ATF Firearms Specialist Richard Vasquez is surrounded by a cache of firearms in the gun vault on March 5, 2010, at the ATF National Tracing Center in Martinsburg, West Virginia. (Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Eight out of 10 guns recovered in Haiti last year can’t be sufficiently traced, according to a federal report published this week.
According to ATF findings, federal authorities recovered 2,340 firearms from the top five reporting Caribbean nations in 2016: the Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago.
“Firearms tracing provides valuable investigative leads, specific trend data for ATF and its international partners, and information on the movement of a firearm from the manufacturer or importer through the distribution chain in an attempt to identify its first retail purchaser,” the agency said in a press release Wednesday.
For 88 percent of the 206 firearms recovered in Haiti, federal agents couldn’t trace the guns to the original point of sale. Just under half of the traces initiated for guns in Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago ended in similar results. Nearly 84 percent of guns recovered in the Bahamas were traced to retailers in the United States, according to the ATF.
The report offered several explanations for the untraceable guns, including missing or incomplete paperwork provided by a federally licensed firearms dealer, obliterated serial numbers, or recovering guns “too old to trace.”
“The success of a trace result, whether domestic or international, relies upon the accuracy of the supplied firearm identifiers,” the agency said in the report. “The necessary identifiers for a trace include manufacturer, importer (if applicable), model, caliber and serial number.”
Caribbean traces spiked 72 percent over 2015, according to federal data. Pistols represented the vast majority of recoveries in every country except Haiti, where nearly 78 percent of all traces involved shotguns.
The ATF traced more than 364,000 firearms recovered last year in the United States and 129 other countries. Traces have increased nearly 28 percent over the last six years, according to report findings, though remain flat compared to 2015.