Belgium makes some first-class firearms. The City of Liege has been at it since 1350ish. Thanks to Europe’s pervasive anti-gun culture (just sayin’), the country’s firearms industry is a shadow of its former self. But there’s still some action. In addition to its most excellent name-brand American exports and its military guns and ammo, Belgium’s Fabrique Nationale (FN Herstal) also manufactures and distributes Browning and Winchester-branded firearms and accessories. And now the country almost famous for french fries with mayonnaise has access to the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ eTrace gun monitoring system. In this, Belgium’s flic join more than 2,800 U.S. law enforcement agencies and 29 foreign countries (the ATF processed more than 340,000 crime-gun trace requests in 2009). The official ATF press release lauds the system after the jump. Another surprise: not everyone thinks eTrace is such a good idea . . .
ATF’s eTrace is a firearms trace request submission system and interactive trace analysis module that facilitates firearms tracing and assists ATF’s efforts to combat firearms trafficking. eTrace provides the electronic exchange of crime gun incident data in a Web-based environment with a portal to the Firearms Tracing System (FTS) database. The system provides real-time capabilities that allow law enforcement agencies to submit electronic firearms trace requests, monitor the progress of traces, retrieve completed trace results and query firearms trace-related data in the FTS database. It also allows registered users to initiate a search on virtually any data field or combination of data elements such as firearm serial numbers, an individual’s name, a type of crime, date of recovery or other identifiers. Registered eTrace users also can generate statistical reports on the number of traces submitted, the top firearms traced, the average time-to-crime rates and other variables.
Aaron Zelman over at The Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership wonders why the feds want foreign governments to be able to directly access a database of American gun owners, especially as there’s no way of ensuring that trace is related to a crime. Or that the feds gave restricted the eTrace database to weapons used in a crime.
In fact, the whole thing gives Zelman the heebie-jeebies. He’s been raising the alarm about the eTrace system for at least a year.
Talking to TTAG, Zelman points out that the eTrace system is in direct contravention of the Gun Control Act of 1968, which specifically forbids the establishment of a centralized federal gun registry (Gun Control Act of 1969,18 U.S.C. § 923(g) (1970); Treas. Reg. § 178.121 (1968). See also Federal Firearms Act [II], supra note 44, at 94-95; note infra.).
“They’ve been trampling on the regulations for years,” Zelman contends. “eTrace is simply an extension of the government’s work to create a database of American gun owners. For example, federally-licensed gun dealers that go out of business have to hand over all their 4473 [owner registration forms] to the ATF for all purchases since they started business. Look at all the gun dealers that have gone out of business. Over a hundred thousand. [ED: 194,998 since 1994]. That’s millions of records. For what?”
Anyone who knows Zelman knows that’s a rhetorical question. The man believes that the federal government has widespread disarmament in mind, what with the economy on the brink of collapse. “The government gets nervous at angry people with pitchforks,” Zelman says, resisting the urge to use the word “tea” in his warning. “They’re not going to hassle an L.A. street gang with eTrace,” Zelman said. “They’re going to go after some poor schmuck’s guns. Some law-abiding citizen.”
Which could be easily dismissed as the rantings of a paranoid fantastist—if it weren’t for what happened in post-Katrina Louisiana.