An eagle-eyed reader noticed this from commentator keltec9 at seattleguns.net (registration required, ironically enough). “I always thought the police did not know I had a cpl or that I owned firwarms in a stop, well I found out differently today. A good friend of mine is a former SPD and current bellevue PD took me for a ride today. He ran my plate whch brought up the registered owner, me…clicked on my license number which showed my photo, ss#, driving record, etc. Scroll down a little, motorcycle license, CPL #, WTF…CPL… Issue date, exp, issued by kc sheriff, then this shocked me most…A list of every firearm I own, model, serial, where I bought it WTF. I had no idea they had all this info. I still cant believe it.” The Firearms Owners Protection Act specifically forbids any local, state or federal agency from maintaining a firearms or firearms owners database.

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84 Responses to Do the Seattle Police Keep An Illegal Instant Firearms Database?

    • Every 4473 filled out in the state of TX is forwarded to the sheriffs office for the county you reside in. What they do with it from there is up to them. But this is certainly a nationwide issue not a red/blue state issue.

      • And I never said it was a red vs blue issue. I said it’s typical of someone in a blue state to think that the government gives a rats ass about the law.

        • I think it’s typical of the police not to give a rat’s ass about the law, or at least your private information as it regards to the law.

        • It’s not a red vs blue state thing, even a D vs R voter level thing. As far as my experience, the people who trust too much in the integrity of their government employees are the ones living in the suburbs under the thumb of their HOA, or in the trendy urban neighborhoods at the mercy of various community groups city council politics. There are plenty of people who vote D but don’t trust the police, as there are many I have met who vote R but trust authority completely.

      • By federal law the FFL must keep a 4473 on file for 10 years. How can they forward these to anyone and still be compliant with federal law?

      • This is not true.

        The only time a report has to go to local PD in Texas is when multiple handguns or rifles with detachable mags (above .22 caliber) are sold to the same person. Then a separate form, 3310.4 for Handguns / 3310.12 for rifles, NOT the 4473, is forwarded to the BATFE AND local law enforcement.

        I have worked in several gun stores over the years and still do weekend gun shows for a dealer friend of mine,

  1. This sort of activity can’t be curtailed with lawsuits and court orders. Command level personnel need to be arrested and face criminal charges and jail time for these illegal activities.

    What does a mayor of chief of police care about lawsuits when any damages are being paid by the taxpayer? Lock these people up and hang felony charges on them and this will stop.

  2. I thought all conceal carry permits were tied to the driver’s license database so that’s not disturbing. The rest of the info however is very troubling to say the least.

    • There is a Law banning such a firearms database, so the link to driver’s licenses is a violation of Federal Law and more importantly are in violation of the citizens’ Constitutionally protected rights.

    • Yeah it does:

      “No such rule or regulation prescribed after the date of the enactment of the Firearms Owners Protection Act may require that records required to be maintained under this chapter or any portion of the contents of such records, be recorded at or transferred to a facility owned, managed, or controlled by the United States or any State or any political subdivision thereof, nor that any system of registration of firearms, firearms owners, or firearms transactions or disposition be established.”

      • “records required to be maintained under this chapter”

        “Under this chapter” is the operative bit. It says nothing about records maintained under state law.

        • “or any portion of the contents of such records,” would seem to clearly cover the keeping of records by, as has been mentioned, “any State or political subdivision thereof,” if ANY of the information in the original record showed up in the second one.

          So, if your local po-po (here’s your “political subdivision”) have a record of the serial numbers of your firearms, and those serial numbers form “a portion of the content” of the 4473, which I’m quite sure they do, then your local po-po’s record is absolutely covered— as was the intent of FOPA, of course.

          For that matter, it would seem that a simple note saying “Mike Jones dun bought another gun” would even fall under the Act, as his name, and the fact that he bought a gun, both constitute a “portion of the contents” of the prohibited record.

        • Anonymous is correct. FOPA prohibits state agencies keeping and recording information obtained by the agency pursuant to a NICS check or other data maintained in a federal database under Title 26 (like Machine Gun registry information — although I don’t know how a state would access that). FOPA does not prohibit such state agency from generating its own database.

          In California, Cal. DOJ keeps its own records of handgun ownership (and soon, long guns) obtained as a requirement of DROS requirements for transfers. But I am not aware of Washington having a system similar to California’s for independent collection and recording of dealer sales records, so it begs the question of how Washington populated its database. If it populated it by using the federal databases, that is prohibited under FOPA.

