Declining Gun Shop Numbers …It’s Bill Clinton’s Fault

Former President Bill Clinton signing the “Assault Weapon” ban of 1994 into law. The U.S. Department of Justice concluded that the ban, which sunset in 2004, did nothing to reduce crime. (Official White House photo).

Washington, DC – -( Democrats now want more gun dealers so they can conduct more background checks, which they believe will deter more crime, but the shortage can be traced back to Bill Clinton.

Senators Chris Murphy, (D-Conn.), and John Cornyn, (R-Texas), have met in secret recently – behind closed doors – to negotiate a way to expand federal background checks.

Citing the 2019 mass murder that killed eight people and wounded 25 near Odessa, Texas, Cornyn believes the deaths could have been avoided if the killer had undergone a background check before obtaining his home-built AR, which he purchased through a private sale.

Cornyn, much to the dismay of the gun community, says he now wants to clarify exactly who has to register as a Federal Firearms Licensee, or FFL, and therefore be legally required to conduct background checks of all firearms purchasers.

“We need to clear that up,” Cornyn told NBC News. “That, by definition, will make more people get background checks because all federal firearms licensees have to do background checks.”

In other words, if more people were forced to register as FFLs, there would be more background checks and therefore less crime, Murphy and Cornyn believe. If that sounds familiar, it’s because Obama tried it just a few years ago.

But who is responsible for reducing the FFL ranks from a high of more than 250,000 licensed gun dealers in 1994 to just 55,000 10 years later?

What caused today’s FFL shortage?

That friends, is Bill Clinton’s fault and Democrats have been tinkering with the FFL system ever since.

Clinton’s First War on Guns

For more than three decades before Clinton took office, a Federal Firearms License cost around $30. Applicants had to meet the same standards as a firearm purchaser – they could not be a prohibited person.

Clinton changed all that.

He jacked up the cost of a license, and he added more regulations and oversight via the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and (now) Explosives.

The ATF loved the new rules and the lighter workload. They had been complaining for years that there were too many licensed gun dealers for them to regulate. In 1994, one ATF official told the New York Times there were only 250 inspectors for 250,000 FFLs.

The smaller ones, the kitchen-table dealers, might not see an inspector for 10 years,” the official lamented.

“Probably 70 percent of the people holding licenses shouldn’t hold them,” another ATF spokesperson told the newspaper.

Clinton changed all that. Thousands of FFLs were forced out of business. Only the larger ones remained.

Selling guns has never been easy, anyway. Dealers must comply with federal, state, and local laws, ordinances, and regulations. Labor costs are high, and margins are low. Couple that with regulators who cannot only close them down for violating a book-full of regulations – they can also make arrests – and the FFL ranks were decimated, under Clinton.

Tried Before & Failed

The Cornyn/Murphy scheme – more dealers will mean more background checks, which will result in less crime – has been tried before.

Obama tried to tighten the screws and force more people into getting FFLs in 2016. It didn’t work then. Cornyn and Murphy should know that now.

“The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) is making clear that it doesn’t matter where you conduct your business—from a store, at gun shows, or over the Internet: If you’re in the business of selling firearms, you must get a license and conduct background checks,” Obama’s press secretary wrote in a 2016 release titled: FACT SHEET: New Executive Actions to Reduce Gun Violence and Make Our Communities Safer.

Then, as now, Obama issued a long list of anti-rights decrees his press secretary characterized as “commonsense executive actions.”

Then, as now, the president tried to sell his unconstitutional orders to the American people by citing a laundry list of made-up facts and statistics – including the myth of popular support.

“The President and Vice President are committed to using every tool at the Administration’s disposal to reduce gun violence,” Obama’s press secretary wrote five years ago. “Some of the gaps in our country’s gun laws can only be fixed through legislation, which is why the President continues to call on Congress to pass the kind of commonsense gun safety reforms supported by a majority of the American people.”

