The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosivesí Investigative Operations at Gun Shows

Evaluation and Inspections Report I-2007-007
June 2007
Office of the Inspector General


ATF conducts investigative operations at gun shows as part of its overall strategy to prevent illegal firearms trafficking. ATF has no specific enforcement program directed at gun shows. The 202 investigative operations at gun shows conducted during the 3-year period that we reviewed predominantly focused on specific suspects, although 23 percent of the operations targeted general illegal firearms activity at certain gun shows. We found that ATF’s decisions to conduct investigative operations, including those in the Richmond area, were based on significant law enforcement intelligence from a variety of sources indicating that illegal activity was occurring or was about to occur at a specific gun show.

Based on our review of 121 operational plans for investigative operations conducted at gun shows; interviews with ATF personnel from 11 field divisions, state and local law enforcement personnel, and representatives from national firearms-related organizations; and an analysis of complaints received by ATF from FY 2004 through FY 2006, we found that, with the exception of some Richmond-area gun shows, ATF conducted its investigative operations at gun shows covertly without incident and without complaints from promoters, vendors, or the public. After the controversy surrounding ATF’s activities at the August 2005 Richmond gun show, ATF issued guidance to its field divisions advising that the use of blanket residency checks was not an effective practice and that residency checks should not be conducted without reasonable suspicion that criminal violations may exist.

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