        • “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

          This is the version of the 2nd Amendment that was ratified by the states. It does not say Congress shall not, or the Federal Government shall not, it says, “… the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” Period.

        • I’ve heard many times (at least here at TTAG) that a firearms owner registry is illegal. But that is not what the above-cited language says. It only says that no rule may require that a registration system be maintained.

          It does not actually forbid a registry. The language actually reads as permissive to me. If a state or local government wanted to keep a registry, this looks like they are allowed to do so. It’s just that no law can require them to do so.

          Maybe there is other language in the statute that actually forbids a registry. But if the above-quoted language is all there is, then there’s no law against a unit of government keeping a registry.

          Does anyone else know the source of the “registries are illegal” rumor?

  3. If nothing else, let the ACLU know about it. Worst that can happen is that they don’t take it up and you lost all of 5 minutes of your life.

      • ACLU isn’t a valid civil rights group. They continually ignore the violations of my 2A rights even though the wording is real simple. “Shall not be infringed.” Doesn’t take a degree to figure that one out.

        • The national organization is crappy on the second but some of the state chapters are good on it.

        • One of my long-time martial arts training partners works for the ACLU. He freely admits (in private, at least) that their stance on 2A is hypocritical and outdated. He thinks it will change over time, but the current leadership is not enthusiastic about adjusting to a post-Heller world.

          That doesn’t mean that the ACLU sucks. In virtually every area but 2A, they work on cases based on a pure Constitutional view of justice, even when that makes them very unpopular. Even their historical 2A position is based on a valid (but stupid, IMHO) view of gun ownership as a collective rather than personal right, rather than some irrational “liberal” (ahem) desire to confiscate guns.

          I’ve taken him shooting on a couple of occasions, FWIW. Haven’t gotten him to the point of buying one himself yet, but that’s because he spends his meager disposable income on swords instead. 🙂

  4. I know in Texas, my CHL # comes up at a traffic stop when they pull my license plate #. Don’t think they have a list of my stuff, but if they do, I may become more prone to boat accidents.

    • As a Police/Fire/EMS dispatcher in Texas I can tell you that when I run a License Plate it only gives me the registered owner’s name and address and other such information. CHL is not associated with an LP. Now when I run your DL # then I get the CHL hit. It only provides the information of the Class (semi-auto or revolver) and when it expires. No list of guns you own.

  5. Just one reason why they hate private sales. Makes the roundup of guns a lot harder. I know FL has the CCW status tied to it, I was specifically asked if I had a gun when I was stopped. I asked why he asked and the cop was foolish enough to admit it was “in the computer that I carried” when he should have said he asks everyone that question.

  6. This is old news , komo also just released a huge map of where the highest concentration of people that own and carry .

  7. “Do the Seattle Police Keep An Illegal Instant Firearms Database?”

    There is no way a local city police department could have that information unless it was given to them directly by either the FBI or by the local County Sheriff’s Office that would have gotten the information earlier from the FBI during the criminal background check. I always knew that the FBI kept records (government does not obey the laws) and then I learned about the County Sheriff having records. Now, it’s the local police departments too! I’m really more surprised that over the years this violation of the law has not been challenged with a lawsuit. I have never bought guns in a private sale though the idea is something to consider for those still able to do so.

  8. Before everyone starts donning his tin foil hat, remember that this came from an autonomous comment on a website. Just because someone named keltec9 said it, doesn’t make it true. (It doesn’t help his credibility that he’s a kel-tec fan).

    I’ll give you an example: My cousin is a trauma surgeon over at county medical. Over a couple of beers last night, he was telling me about a patient who shot his balls off while trying to draw from AIWB. Turns out it was Robert Farago from TTAG. Unfortunately, they were not able to save his balls, and they had to be amputated.

    You heard it here folks. And since it’s on the internet, it must be true.

  9. The FOPA is ignored more often then the county speed limit sign.The ATF maintains a national registry of gun owners called Etrace,and what the ATF doesn’t track local LE agencies can access through their own state run databases like California’s DROS system.If your collection has a 4473 attached to it,assume the government knows about it.

    Here’s my theory on how the process works.The FBI can’t mantain ownership data,but the ATF legally can due to the FOPA passing after the National Tracing Center’s creation.Thus,owners data probably is destroyed at the FBI within 24 hours of an NICS check,but not before said data is transmitted to the ATF’s computer system.Feds then routinely inspect the processing FFL’s books to get name and address info,and shazam.

