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More than a year ago, TTAG noticed that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (and Really Big Fires) was subverting the very gun laws it was sworn to uphold (enabling straw purchases from Badger Guns). And then drug thugs wielding ATF-enabled firearms murdered U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry. Between now and then there was talk of disbanding the ATF. If only. As we wait for the denouement of the showdown between Congress and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder over Operation Fast and Furious, it’s important to remember that the ATF is profoundly anti-gun rights and fundamentally corrupt. Our man Ike sent us a not-so-subtle reminder [also posted at] by parsing a press release from the ATF public information office . .

Alaskan Congressman Don Young met with ATF Deputy Director Tom Brandon [above] on May 18, 2012. Congressman Young had sent a letter on April 24 which called on the ATF to explain why its agents had been visiting Alaskan gun dealers and asking for copies of their gun sale records . . .

During today’s meeting Deputy Director Brandon assured me that this is not an accepted practice at the ATF…

Mr. Brandon also used the meeting as an opportunity to affirmatively state that ATF has never maintained a database of lawful firearms owners; is not permitted by law to create and maintain such a database; and has no intention whatsoever of collecting any information for such a database.

These are absolute, bald-faced lies. ATF has been copying FFL Bound Books for years – with or without FFL permission. During annual compliance inspections in other states, FFL dealers have reported that ATF industry operations investigators (IOI) brought in digital cameras and photographed the entire dealer “Bound Book” without permission of the FFL holder. Other dealers reported investigators brought in digital scanners and scanned portions of the Bound Book – line by line. Of course, the Bound Book contains the dealer’s full record of lawful firearm sales transaction records.

ATF has never maintained a database of lawful firearms owners“? Oh, yeah? What about this:

The ATF Firearm Tracing System (eTrace) provides manual & automated data retrieval of lawful firearms owners and transactions from the following sources:

1. All previous firearms traces from all sources,
2. Dealer, Importer, and Manufacturer computer, paper or microfilm “Bound Book” Out-of-Business records (including digital files required by ATF Ruling 2008-2),
3. Dealer “Bound Book” records (computer and/or paper) copied or photographed by ATF during annual inspections.
4 ATF Form 4473 from dealers copied or photographed during annual inspections and in Out-of-Business records.
5. Multiple Firearm Sales reports (ATF F 3310.4)
6. Traditional trace phone calls to the manufacturer, distributor and final selling dealer,
7. Additional data sources, such as some state firearms sales records as required by state law or policy.
8. Dealer “Bound Books” over 20 years old voluntarily sent in to ATF, including some antique firearms allowed to be entered in “Bound Books”.
9. Stolen firearms reported to ATF (Not NCIC).
10. System 2000 automated retrieval system from manufacturers, importers and distributors (100 companies as of 2010)
11. Certain firearms dealers required by ATF to report certain used firearms transaction to ATF for entry into the Firearms Tracing System.
12. For every firearm reported stolen to the NCIC stolen firearms database, New Jersey now automatically submits a trace to ATF (NJ Trace System). ATF is reported as working on a similar program.
13. Some state firearm registration systems are being loaded into the ATF tracing system.
14. In a press release, New Jersey admits tracing (from police records) all of private gun purchases into the ATF Firearms Tracing System through eTrace. By state law, New York and Connecticut also require tracing of all such private purchase firearms.
15. ATF hired private consultants to catalog information on firearms and submit trace requests from police departments to ATF.
16. ATF has imposed a requirement (pilot project) to report all dealer multiple sales (2 or more) of all semi-auto rifles with a detachable magazine greater than .22 caliber. (Currently restricted to California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas – border states with Mexico). This requirement
includes 100 year old Model 1907 Winchester rifles, WWII M1 Carbines, German G43 rifles, FN 49 rifles, and many other historic firearms of primary
interest to collectors which are not known to be used by Mexican drug catels. Over 7,000 lawful firearm sales reported to date.

This is not an inclusive list, as other sources exist.

Lawful firearms owners and transaction records are held in the following ATF databases at ATF’s National Tracing Center in Martinsburg, West Virginia:

1. Multiple Sale Reports. Multiple handgun sales reports (ATF F 3310.4 – a registration record with specific firearms and owner name and address). Reported as 4.2 million records in 2010.

2. Suspect Guns. All guns “suspected” of being used for criminal purposes but not recovered by law enforcement. This database includes (ATF’s own examples), individuals purchasing large quantities of firearms (including collectors of older firearms rarely used in crime), and dealers with “improper” record keeping. May include guns “observed” by law enforcement in an estate, or at a gun show, or elsewhere. Reported as 34,807 records in 2010.

3. Traced Guns. Detail results from all traces, no matter how innocent. A total of 4 million trace records since inception. This is a registration record of lawful firearm owners which includes Name and Address of the first retail seller and Name, Address and personal information for the first lawful purchaser. This information is fully reported to the requesting agency – including corrupt Mexican, Central American, and South American Police.

4. Out of Business Records. Data is manually collected from paper Out-of-Business records (or input from computer records) and entered into the trace system by ATF. These areregistration records, indexed by serial number, which include name and address, make, model, serial and caliber of the firearm(s), as well as data from the 4473 form – in digital or image format. In March, 2010, ATF reported receiving several hundred million records since 1968.

5. Theft Guns. Firearms reported as stolen to ATF. Contained 330,000 records in 2010. Contains only thefts from licensed dealers and interstate carriers (optional). Does not have an interface to the FBI’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC) theft data base, where the majority of stolen, lost and missing firearms are reported.

