Amid the continuing controversy over the Gunwalker scandal, the Brady gun control advocacy group released a report to the media alleging that US manufacturing facilities have "lost" 16,485 guns many without serial numbers. They also state that criminals love these guns because they cannot be traced.
For those who are not familiar with firearms, let me outline how the accounting system works:
1) Every gun has a central part called the "receiver" or the "frame" depending upon the design. It is this part that is the serial numbered and controlled part.
2) The serial number is usually applied to this part late in the manufacturing process, at which point it legally becomes a "firearm" and must be accounted for as such.
3) If this part later fails inspection and is destroyed, it is supposed to be accounted for.
4) Guns that pass inspection are then accounted for all the way from the factory to the retail buyer.
At first glance, I was very concerned that the Brady group might actually have a point. After a little critical thinking, and a bit of research, I have a few questions:
1) If large numbers of guns are flowing out of US plants - many without serial numbers - why is this not being reported in the media? I keep well abreast of news involving firearms - and I know of exactly one case where a manufacturer let a gun get out without a serial number. An employee stole the unserialized frame and the rest of the parts and built it at home. Serial numbers have been required since 1969 and police – especially anti-gun inner city departments - would definitely make a big deal about finding a gun without a serial number. Therefore we know this is not happening.
2) If criminals are using large numbers of these "lost" guns, this would be revealed every single time one of these guns was recovered because it would not be traceable past the manufacturer. Crime guns are traced by contacting the manufacturer, who tells ATF what distributor they sold it to, who tells them what retail gun shop it went to, who then looks up the buyer in their records. Again, if large numbers of serialized guns were disappearing into the criminal underworld this would be huge news and lots of people from the ATF to local police would know about it. Why have we never heard about it until now?
3) Why does this report not mention which manufacturers are missing guns so their figures can be confirmed or otherwise researched? This fact alone casts great doubt upon the "report"?
4) If some of these guns did not have serial numbers, how can Brady be so specific about the number of guns "lost"?
5) Given that this works out to an average of 4 guns per year, per manufacturer - is it not probable that we are dealing with paperwork errors, such as guns that failed inspection being destroyed but not accounted for?
6) Clearly, manufacturers have a responsibility to keep accurate records, but are they really doing a poor job? Given that, according to a Reuters news story, 4.5 Million guns are produced in the US each year 16,485 equals an accounting error rate of .37%.
7) What motive would manufacturers have for letting guns walk out of their plants? As outlined above, if they are found a crime scenes serial numbered or not, the manufacturer is in big trouble – as was the case with Kahr when they let this happen to one gun.
With a little critical thinking, it becomes obvious that this report is bogus. Large numbers of guns cannot be flowing unchecked out of US gun plants into criminal hands because this would be discovered almost immediately. The real reason Brady has cooked up this report is that their favorite agency – ATF – is in huge trouble. Of course, the Brady organization is in big trouble too. At a recent press conference the room was very nearly empty and the only video camera to show up was operated buy the NRA!
This report is so full of holes it could be used to strain pasta! The only people who are going to believe it is their ever shrinking base of supporters.