Last week, the ATF released an in-depth report on gun trafficking in the U.S. — the first such in-depth analysis in more than 20 years, the Associated Press reported. The report, covering closed ATF investigations between 2017 and 2021, found that in nearly one-quarter of the cases surveyed, trafficked firearms were used in further crimes, including homicide, attempted homicide, and aggravated assault. About 40 percent of the firearm trafficking cases involved unlicensed dealers, including sellers who aren’t required to run background checks; about another 40 percent of the cases analyzed centered on “straw purchases.” Nearly a quarter of the cases involved guns stolen from Federal Firearm Licensees or private people. 

Per The New York Times, the Biden administration is likely to use the data to support a push to close the private sales loophole, also called the gun show loophole, one of the largest gaps in the background check system. As The Trace’s Chip Brownlee reported in November, while brick-and-mortar gun stores and other federally licensed firearms dealers are legally obligated to initiate background checks, that requirement does not extend to private sellers. Since 1999, congressional lawmakers have filed at least two dozen bills to close all or some of the private sales loophole; although Congress has not approved a universal background check bill, at least 20 states have passed laws requiring checks on all or most gun sales, including private sales.

What to Know Today

The mass shooting at a church school in Nashville last year, in which six people were killed, sparked a protest movement for gun reform in Tennessee — a movement the GOP-dominated Legislature answered by increasing funding for school police officers, passing a law shielding firearms manufacturers from liability, and, last week, sending a bill requiring public schools to teach kids “age-appropriate” gun safety concepts as early as pre-K to Governor Bill Lee’s desk. Why wasn’t there more significant change? [The Tennessean/The Guardian

Bubba Copeland, a beloved pastor and the mayor of Phenix City, Alabama, died by gun suicide in November 2023, after a right-wing website exposed his deepest secrets. His wasn’t the only life that was destroyed. [Esquire

The Half Moon Bay, California, mushroom farm where seven people were killed in a 2023 mass shooting failed to protect its workers from a colleague who had a violent past, according to a pair of lawsuits against one of the owners. The suits also state that California Terra Garden failed to provide workers adequate housing. [Los Angeles Times

A Cambridge, Massachusetts, police officer’s department-issued SIG Sauer P320 pistol “unintentionally discharged” last week inside a staff bathroom at a public school, where the veteran of the force had been assigned as a school resource officer, according to a department spokesperson. Cambridge Police said it was the fourth instance of a P320 pistol unexpectedly discharging since the force adopted the gun as its duty weapon in 2018. [New Hampshire Public Radio

During a visit to Chicago, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced that the Justice Department will invest $78 million in new grants for community-based violence prevention programs. While homicides declined nationwide in 2023, Garland said, the Justice Department is “doubling down” on efforts to continue reducing gun violence. [CBS News/Chicago Sun-Times]

A federal jury in Baltimore awarded a $250,000 verdict against an off-duty Baltimore Police officer who, per the civil rights lawsuit against him, in 2017 pulled a gun on two Black teenagers while they were waiting for transportation to an after-school program. [The Baltimore Banner]


Studying Gun Violence Is Hard. But Intervention Programs Need Research to Survive: Critics say there isn’t enough traditional academic evidence to justify government investment in community violence interruption. But the programs are varied and neighborhoods aren’t laboratories, complicating ordinary evaluation. (January 2023)