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Off Target

In a sweeping investigation, The Trace and USA TODAY found that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives bends over backward to go easy on wayward gun dealers, sometimes allowing weapons to flow into the hands of criminals.

  • 78,000

    The number of gun dealers, manufacturers, and importers in the U.S.

  • 1.6%

    The share of gun dealers with violations whose licenses were revoked from 2010 to 2019.

  • 700+

    The number of investigators employed by the ATF to inspect the nation's gun dealers.

Full Coverage

Lead Reporters

  • Brian Freskos is a senior researcher and data analyst for the Conflict Awareness Project. He was previously a Chicago-based staff writer for The Trace, where he covered gun trafficking and community-based violence prevention.

  • Staff Writer
    Alain is a staff writer covering developments in firearms technology and the ATF. His investigations into auto sears, toy guns, and ghost guns for The Trace have led to congressional action. A military veteran and gun owner, Alain did tours at inewsource and Texas Standard, where his work led to important public safety, civil rights, and criminal justice reforms.
  • Nick Penzenstadler is a reporter on the USA TODAY investigations team, focusing primarily on firearms and consumer financial protection. Contact him at [email protected] or @npenzenstadler, or on Signal at (720) 507-5273.
  • Daniel Nass was The Trace’s visual journalist and associate editor for data and graphics from 2017 to 2021.