Donald W. Reynolds National Center For Business Journalism

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Money stories and gun control

January 20, 2016

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Photo via Flickr user Rod Waddington.

This month, President Obama announced details of his executive order aimed at reducing gun violence after numerous accounts of mass shootings and growing national media attention.

Here are some resources and story ideas to help you explore business and money issues related to gun control and gun safety measures in America.

ATF Resources

As the nation’s principal agency tracking gun manufacturers and dealers, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives inspects equipment and collects information on many of the firearms involved in criminal activity.

ATF collects comprehensive data following the manufacture and movement of firearms across the U.S. ATF breaks down most data by state, thereby providing reporters with regional insights and story ideas about gun usage. For instance, each month ATF reports the movement of firearms involved in criminal activity across stateliness. For example, law enforcement recovered more than 7,500 firearms, mostly handguns, in Arizona in 2014, and more than 1,100 of those firearms originated out of state. ATF can report the origins of traceable firearms.

The Bureau also reports on the manufacturing of firearms. The annual report documents the manufacturing, sales, imports and exports of firearms, providing helpful and supporting data for reporters writing on the industry or manufacturers in their states or communities.

FBI Resources

Finding definitive numbers tracking sales of guns in the United States is tough, but nearly all firearm transactions require a criminal background check from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. (The so-called “gun show loophole,” a term referring to the private sale of firearms between individuals, provides one exception, even though not all of those transactions actually occur at gun shows). The FBI reports monthly how many background checks it performed, per state.

Reports following mass shootings tend to show an increase of gun purchases. Experts suggest that fears of resulting, tightened gun laws, trigger this shift.  January 2016 numbers aren’t in yet, but you can use the FBI breakdown to demonstrate buying habits in your state and whether sales have fluctuated since President Obama announced his plan.

The Future of Regulating Gun Safety

While the sale and transfer of firearms are regulated, the federal government has no oversight mechanism for the sale or purchase of ammunition. Some advocates suggest regulating ammunition as an alternative means to protect communities from gun violence while still respecting the second amendment. In a 2012 policy statement, the National Rifle Association called the idea a proven failure, and suggested regulating ammunition would burden retailers. A few states already regulate who can buy ammunition or how much, or both. Follow the legislative debate in your state and investigate any potential economic impact for your community.

The president’s plan also encourages gun manufacturers to research new gun safety technology such as fingerprint scanning (like the kind that unlocks your iPhone). The plan calls for government agencies to explore options to invest in this “smart gun technology.” Keep an eye out for new companies in your state rising to serve these new needs or the emerging products on shelves in firearm retail shops in your coverage area.

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