  10. We need more blogs like TTAG. TTAG reminds me every day why I hate this shit country and the hypocritical shits that inevitably intervene into my peace of mind, i.e. those who possess authority and those who enforce that authority.

  11. I have to be skeptical here. We have a person behind a registration wall talking about an anonymous source. This qualifies as an interesting rumor, but it’ll have to be confirmed.

    • Since this is right in SAF’s backyard, has anyone bothered to contact SAF and have them file a Freedom of Information Request to see if it is true

    • I live in Seattle, too. Those drones certainly show strong potential for use abuse, but on the other hand, they sure do look like fun to plink at with a 1200 fps air rifle, don’t they?

      Not that I would ever do such a thing.

  12. The man who taught my CC class is a former police officer and sheriffs deputy. He told the class that the sheriff’s department had records of his own gun ownership going back 29 years.

    • When enforcers obey the law then terrorists and rebels will overthrow them immediately. It’s not going to happen any time soon.

  13. Its OK for government to break laws. They are GOVERNMENT after all. If we make a minor infraction they fine the crap out of us and then use that as an excuse to take away our Rights.

    In my state of Pennsylvania, the police get around a similar law by claiming it is technically not a data base since it is not 100% complete because firearms brought in by people from other states or inherited are not in there. Dirt Bags!

  14. My experience having had a gun shop for several years and a FFL, is that the 4473 forms are maintained by the retailer and not mailed anywhere as long as that retailer remains in lawful business and maintains his/her FFL. The ATF has the right to appear un-announced and request review of the records (I’ve had it happen more than onece) and they’re only looking for compliance. Multiple handgun sales (more than one handgun purchased within a seven day period have to be reported. If and when a retailer closes his doors or doesn’t renew the FFL, then the forms are sent to the ATF. Presumably, and I have no reason to believe otherwise, the records are only used to trace a firearm used during the commission of a crime.

    Word to the wise, although you don’t have to keep a receipt or record of where you purchased a firearm, anytime you sell one, private party or otherwise, maintain a record of who, what and when, signature of receivership by purchaser strongly recommended.

    • Not only does ATF review the bound book (and other records) of dealers, they are copying, photographing or scanning records…. (They photographed mine) All bound books turned in to the ATF may be accessed for a trace, but not just for crime guns. A trace may be initiated for any gun recovered or OBSERVED by law enforcement – anywhere in the world. Don’t take my word for it. Check it out for yourself. If you were the first retail purchaser of the traced firearm, you will be reported as a suspect to the law enforcement agency requesting the trace. Every individual gun owner (and every retail gunshop) reported by the trace is kept in a separate ATF trace file. The more traces, the closer they look at you….. innocent or not.

  15. I certainly can understand and agree that CHL’s should come up for cops during traffic stops…but a laundry list of firearms one owns? That’s crazy, pathetic abuse of the FOPA.

    • Why? Why does LE need to know the person they pulled over has passed a background check? The people LE needs to worry about are the ones WITHOUT a license.

      This cross-linkage is just another hurdle to discourage the RTKBA.

  16. Gun registration schemes in effect before FOPA were not touched and remain perfectly legal. You’ll find them everywhere, from gun-friendly states like Nevada (Clark County) to unfriendly places like Massachusetts, where all transfers (even private transfers) must be reported to the Firearms Record Bureau.

    Anyway, it doesn’t matter. Richard Nixon once famously said, “if the President does it, it’s not illegal.” The same goes for the rest of our rulers officials.

  17. This troubles me since I live in Washington. We apparently give illegals drivers licenses and violate law abiding citizen’s privacy. We do have a constitutional right to privacy in the state Constitution so if this is true, it should be able to be defeated by a good lawyer.

  18. Well, the Second Amendment Foundation will be taking a look at this now since I just called them. So I’m hoping we will learn more in due time.

  19. If your following the law you have nothing to worry about. What do you expect when you fill out the paperwork for a CCL or when you buy a gun. Its done for the fun of it. Get real people. As USMCVET. said if the socialist gov. isn’t following the laws why should the PDs. If your going to get mad, get mad at yourself for letting theses laws on the books. The LEOs are just doing their jobs. Tell your state and federal congressmen(persons) to remove the laws. I have noticed that people who cry the loudest and most about something have the most to hide and are usually liberals.