ATF holds hundreds of millions of lawful firearm owner and sale transaction records.

And Mr. Brandon has the gall to say, “ATF has never maintained a database of lawful firearms owners“? Really? Is the above information wrong?

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  1. In April there was a shooting in NYC, one of the guns was traced between midnight and 8 am on a Sunday. I asked the question on this post, how can the gun be traced so quickly on a weekend. Now I know.

  2. “ATF has never maintained a database of lawful firearms owners“? That statement is true because they do not have a Database at the ATF specifically called “ATF Database of Lawful Firearms Owners” or ATF DOLFO. Since is NOT called this specifically, it doesn’t exist. I have never believed that there were no databases maintained by the ATF. Anyone who believes that the ATF does not know who the gun owners are and how many guns they have and a general sense of how much ammo they also have on hand is living in a fantasy world.

  3. IF the ATF/Justice/FBI/other government does not keep a list THEN why do they require more than the ID of the person submitting to a criminal background check? Why does the check also require the make, model #, and the individual serial number of the gun the person wants to buy?

    There is a list. A very big long detailed list.

  4. The ATF’s dodge with regard to Etrace is that because it was established as a paper registry before the FOPA outlawed domestic registries in 1986, its “legal” via a grandfather clause. Think pre-ban gun registry.

    At this point, the 4473’s are essentially showpiece documents. The Feds have so many ways to add firearms to the Etrace system that unless you make a firearm in your basement-legal in some places, BTW-its probably on paper. Ironically there’s no mention of Law Enforcement firearms in that list, so if one comes across an ex-police handgun or rifle it may very well not be in the database.Something to think about, come the next occasion to buy a gun.

  5. The AFT has more info about gun owners and their guns than the IRS has about taxpayers. Is that really such a surprise?

    • Maybe that’s why Admiral Yamamoto is said to have feared “a rifle behind every blade of grass.”

  6. @ matt: That any government agency would make available the personal information of our citizens (USA) to foreign governments makes me sick.

  7. When you have background check before purchasing a firearm, where did you think that record went.? Paranoia runs deep, and on many paths. This is beginning to sound like, “I want laws, but not for me”. You want Federal Gun Right Law, reciprocity in every state, but expect anonymity? People, let me splain summtin to youse, you bring the Feds in, and they own you.

    • Good point. For decades the lefty-persuaded folks tried to nationalize every conceivable pet right they could, whether abortion or criminal due process, you name it. Then suddenly there was (in their minds) a conservative majority on the Supreme Court, and states weren’t such a bad idea after all. If you want always want to use the biggest stick available, it’s good to make sure no one else can take it away from you.

  8. *People who think we do not have Gun Registration in the USA are dreaming. Heck, wait until you get to the State CCW and Hunting License databases the states throw out to everyone.

  9. Patrick Henry’s solution would answer the sneaky registration plots: “The great object is that every man be armed….” Let’s do our level best to make every able citizen armed. Then registration is mostly pointless. Though I suppose the more exotic weapons would still catch the federales’ eye. Which was likely one motivation for the furious SNAFU.

  10. This last year the ATF came and confiscated my weapons and lawful permit, I’m a law abiding, grandmother who was watching my grandson (3yrs) and have been a carrier for over 15 years. No criminal history, not even a parking ticket. The ATF has gone from regulator to prosecutor without due process. I couldn’t even get the NRA to help. No one is safe. The quote”from my cold.dead hands” don’t work when your outgunned with a toddler.

  11. @Marie-
    Please tell us more of your ATF story. Details matter, and will help us understand ATF acts (not just potential threats).

  12. The problem is there is no understanding the ATF acts. I live in the Midwest and this rouge agency can do whatever they want with no accountability. I’ve called all my legislatures, representatives for amendment rights, even attorney’s wouldn’t take on
    the ATF. I am still waiting from the ATF division office and Department of Justice to answer my questions. Even the Department of veterans affairs won’t help. My pleas for help were sent to the main office in DC. They just referred me to the office for my state, and they said they couldn’t help either. I’ve learned unless u have money, you don’t exist and aren’t worth representing. I hope to get my information out to the public, so others like myself, underrepresented, can be heard.

    • @Marie so the ATF literally walked up to your door and said give us your CCL and firearms? Without any specific rhyme or reason? Because thats how its sounding to us, you gotta give us more details so some of us can understand….

  13. Of course they got a search warrant saying I was in unlawful possession of firearms. The courts, even though Ive had no priors, no criminal history, they said “someone reported to them I was not suppose to have any weapons” I asked them why and who would report that to them. The ATF said they do not reveal their sources. That was the only.information I got while.they.physically searched me and my toddler grandson’s diaper. I.asked.them with all the other priorities in the state including gangs, illegal.immigration, etc. Why was I the.priority. They just kept repeating I was in unlawful.possession and took all my weapons, ammo. And my.feelings of safety in my own home. I wasn’t even carrying when they came to my house.

  14. my wife brought our daughter to her doctor ,in talking she ask if you husband has any hobbies. My 5 year old said daddy has guns. The Dr. Freaked out saying we are being reported to the police,DHHS,etc and put in a child gun registry. The next day my wife went back with proof Maine is a non reporting state and its illegal to report us she asked if she wanted us to sue. She apologized and end of problem what was worse is the number of mandatory reporting states of a doctor on a patient, no privacy rights . Look it up it will scare you.

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