Gun sellers in Raleigh, Durham, Fayetteville flagged by ATF

Sean Coffey Image
Thursday, March 7, 2024
Dozens of licensed NC gun dealers flagged by ATF
The ABC11 I-Team uncovered dozens of local gun dealers flagged by federal agents after the guns they sold were repeatedly recovered in crimes.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Documents analyzed by the ABC11 I-Team show dozens of local gun dealers flagged by federal agents after the guns they sold were repeatedly recovered in crimes.

The list, originally obtained by Brady -- an anti-gun violence non-profit -- shows more than 30 gun stores located in the greater Triangle were listed in the ATF's "Demand Letter 2," or DL2, program. Nationally, there are well over 1,000 licensed gun sellers in the program. There are 10 in Raleigh, Durham and Fayetteville alone.

A DL2 is sent by the ATF to federally licensed gun dealers when that dealer has 25 or more firearms that they recently sold traced and recovered in a crime in the last year.

The firearms that trigger an ATF letter need to have been sold less than three years prior -- a time frame the ATF calls a short time-to-crime. They say repeatedly having short time-to-crime can be a trafficking indicator and a red flag for potential off-the-books gun sales.

"That's a problem if they're not following the rules," said Orange County District Attorney Jeff Nieman. "But even if they are, like I said, it's a leaky boat because the people who are buying them from the from the authorized dealers can turn around and make an over the fence sale to their neighbor and that person might be a felon."

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Nieman said the lack of background checks for online and gun show firearm purchases in North Carolina can make these registered sales even more important to track, and pointed out its easy in the current landscape for some gun purchases to slip through the cracks.

"There's nothing stopping me from saying I have a firearm. You want to check it out? If so, I'll sell it to you for $100," Nieman said. "That and there's nothing stopping us from doing that. And there's nothing requiring me to check to see if you are legally authorized to possess that firearm before I sell it to you."

The ABC11 I-Team reached out to the ATF, who said this list isn't a punitive measure and does not suggest wrongdoing on the part of the licensed gun sellers listed. The federal agency said it's an important tool both in helping them trace guns that are resold or used in crimes, and can help law-abiding gun dealers by letting them know they're susceptible to trafficking schemes. It's also used to link the secondary gun market to licensed dealers where these guns were originally sold.

By focusing on frequency of crime gun traces with a relatively short-time-to-crime, the Demand Letter 2 program provides ATF with additional data about source locations for crime guns. This does not mean, however, that the FFLs subject to Demand Letter 2 - or involved with other traces - have engaged in any form of wrongdoing. A number of factors, including geography, sales volume, secondary market transfers by an original lawful purchaser, and the level of sophistication of firearm traffickers, may be involved in a traced crime gun. The Demand Letter 2 program helps raise awareness among subject FFLs that their businesses may be susceptible to trafficking schemes as a possible result of these and other factors. The Demand Letter 2 program also enhances public safety by better enabling ATF to trace used firearms that have been resold by an FFL involved in the program.
ATF Spokesperson