Credit where credit’s due: this quiz was sent to me by a contributor who wishes to remain unmolested by the federal government. We have respected his wishes.

1. In 1970, you bought two Colt AR-15 rifles (one for you and one for your wife) at the same time from the same dealer. In 1980, burglars stole the rifles from your home. In 2010, the Mexican federales seize the rifles from a drug cartel in Mexico. Using eTrace, the Mexican authorities contact the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) who ID the rifles’ owner (you). Who will the ATF go after?

a.        The Drug Cartel killers
b.       The burglar who stole the rifles
c.        The gun smuggler
d.       Your gun dealer
e.       You

Correct answer: d. (Your gun dealer) and e. (You).

The ATF’s eTrace system only identifies the Colts’ initial dealer and their first registered owner. eTrace doesn’t know the final owner. Or the in-between owners. The ATF now suspects your dealer of knowingly selling the guns to a “straw purchaser” (you) headed down the “iron river” to Mexico.  The ATF knows that the guns were stolen, right? WRONG. ATF won’t ask you (because you’re a suspect), nor will they check the NCIC database to see if the guns were stolen. Anyway, you probably lied about the burglary. Is that why your name suddenly appeared on the FBI’s “No Fly List”? No se. And you can’t find out.

2. Same story: you bought two Colt AR-15 rifles (one for you and one for your wife) at the same time from the same dealer in 1970. In 1980, burglars stole the rifles. In 2010, the rifles are seized from a drug cartel in Mexico, and traced by ATF. Who will be reported to Mexican police as a suspected gun trafficker?

a.        The Drug Cartel killer
b.       The burglar who stole the rifles
c.        The gun smuggler
d.       Your gun dealer
e.       You.

Same answer! d. (Your gun dealer) and e. (You).

Your name and address will be reported to the Mexican police (who requested the eTrace). The next time you go to Mexico on vacation, your name will be on their bad guy list. Remember: in Mexico, you’re guilty until proven innocent (Napoleonic Code). How long will you be detained by Mexican police?

3.  Your gun dealer, Armed Bears, has been in business for 25 years. They’ve sold thousands of guns. During that time, ATF has run 10 traces per year (250 traces total) on Armed Bears’ armaments. Two years ago, Fast Eddie opened a gunshop. He sold a few hundred guns each year. During that time, the ATF has run 100 traces on Fast Eddie’s guns (200 total traces). Who does the ATF target will as a dealer in “crime guns”?

a.        Fast Eddie
b.       Your gun dealer
c.        You

Correct answer: b.  Your gun dealer. (You’re not in the frame for this one.)

The ATF targets dealers with high accumulated traces totals, rather than using common sense analysis of annualized sales patterns. Even when the Bureau catches “straw purchasers,” they somehow forgets to go after the big fish (according a GAO report). BTW: every trace reported by ATF is a “crime gun.”

4. In 2007, you bought a nice matching 1937 S/42 Luger (serial 1234b made by Mauser, and entered in the books as a Mauser) from Fred’s Guns, and a total of 15 guns from Fred’s during the entire year. In January, 2009 Fred’s Guns gets audited by ATF, who find a few bookkeeping violations and revoke his FFL (license).  Fred is ready to retire anyway, so he doesn’t fight the revocation, and sends his records to the ATF National Out-of-Business Records Center.

In 2010, Mexican police raid a drug cartel chief’s house, and seize his flashy gun collection. One of the guns is a chrome-plated  1917 dated Luger (serial 1234b), with a mismatched Mauser-Banner toggle which the drug guy had owned for 20 years. A Mexican policeman, trained by ATF, enters the Luger into the eTrace System. The trace is completed and, because both guns are Mauser Luger pistols, serial 1234b, the trace points to you and notes you bought 15 guns that year. Who will be targeted by ATF?

a.        Your gun dealer
b.       The Drug Cartel Guy
c.        The gun smuggler
d.       You

Correct answer: d. (You).

The eTrace System cannot distinguish between two Mauser Lugers with the same serial number. ATF will consider you a gun trafficking suspect, and will report your name and address, and the number of guns you bought to the Mexican police. Fred’s Guns is out of business, otherwise he’d also be a suspect. ATF has no jurisdiction over the drug cartel guy, and the gun smuggler died 15 years ago.

5. You buy a Bushmaster ACR. You lend it to a friend. When your BFF shoots the ACR at the range, a badly designed firing pin puts the ACR into full automatic mode. Nearby cops start asking questions. They ring up the ATF. Who does the ATF pursue?

a. Your friend
b. Bushmaster
c. You

Correct answer: c (You).

The ATF vigorously pursued the case of David R. Olofson, whose experience pretty much mirrors the example above. He’s currently in prison. You? Not yet.

6 Responses to How Well Do You Know the ATF? Take This Simple Quiz

    • “In a mature society, “civil servant” is semantically equal to “civil master Robert A. Heinlein

  1. Alex:
    We’re glad you live there, too.

    East Germany also had “very strict gun control laws”, and many police to check on you and keep you safe – such as the Stasi….. with one officer or informant for every 6.5 people. Yep, it’s great to live in a country with very strict gun control laws!

    In the meantime, we’ll continue to enjoy the freedom and liberty of the USA.

  2. And who exactly are you to decide what is "strict enough"? Just because you don't own a gun doesn't mean your friendly neighborhood burglar follows your country's gun laws. I'd rather take my chances with the ATF than live in a country of victimization, repressive laws, and social welfare (which no matter where in western Europe you live is the case).

  3. Re: Bushmaster ACR. Do all the Bushmaster ACRs have this same poorly designed firing pin? If so, who (ATF/BATFE) is responsible for dealing with the factory and/or importer until the design is fixed? When, if ever, can we expect that to happen?

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