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Gun dealers can serve a crucial gatekeeping function to prevent illegal gun trafficking by employing best practices in selling firearms and securing their dangerous inventory to prevent theft. There are more than 60,000 gun dealers in the United States, yet the federal laws regulating these sellers are outdated and the ATF—the federal agency responsible for regulating gun dealers—is under-resourced and hampered by restrictions written by the gun lobby. As a result, only a small number of gun sellers are inspected by ATF each year, yet these inspections frequently reveal serious violations, ranging from the failure to keep full and accurate inventory records and the required forms necessary for crime gun tracing, to a failure to conduct background checks. Violations like these enable illegal gun trafficking and make it more difficult for law enforcement to solve shootings.

A number of states have stepped in to fill this gap in federal oversight of the gun industry by enacting laws that require gun dealers to obtain a state license in addition to the license required by federal law. When implemented and enforced effectively, these state laws offer an additional layer of oversight through measures such as requiring background checks and training for employees, robust physical security requirements to prevent theft, and more frequent inspections.