The Vast Network of US Firearm Manufacturers

Erwin C
3 min readMay 28, 2022
Firearm manufacturer licenses in the US, by Zip-code (April 2022). Source: ATF and myself

Underlying the gun and school shooting issue, is a mass network of licensed, firearm manufacturers, distributors, and importers.

Even if the top, most well-known, gun manufacturers and the NRA were somehow disbanded, we’d still be left with a plethora of other manufacturers, prevalent around the country.

The issue seems deeper than enacting new laws — laws already exist and enforcement is a big issue.

Regulatory Agency

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (or ATF) is the regulating agency and here are the different types of gun providers:

Federal Firearms License (FFL) Types, Source: ATF

As of April 2022, there were a total of:

  • 17,509 firearm manufacturer licenses (Type 7)
  • 81,835 total federal firearm licenses

Data source:

Quick & Cheap Licensing

It’s relatively cheap, easy, and quick to become a licensed manufacturer, taking only $150 to apply…

Federal Firearm License application form, Source: ATF

with speedy application approvals of 2 months…

Source: ATF

Minimal Oversight

There seems to be a history of minimal oversight from the ATF — and minimal punishment for offending license-holders:


Disclaimer: I am not a professional in these areas. As a citizen, I was motivated by the latest tragic events in my state, to research and understand the systemic issues underlying gun violence, mass shootings, and the prevalence of guns.

Some suggestions that come to mind are:

  1. Increase Fees — for federal firearm license holders and applicants. this would help with funding for the ATF, increase staffing, and would add friction to the application process.
  2. Increase Punishment — increase fines and the revoking of licenses for rule-breakers.
  3. Increase Transparency — create a more interactive, public data portal for license holders. Create a more visible, periodic grading system for licensees, similar to restaurant health inspections.
  4. Increase Communication — and the exchange of information between departments, agencies, and the public.

My goal was to glean and share further insight into a process (gun manufacturer applications and oversight), that few of us understand or encounter in our daily lives, but that is becoming increasingly relevant to the shootings and bad news that we are seeing.

Your comments are welcome.