FBI: Illegal Aliens Tried Nearly 48,000 Times to Purchase Firearms Over Past 25 Years
FBI: Illegal Aliens Tried Nearly 48,000 Times to Purchase Firearms Over Past 25 Years

By Allan Stein

PHOENIX, Ariz.—The FBI logged more than 47,000 attempts by illegal aliens to purchase firearms at gun shops over the past 25 years, according to a group that monitors border security policy.

On Jan. 2, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) reported the FBI currently has almost 14 million records of firearms applications that failed a national background check.

Of these “unique prohibiting events,” the FBI index included 47,930 denied purchases of firearms by illegal aliens in the National Instant Crime Background Check System (NICBS) between November 1998 and November 2023.

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“While the 13.9 million unique prohibiting events cataloged in the FBI database represent events—not individual illegal aliens—the data point to large numbers of migrants in the market for firearms. Whatever the total may be, one is one too many,” FAIR wrote.

The organization added that “the dangers posed by largely unvetted illegal aliens possessing firearms has been vastly exacerbated over the past three years, as the Biden administration has presided over record numbers of new illegal aliens entering our country.

“At the same time, federal policies and the proliferation of sanctuary jurisdictions that prohibit the sharing of critical law enforcement information will inevitably result in more Americans falling prey to criminal aliens.”

According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), there were 547,610 seizures of illegal weapons, including ammunition, gun parts, scopes, silencers, and body armor in 2023, which is consistent with the 595,154 total number of weapons seized in 2021.

In 2022, there were 1,147,497 weapons seizures, according to CBP data.

The Epoch Times has reached out for comment to the FBI, the Department of Justice (DOJ), and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) but has not received responses.

In light of these statistics, Arizona gun shop owner Charlie Bollenbaugh says there’s only so much law enforcement can do to stop criminals from obtaining firearms.

“We’ve got plenty of laws; criminals are criminals,” says Mr. Bollenbaugh, owner of Strapt Armory in Phoenix. “They’re going to find ways around them.”

Mr. Bollenbaugh added that there’s “no real way of telling” who is a U.S. citizen the moment they walk through the door to purchase a gun.

But there is a legal process to weed out the ineligible buyers, he said.

In Arizona, as in other states, the gun buyer must first show a valid state driver’s license or government-issued photo ID along with proof of age and residency and have no felony convictions.

Federal law requires that each buyer fill out and sign a Form 4473 national background check under penalty of perjury. The form is submitted by the gun store electronically through the NICBS, and the results are known within minutes.

“If they are legally allowed to purchase a firearm, and they’ve come here correctly, the government tells me to go ahead and proceed,” Mr. Bollenbaugh told The Epoch Times.

“They can’t buy a firearm without going through a valid background check and presenting a government-issued ID.”

Beyond having actual proof of citizenship, “there’s no way for the gun stores to know” if a buyer is in the country legally, he said.

In the meantime, an estimated 300,000 illegal border crossings continue to occur monthly under the Biden administration’s immigration policies.

Arnold Gallegos, the owner of ABQ Guns in Albuquerque, N.M., and an officer with the Jemez Springs Police Department considers a public health order banning firearms in public an “illegal” act by New Mexico’s governor. Photo taken on Sept. 12, 2023. (Allan Stein/The Epoch Times)

In 2019, the Democrat-controlled U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that mandated federal background checks for all legal firearms sales and transfers.

Included in the bill was a Republican-sponsored amendment that would have required gun dealers to report to federal immigration when an illegal alien attempted to purchase a firearm.

The provision failed passage in the Senate in a heavily partisan vote.

“In rejecting this amendment, the Democrats have shown their true colors,” said U.S. Rep. Greg Steube (R-Fla.), sponsor of the amendment, in a written statement after the vote.

“It is clear they are not interested in preventing gun violence or stopping the illegal purchase of firearms, but rather they are only interested in limiting the rights of law-abiding citizens to advance their political agenda.”

In southern border states such as Texas, crime involving illegal aliens is a serious problem.

The DHS reported more than 422,000 criminal aliens were booked into Texas jails between June 1, 2011, and Dec. 31, 2023, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety (TDPS).

A group of more than 1,000 illegal immigrants wait in line near a U.S. Border Patrol field processing center after crossing the Rio Grande from Mexico, in Eagle Pass, Texas, on Dec. 18, 2023. (John Moore/Getty Images)

Nearly 300,000 were classified as illegal aliens by DHS.

The TDPS added that illegal aliens committed more than 509,000 criminal offenses, including homicide, burglary, drug offenses, theft, sex crimes, and kidnapping.

In the first few days of 2024, there were 3,104 noncitizen arrests by CBP, 48 involving weapons violations. In 2023, there were 15,267 arrests, with 307 for weapons offenses, according to CBP data.

Mr. Bollenbaugh said illegal gun purchases by criminals happen “all the time” despite serious efforts by law enforcement to track every firearm transaction and serial number in the United States.

He said it is illegal for a U.S. citizen to purchase a firearm for a person who is not authorized to own a gun, which includes illegal aliens.

A gun purchase by proxy is known as “straw purchase,” he said.

“The definition of a straw purchase is you are knowingly filling out the 4473 and background check because you know the person that wants the gun can’t obtain it legally,” Mr. Bollenbaugh said.

At MPP Guns in Phoenix, gun manager Henry Escobar said the rules are clear when purchasing a firearm.

“Our policy here is if you come in with more than one person—two or three people—we’re going to ask everybody for ID,” he said. “Even if they come in with an ID from another state, we’re going to turn them down.”

Republican members of Congress walk adjacent to the Rio Grande at the Texas-Mexico border in Eagle Pass, Texas, on Jan. 3, 2024. (Eric Gay/AP Photo)

He said that many people enter the store simply to inquire about purchasing a gun.

“We ask if they’re a citizen, from out of state, or a permanent resident,” Mr. Escobar told The Epoch Times.

While federal background checks work for the most part, he said: “If they come in and lie saying they’re a U.S. citizen, and they fill out the form”—hopefully, “there’s a way for the ATF to catch that,” he said.

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