ATF Releases 2017 Report on Firearms Commerce in the U.S.

California Ranks No. 2 in the Most NFA Registered Weapons

BATFE LogoThe Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) recently released the Firearms Commerce in the United States – Annual Statistical Update 2017. The report provides comparative data from as far back as 1986 for context, analyses of firearms manufacturing trends over the years, and a broad picture of the state of firearms commerce in the United States today.

The data in the 2017 report shows an estimated 43 percent increase in firearms manufacturing in the U.S. within the last five years. In 2015, the number of firearms manufactured grew to more than 9.3 million, up from the approximate 6.5 million firearms manufactured in 2011. The most recent available firearm manufacturing statistics are through calendar year 2015.

Rifles made up the bulk of the firearms manufactured at 3.6 million in 2015. Pistols were a close second at 3.5 million. The number of rifles manufactured increased 9 percent from the previous year and the number of pistols decreased slightly by approximately 2 percent.

Updated firearms import and export data is included in the report. Import data is updated through 2016 and export data through 2015. In 2016, more than 5.1 million firearms were imported into the United States showing a 30 percent increase since 2015.

The most recent export statistics show more than 343,000 firearms (an 18 percent decrease from the previous year) were exported worldwide.

The commerce report includes a state-by-state breakdown of the National Firearm Act (NFA) tax revenue information. NFA is also referred to as Title II of the federal firearms laws and was first enacted in 1934.   

According to the report, California has 344,622 NFA registered weapons as of April 2017. Those were broken down to include:

  • Destructive Devices 272,128
  • Machine Guns 29,047
  • Silencers 15,044
  • Short-Barreled Shotgun (SBS) 13,675
  • Short-Barreled Rifles (SBR) 10,796
  • Any Other Weapon (AOW) 3,932

Out of the nation, California ranks No.2 for (NFA) registered weapons behind Texas. California has several factors contributing to its high ranking amongst the states for NFA registered weapons.

The three most populous states California, Texas and Florida were all ranked in the top three.

  • Texas 588,696
  • California 344,622
  • Florida 343,288

California is home to a large contingent of law enforcement whom are also required to report their NFA weapons. Flash bangs fall into the “Destructive Device” category, which increases the number of NFA weapons – these devices are used in training and enforcement operations. Lastly, California is home to several motion picture prop houses with large inventories of NFA weapons. These prop houses rent the NFA weapons out to major motion picture studios.

Similar to the current NFA, the original Act imposed a tax on the making and transfer of certain firearms, as well as a special (occupational) tax on persons and entities engaged in the business of importing, manufacturing, and dealing in NFA firearms. The law also required the registration of all NFA firearms with the Secretary of the Treasury. Firearms subject to the 1934 Act include shotguns and rifles having barrels less than 18 inches in length, certain firearms described as “any other weapons,” machine guns, and firearm mufflers and silencers.

While the NFA was enacted by Congress as an exercise of its authority to tax, the NFA had an underlying purpose unrelated to revenue collection. As the legislative history of the law discloses, its underlying purpose was to curtail, if not prohibit, transactions in NFA firearms. Congress found these firearms to pose a significant crime problem because of their frequent use in crime, particularly the gangland crimes of that era such as the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. The $200 making and transfer taxes on most NFA firearms were considered quite severe and adequate to carry out Congress’ purpose to discourage or eliminate transactions in these firearms. The $200 tax has never increased or changed. Two hundred dollars in 1934 is equivalent to approximately $3,658.06 today, according to dollars.com (link is external).

For a closer look at the report, visit the ATF website at 2017 Commerce Report.

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