  20. I can vouch for this. I’ve seen my own list in Southern Calif. They had some on there I didn’t own, and they were missing some, so it’s not perfect. Just don’t keep all your guns in the same place.

  21. New York State police can access the pistol license database on traffic stops.

    Then again the ATF works closely with local NYC police. It was documented years ago that ATF makes stops at FFLs, demand to see all the 4473s. They have a NYCPD officer in tow and both inspect the records. So all that separation of Fed and State or local PD is crap. It just doesn’t exist.

    The situation up north with our Canadian brothers is an interesting sidebar. After a decade of trying to record all firearms owners they came to their senses and destroyed the database just this week. Except Quebec that is….the communists that run Quebec see good things in keeping those records.

    • Since NYC and NYC Judges all Unreasonable search & seizure via stop and frisk, I figure there is no law that they would not violate. They like CA believe they can do whatever they want regardless of Federal or other laws.

  22. As a WA CPL holder, I do know that have my CPL linked to something, either my drivers license or license plate. I’ve had a CPL for a dozen+ years and I when I’ve been pulled over I think I’ve been asked every time if I have a weapon in the car. It took me a while to figure out that I was being asked that and others weren’t, and eventually I figured out that they clearly knew I was a CPL holder. When I got my Oregon permit, I was told point-blank that it’s linked to an alert system that notifies the sheriff dept of that county if I’m arrested anywhere in OR, and for what. IOW, it gives them the ability to know what I’ve been arrested for and potentially revoke or suspend my carry license ASAP. As for individual firearms, I have no idea.

  23. I hate to say this, but what difference does it make? Within 2 to 4 years all guns the government knows of will be confiscated. Obama wasn’t lying when he said he wouldn’t take our guns. His 2-3 SCOTUS appointments, Eric Holder, and the UN will do it for him. And if you try the I lost it excuse you may wind up in the tank until the gun is produced. Everyone talks about my tin foil hat when I point out the ground work that has laid for confiscation, but the death of the 2nd became a certainty with this fake being re-elected. There is no way around this. Even if you get barry impeached, would you feel any more comfy with a president biden? The rich began leaving this sinking ship a few years ago, some over a decade ago. These people see thing before we do and can act accordingly. The national anthem should be changed to “Bye bye Miss American Pie”.

      • I’m so sick of that tired old ****.

        It’s like someone going.. “HEY LIBERAL, LOL, WHY DON’T YOU MOVE TO NORTH KOREA?”

        • The reference to American Pie was to acknowledge that we let the constitution die hence the country is gone. Hope you shoot better than you read. And as far as being a Liberal. Your talking out your a$$. I donate to the NRA-ILA and the GOA on regular basis, write my reps ad nausium, sign petitions, and am an open advocate of gun ownership and only vote pro 2a candidates. Oh yea I also hold an NRA membership as well.

  24. They have copies of the FA10. They don’t have to keep a record of each person – they just have to datamine the serial number to see who the current owner is. This is child’s play to a computer, and arguably just skirting the semantic rules of the law while blatantly violating it.

  25. It’s not a foregone conclusion that Fedzilla will confiscate our guns, some folks will acquiesce when others, like myself, will say Molon Labe.

  26. All this paranoia from a city that has a “mutual combat” law in which the cops let-them-go if both parties agree. Go figure.

  27. Of course law enforcement knows you have a CPL when they run your plate. Why wouldn’t they? You had to “ask permission” submit to background checks and be “blessed” by the state, after you paid your money of course. In Mississippi, my CPL has the exact same number as my drivers license….wonder why that would be? In my state it’s not illegal, it’s regular practice.

  28. Some years back I was contacted by a Chicago Police Detective (I live in the ‘burbs) regarding a certain model pistol that I owned that was used in a shooting of an off duty Chicago officer. Well, not my gun mind you the Det said, but can we come by so that we can mark you off of our list? Various calls from the Det for a week or so, and consultation w/a lawyer made me decide to allow them to see said pistol to make sure it was not stolen and used in the murder (of an officer). Well they came by my home, was not allowed in and I showed them the pistol. The “list” was as thick as a phonebook, and my pistol is not so common as a XD or such. When I asked how they came about this info on me (as I purchased the pistol 2 years prior) the Det said we have all the info we need. As they do.

