The Obama administration is working on new gun control regulations that would target stolen and missing weapons.
Police have a hard time tracking firearms that disappear from gun shops, which “just feeds the sort of already large and existing secondary market on guns,” said Sam Hoover, a staff attorney with the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
It is unclear precisely what the draft regulations, drawn up by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and under review at the White House’s regulations office, would do.
Currently, gun dealers with a federal license are required to tell federal agents after they discover a firearm has gone missing, but they aren’t required to do routine checks.
“They can discover a gun missing today and have no idea when it went missing, which really makes that information useless to law enforcement,” said Chelsea Parsons, associate director of crime and firearms policy at the Center for American Progress.
The draft rule was sent to the White House five months after the ATF completed a report that found that more than 190,000 firearms were estimated to have been lost or stolen last year. The report was one of 23 executive actions President Obama announced in January to reduce gun violence in the wake of last year’s shooting in Newtown, Conn.
That report helped to shine light on an often unseen corner of the gun market, supporters of stricter gun laws say.
“I think that in the area of guns and gun violence and gun commerce, we have had a complete lack of data and a lack of information,” said Parsons.
She wants the ATF to be able to take stronger action to monitor and track guns that go missing.
Since 2004, an appropriations rider has prevented the ATF from requiring gun dealers to do periodic checks. Gun rights advocates say that the measure protects innocent victims of crimes from punishment by the government.
-- After this story was posted, the ATF contacted The Hill to clarify that the pending proposal would not affect the longstanding law preventing the agency from requiring gun dealers to check their inventories.