NASHVILLE Tenn. (WKRN) – The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives reports an increase in the number of firearms reported stolen or lost by federal firearms licensees in 2016.
The ATF issues an annual report tracking the number, type and location of guns stolen or reported lost.
Federal Firearms Licensees (FFL) include gun dealers and manufacturers. A loss gun is one that the licensee cannot account for during inventory.
“Once the firearms are stolen from the licensee additional crimes are going to occur, not only in the Middle Tennessee area, but all across the country,” Special Agent Michael Knight said. “These are additional crimes like homicides, aggravated assaults or any other violent crime.”
He added, “Some of the weapons are also shipped or moved to other parts of the country.”
The ATF reports a 175 percent increase in thieves taking firearms during robberies over the past five years.
FFLs must report lost or stolen firearms within 48 hours of discovering the firearm is lost or when it is stolen.
In Tennessee, 616 firearms were lost or stolen from FFLs in 2016, according to the ATF. Of the 616 firearms, 237 were stolen.
“The ATF’s premise is to follow that firearm and to follow that firearm we use various investigative resources,” Special Agent Knight explained.
One of the resources agents use is the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN).
Any gun or bullet tied to a criminal act or collected from a criminal suspect is entered into the system and then can be compared to all other bullet evidence entered into NIBIN.
It works a lot like the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS) and the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS).
Both systems are used to link crimes nationwide and to close cold cases.
“The leveraging of technology can provide information on the life of that firearm,” Special Agent Knight said. “It can also tell us if it has been used in additional crimes or stolen.”
The ATF warns people purchasing firearms from private sellers to be careful and make sure they are not buying a stolen weapon.
“Especially on the heels of a federal firearm licensee theft, there will be a lot of firearms out there for commerce that are stolen.” Special Agent Knight said. “So we are asking the public if they are going to purchase a firearm through a third-party, or the Internet, to use their due diligence and if they don’t feel comfortable purchasing that firearm through an individual go through a federal firearm licensee.”
The ATF also suggests taking a picture of your firearm, recording the serial number and securing the firearm.