  29. Wow! It is simply stunning how much people know about gun laws that is simply not true. Guys, before you post expert opinions and legal information, please get your information straight.
    FOPA does not prohibit states or local governments from maintaining registries of firearms or firearm owners. It prohibits the federal government from doing so, or from doing an end-run by sub-contracting a state to do it for them. That’s where the convoluted “state or political subdivision” language comes in. It also prohibits them from providing the information to the states, but it does not prohibit the states from requiring dealers to report the information directly to them.
    Washington State records all dealer sales and maintains a registry of them – as do many other states. Doing so is not a violation of FOPA. It can be argued that it is a violation of the Second Amendment and state constitutions, but it is not a violation of FOPA. What is a violation, in my opinion, is requiring dealers to copy 4473s and send them to the state. If the state wants that information thay should legally have their own form, but since that is more hassle for the dealer, they agree to use the 4473 even though FOPA says they can’t. Unfortunately federal judges have taken the pragmatic view that since it is all the same information, why pick nits about the form…
    Having Carry Permits pop up on police computers during police stops is a common practice in many states as is a requirement that legal carriers inform police that they are carrying. About 2/3 of states have one or the other (or both) in their laws.
    I encourage everyone to become experts on their own state’s gun laws. If you don’t own a current copy of “The Gun Owners Guide” for your state, get one at http://www.GunLaws.com. Also learn the federal laws. They’re not that complicated, but can be confusing in their language when you get down to the small details. When you have a question, get it answered by a reputable source, not an anonymous poster on the interwebs.
    Jeff Knox, Director, The Firearms Coalition
    Columnist, Shotgun News, World Net Daily, Front Sight Magazine
    Son of Neal Knox, author and instigator of the Firearm Owners’ Protection Act
    http://www.FirearmsCoalition.org

    • My friend Dave Workman noted an error in my expert opinion. I should have specified that Washington State records all dealer sales of Handguns, not all guns. — Jeff

  30. Here is an explanation of how the State of Washington ( local LEO’s) get the info.

    http://eaglefirearms.com/?page_id=58

    excerpt….
    Washington State Pistol Transfer Form Information

    If you live in Washington state you should be familiar with or will be if you buy a pistol, a triplicate form (blue, yellow, pink) that you are required to fill out upon purchase or transfer of a new pistol. If you have your Concealed Weapons permit (CPL) you can fill out this document and pick up your gun with no delay or waiting. If you do not have a CPL, this form must be filled out in advance and there is a 4-5 day wait before the firearm can be transferred. The reason for this is that the blue copy is sent into the county sheriffs office where a state background check is run against the buyer. Even if you order your gun online the time you wait for shipping will not count against your wait period, because the blue form can not be mailed into the sheriff prior to confirming the pistols serial #, make/model and markings. Long of the short…get your CPL.

    I had an interesting conversation recently with a fellow who asked a lot of great questions about what the state actually does with all this data. You aren’t required to register handguns in Washington, yet they collect this form and keep the data…seems like the same thing. The big questions revolved around the data’s availability to the public, which is frightening.

    I’d like to thank the folks at the WA DOL Firearms Division for their quick and helpful responses via email. I was very impressed at that. Their contact information is on our contact page if you want to talk to them.

    Questions and answers below:

    Is [the information on the pistol transfer form] made available to the public either online or if they call in for it. Is it excluded from public disclosure?

    This information is NOT available via public disclosure, we are only allowed to release this information, by formal request, to law enforcement agencies, the individual themselves, or to a requester that has obtained a subpoena duces Tecum signed by a judge.

    If I purchase a pistol and become registered do I have the right to view this information to determine if it is accurate?

    A person can request information in the firearms database about themselves (only). There is a specific form that must be filled out and a formal request process that must be followed, to ensure that the information is being released to only the individual whose record information is being requested. That form is only available by contacting us. Once we the formal request process is completed we will provide a document that lists the handgun purchase history for that individual, which is mailed directly to that person.

    Also how long does the state keep these records?

    The hard copy of the handgun transfer form is destroyed after 6 years, just like the Dealer’s copy. However, the information in our database is never destroyed.

    I hope that this information helps, but please let me know if you have any other questions.

    excerpted from http://eaglefirearms.com/?page_id=58

  31. Of course the ATF purges ITS files every 10 years, but they cannot control what everyone else does with their copies of the information! (not their job)

    “No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms. The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.”

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