that is the appropriate reporting party, because it is the sender that is in the best position to know when and how the firearms were shipped and to follow-up with the shipping service provider to determine what may have occurred,” the ATF stated.
The new proposal is aimed at closing a loophole that the ATF says could be used to supply criminals with guns. According to the agency, an average of 1,525 cases occur every year in which a firearm used in a crime is traced back to a dealer who claims to have never received it.
“The omissions in the regulations regarding reporting the theft or loss of a firearm in transit adversely affect ATF’s and local law enforcement’s investigative and tracing capabilities,” the ATF stated in its proposal. “Therefore, the regulations should be amended to specify who is responsible for reporting the theft or loss of a firearm in transit.”
Some critics say that the number of guns that go missing every year is minuscule, and that some retailers and manufacturers voluntarily report missing items. National Shooting Sports Foundation senior vice president Larry Keane told the Wall Street Journal that the proposal was a “solution in search of a problem.”
“You’re talking about a tremendous burden on shippers, at a tremendous cost,” he said.
The proposal will be available for public comment for 30 days.