If that sounds familiar, it’s because it’s nearly identical to press releases Biden’s crew has put out.

Then, as now, the plan backfired. The American people simply ignored the president’s ramblings and bought more guns – a lot more guns.


Because neither Obama nor Biden could ever grasp what happens when a president threatens a God-given, constitutional right.

The Second Amendment Foundation’s Investigative Journalism Project wouldn’t be possible without you. Click here to make a tax deductible donation to support pro-gun stories like this.

About Lee Williams

Lee Williams, who is also known as “The Gun Writer”, has been writing about the Second Amendment, firearms, the firearms industry, and the gun culture for more than 10 years. Until recently, he was also an editor for a daily newspaper in Florida. Before becoming an editor, Lee was an investigative reporter at newspapers in three states and a U.S. Territory. Before becoming a journalist, he worked as a police officer. Before becoming a cop, Lee served in the Army. He’s earned more than a dozen national journalism awards as a reporter, and three medals of valor as a cop. Lee is an avid tactical shooter.

Lee Williams

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Australia took guns from good people, now the have home invasions with slam fire guns made of pipe nearest police days away no thanks


Actually home invaders in Australia are using modern firearms more then home made slam fire ones. They had just kept theirs while the average “law” abiding slave turned theirs in.


it is a mixture of home made, not all slam fire and modern. there was a police raid in victoria where 25 homemade guns and 7 modern were found as well as a truck full of stolen goods ; the random murder rate is up too not good to be a sheep when there is no shepherd to guard against wolves


OH, you mean that law breakers actually broke the law, again? How surprising. All those good honest citizens should sue the country for not doing it’s job because they said it would be better and it isn’t. Smells of Hitler to me..


Yup.Within a year of the confiscation taking place housebreakings and muggings went up 20, 30%. Many did jusst hang on to their guns, but every once in a while we hear of someone getting outed and charged for possessing one that “should have been” turned in. I’ve read recentl that huge numbers of modern firearms many full auto military ones, are floding into the country via the wide open northern shores, then brought cross country in small batches for “distribution”. My guess is China are behind much of this, and are busliy and stealthily arming those who will be eager… Read more »


I was an FFL in the late 70s and 80s. This was also the doing of the late and infamous Dem Senator Paul Simon from IL. The fee for my 2 licenses was $20.00 a year, just so I could sell Reloads. The government screwed it all up! Just like everything they stick their nose into!

Green Mtn. Boy

Yes and Billy Buber the Horny Hick is also responsible of many crimes along with his wife the Hideous Hag,who is still not POTUS.


“Citing the 2019 mass murder that killed eight people and wounded 25 near Odessa, Texas, Cornyn believes the deaths could have been avoided if the killer had undergone a background check before obtaining his home-built AR, which he purchased through a private sale” HUH? I thought you weren’t supposed to sell home built AR’s. Or was it that someone bought the serialized lower, assembled an AR and then sold it. OMG! That is HEINOUS! The seller should be sent to the PHANTOM ZONE with General Zod! What are we to do? Can’t have those “home built” rifles floating around causing… Read more »


could have been at least mitigated constitutional carry , lot of open carry and concealed mixed, only suicide by others could not be fixed but they will never come to table on mental health that is a privet thing it affects everyone around them but cant call a loon a loon

Protect defend serve

Well meaning Republican Senator being hoodwinked by a lying Demoncrat. Sad. All this is doing is edging this country closer to authoritarianism and Communism. Guns don’t commit murder people do. Background checks only stop .01 % of gun violence. All it does is cause more grief for law abiding citizens waiting to get their self protection tools… and probably the info goes into a secret government data base for use at a later date


.01%? How can they KNOW how much it stops at all? Unless they have precogs reading minds.


Nancy is a precog.


They do, they do! If you don’t believe me just ask them. Ooops, don’t bother, they already knew you would because they have stats that predict what you or others are going to do and they know there is no variance. Everyone is exactly the same and they can draw the perfect conclusion from their fake stats that someone made just for them but you don’t need to know that part.


or making things up out of whole cloth…. to suit THEIR narrative, of course.


