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Policies to prevent firearm trafficking
  1. Jon S Vernick,
  2. Daniel W Webster
  1. Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
  1. Correspondence to:
 Professor J S Vernick
 Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, 624 N Broadway, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA; jvernick{at}

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Measures to prevent firearms moving from the licit to the illicit market within the US can also reduce international trafficking

Excluding military conflicts, firearms are used in >200 000 deaths annually,1 including nearly 30 000 in the US alone,2 and 7–8 million new firearms are manufactured each year worldwide.3

Firearm manufacturers typically market their products through a network of licensed distributors and dealers, before the gun is sold to an individual buyer. Virtually every firearm used to commit a homicide or other violent crime was first purchased from a licensed dealer by someone deemed to be legally eligible.

Typically, however, the individuals who use firearms to commit violent crimes are not the initial lawful purchasers, but have instead obtained firearms through an illicit market. The secondary market in firearms—which includes guns acquired from private individuals both legally and illegally—is largely unregulated, making it difficult to hold people who supply guns to criminals accountable for their actions. However a number of policies can be implemented to enhance accountability and thereby prevent violent injury and death.


Improved licensing and oversight of dealers

People in the business of selling firearms in the US must obtain a federal firearms license issued by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE), and maintain records of their inventory and the guns they sell.4 Corrupt firearm dealers are an important …

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  • Competing interests: None.