For Release: Friday, December 7, 2001
WASHINGTON, DC – The tragic shooting yesterday allegedly perpetrated by Indiana kitchen-table gun dealer Robert Wissman at the Nu-Wood Decorative Millwork factory in Goshen, Indiana, highlights the need for improved oversight of such dealers, the Violence Policy Center (VPC) stated today. Wissman was a Federal Firearms License (FFL) holder and ran Bob’s Gun Works from the home he shared with his mother.
Kitchen-table gun dealers are individuals who hold FFLs and conduct business out of their homes or offices but do not operate actual gun or sporting-goods stores. Federal Firearm License holders are exempt from state and federal waiting periods and background checks, and are able to purchase firearms from wholesalers at discount and in unlimited quantities. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) has identified kitchen-table dealers as a key source of firearms in criminal gun trafficking.
The November 2000 VPC study Less Gun Dealers, Less Crime: The Drop in Federally Licensed Firearm Dealers in the Midwest found that the number of gun dealers in Indiana had dropped 66 percent, from 5,872 in January 1994 to 1,970 in January 2000. This decline is largely attributed to new licensing and renewal criteria contained in 1993’s Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act and 1994’s Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, as well as enhanced ATF enforcement. As a result, by 1998 56 percent of FFLs nationwide operated out of residential premises, down from 74 percent in 1992.
“While much progress has been made in reducing the number of kitchen-table dealers, and thereby reducing criminals’ access to guns, yesterday’s shooting highlights the fact that there is still much more work to be done,” said VPC Policy Analyst Marty Langley.
To continue to build on FFL reforms, the VPC recommends the following actions:
- All federally licensed firearms dealers should be required to operate from a storefront business, not a residence. Licenses should be limited to businesses devoted primarily to the sale of firearms. Gun shops should be conspicuously identified to the public as such.
- ATF should have the authority to suspend a dealer’s license or assess civil penalties – in addition to revocation authority – when a dealer violates the law.
- ATF’s ability to inspect a licensee’s premises to ensure compliance with recordkeeping and other requirements should be expanded from once a year to at least four times per year.