A lot of those “kitchen table” dealers were nothing of the sort. If you had an FFL, you could purchase firearms at wholesale prices directly from the distributor. My dad obtained his FFL for exactly that reason and recouped his $30.00 fee on the first Mossberg 500 we bought. And I doubt we were the only ones who had an FFL for exactly that purpose. Over the years, that shotgun was joined by another Mossberg 500, two Remington 788s, a Remington Nylon 66, and two Ruger Blackhawks. Then Slick Willie upset the apple cart. What often isn’t mentioned is the… Read more »


you could also bid at surplus auctions for guns and ammo ,get export permits


If they REALLY wanted to reduce sales to prohibited persons they would approve a new BGC system where ANYONE can access it to make sure the buyer is “clean”. Make the check on the BUYER with no record or even emtnionof WHAT is being pruchased. Clean up the database to eiminate all the false or near matches that now get a “delay” code. Doable its been proposed but “they” will have none of it. Then dealsers won’e have to keep their bund boo anymore, like no one did pre-about 1994 or so. How mamy millioins of guns were in the… Read more »

Roland T. Gunner

But we are sll members of the Syndicate. And everybody gets a share.


quote: “In 1994, one ATF official told the New York Times there were only 250 inspectors for 250,000 FFLs.” Snd guess what? We have far MORE “gun crime” and “gun violance” now than was ever dreamed of back then. So Clinton’s”fix” did not FIX a thing. Back in 1980 I had just returned from a few years offshore, and decided I needed to buy a .22 rifle to deal with coyotes, coons, possum that were getting after my fowl. Hopped in my trusty old rusted up Volvo, drove ACROSS state lines, into a neighbouring state, walked into a sporting goods… Read more »

uncle dudley

All the backround checks on a firearm purchase will not stop a determined person who wants to commit a killing, just look at all the inner city murders that happen everyday, most are done with a stolen or corner sold firearm. Why do these politicians want to make it tougher for citizens who wish to use their second amendment rights, the lions share of these folks will never commit a crime it’s generally the mental upset person who does a dirty deed. Murder goes all the way back to Able and Cain, did they try and ban rocks or sticks… Read more »


REALLY? WHY? BECAUSE they can be turned against the PSYCHOPATHIC CONTROL FREAKS and it is FREAKING THEM OUT. What if a REAL insurrection had taken place in DC and the slime psychos like Pukelousy had been taken out in the street and treated like the dictator of Romania was??


they dont do a background check for hammers and knives ,or cars and trucks for that matter


Don’t forget sticks and stones, they are next.


in England now one cannot purchase a chef’s knife, such as is found in nearly every American kitchen where food prep goes much beyond opening cans or plstic bags. WHY? Because “certain” demographic groups had taken to carrying them as street weapons, so now NO ONE can have them. The “certain” ones have merey and quickly shifted toother tools. But mayhem is their pattern, and banning today’s preferred tool will not change their black hearts.
The EVIL lies in the heart of “some” men. Once the decision is made to act upon that evil, choice of tool is irrelevant.

Roland T. Gunner

John Cornyn’s best-by date has long expired; it’s time for him to go home.


Just because a Rep. is of the Reb. persuasion doesn’t meam they can’t be CRBs (Commie Rat Bastards).
The biggest problem as I see it is way too many lawyers in government!


I had a FFL in the 80s and not only did they raise the fee they put regs in that I had to put bars on all the windows and make the doors secure. My house has a solarium with 8’x6′ windows acrost the front. It would have cost a fortune to comply with their demands.


Lee, your commentary lacks context.

It was not Clinton who did this, it was Lloyd Bentsen. HE did this.

I remember this well at the time, using the pejorative “kitchen table” dealers.

It was HIS doing.

Most of the articles written about this are before the web, but here is an example: