such as alcohol and drug use, perpetrator-victim relationship, and any crime involvement. Complete counting of deaths and sampling of nonfatal injuries is recommended for firearm injuries, as for all other types of injuries, with routine state and national reporting (see Chapter 3).
The United States has in place a complex regulatory structure for keeping firearms out of the hands of people who are deemed likely to make criminal or irresponsible use of guns (e.g., convicted felons, illegal immigrants, individuals under indictment, people involuntarily committed to mental institutions). Additionally, there are federal oversight of gun commerce (particularly interstate firearm sales) and limits or bans on the sale or possession of certain types of firearms or ammunition. Federal law has also established a minimum age for firearm purchase. Federal regulations on firearms have resulted from the passage of a number of laws that have frequently been initiated in response to violent historical events (e.g., gangland violence in the 1930s, assassination of political leaders in the 1960s, the assassination attempt on President Reagan; see Box 5.1).
The U.S. Department of Justice has the authority to enforce federal laws related to firearms, including interstate commerce. ATF is responsible for federal licensure of firearm dealers. This authority is exercised via regulations that establish specific procedures for documenting the sale of firearms at the wholesale and retail levels. ATF also has responsibility for criminal investigations of interstate gunrunning by those who lack the appropriate license. Funding limitations, however, have curtailed ATF's enforcement efforts.
However, in contrast to motor vehicles and most other consumer products, no federal agency has regulatory jurisdiction over gun design (firearms are specifically exempted from the jurisdiction of the CPSC.). Issues include specifying product safety standards and regulating or banning products that can be shown to be dangerous in relation to alternative designs. Thus, it seems reasonable to recommend that Congress establish a regulatory structure, with suitable criteria, to govern the design of firearms, ammunition, and safety devices. Although formulating the regulatory criteria will require difficult judgments regarding the best ways to preserve the utility of firearms for legitimate purposes while reducing risks of unintentional injuries and unlawful uses, the committee encourages the Congress to undertake this important challenge. Whether regulatory authority should be conferred on the CPSC or on a new regulatory agency in the Department of Justice, also requires further study. In either case, the agency should be empowered to set safety and performance standards for firearms, ammunition, and safety devices in accordance with the criteria prescribed by statute. Such legislation would rectify the anomalous exclusion of one of the most lethal consumer products from the jurisdiction of all federal regulatory agencies.