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New ATF report shows annual American gun production nearly tripled in 20 years

By Virginia Langmaid

American gunmakers manufactured more than 11 million guns in 2020, nearly three times the number produced in 2000, according to a report published this week by the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives that provides in-depth data on firearms manufacturing, sale and enforcement.

The report, dubbed by the Biden administration as the first study of firearms trafficking in more than 20 years, was issued days after a mass shooting in Buffalo, where the alleged gunman had three legally purchased firearms in his possession, including one he is accused of using to gun down 13 people, killing 10.

The report is part of an ongoing efforts from the Biden administration to address the gun violence epidemic in America.

“We need to know who is using guns in crimes so we can focus our enforcement efforts on those individuals, And this data does just that. It helps us tailor our approach at the most significant drivers of gun violence and take those shooters off the streets,” Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said Tuesday, speaking to federal and local law enforcement officials from around the country to mark the beginning of a two-day national summit focused on reducing violence.

According to the report, 11,063,910 firearms were manufactured in the US in 2020 compared to 3,932,734 in 2000.

Between 2016 and 2021, more than 45,000 firearms suspected of being privately made, including firearms commonly known as “ghost guns,” were recovered by law enforcement from potential crime scenes and reported to the ATF. Nearly 20,000 of those firearms were recovered and traced in 2021 alone.

The administration highlighted the overall ghost guns numbers last month while announcing new regulations on them. In March 2021, the FBI reported almost 4.7 million background checks, triggered before the sale of a firearm, the highest number since the bureau began recording.

A CNN analysis showed that homicides broke record highs last year, fueled by gun violence, while data previously provided to CNN showed firearm seizures and recoveries by law enforcement in several cities reached near-decade high levels.

Gary Restaino, the acting director of the ATF, said in the introduction of the report that it “will help federal, state, and local law enforcement, prosecutors, policymakers, and other stakeholders obtain a better understanding of commerce in firearms and how to best address illegal firearms trafficking.”

The report drew attention to staffing and funding issues that have long plagued the agency, stating that “over the past three decades, ATF has not been funded and staffed commensurate with staffing increases received by other DOJ law enforcement agencies.”

According to the report, in 2019, the ATF had 655 field industry operations investigators responsible for overseeing more than 88,000 active federal firearms license-holders. The report’s authors noted that the number of total ATF employees has increased by 41% since 1973, compared to the 254% increase seen by the Drug Enforcement Agency and a 75% increase by the FBI over the same time period.

The report also recommended greater monitoring of privately made firearms, and efforts to prevent theft by shipping firearms in unmarked packages and looking into the use of Bluetooth tracking of firearm shipments.

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CNN’s Jessica Schneider contributed to this report.

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