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Over the The Trace, they’re tracing the number of traces performed by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (And Really Big Fires). But even the staunch gun control advocates at Michael Bloomberg’s anti-gun agitprop machine have a trace of doubt about the benefits of the process . . .

Every police department in the United States has the option to submit a gun to the ATF for tracing. Historically, many departments have submitted them only in high-stakes cases. A successful gun trace provides information on where a firearm was manufactured, and who first imported or sold it. If the gun changed hands several times following its original sale, police are tasked with tracking the weapon through its various owners.

That extra legwork can disincentivize police departments from submitting guns in low-priority cases for tracing. They say that learning the provenance of the firearm isn’t not going to help them get a conviction, or that they just don’t have the time to do the research and paperwork.

The words “why bother?” spring to mind — both for someone like me who thinks the ATF should be disbanded (saving taxpayers over two billion dollars) and for law enforcement agencies, who don’t. Bother submitting firearms for an ATF trace, that is.

Both The Trace’s article and the ATF itself are not-so-curiously silent on the number of eTraces that led to a conviction. What’s the bet you can round the percentage of bad guys jailed because of one of those 400k+ eTraces — not to mention the millions of eTraces processed since 1990 — to zero?

But getting comprehensive trace information is still important for the ATF. A trace that might not help a local police department could still provide the federal agency with valuable information about how the illegal gun market functions, or perhaps shed light on a gun store connected to traffickers.

Translation: the antis want ATF data to bolster their civilian disarmament jihad. Like constantly trotting out the number of Mexican “crime guns” the ATF eTraced to America. (The Iron Pipeline!)

A stat representing a small fraction of the total number of guns confiscated by the Mexican military and police, including firearms Uncle Sam donated to the Mexican military and police that somehow went walkies, and a number of guns the ATF knowingly allowed Mexican drug thugs to buy at U.S. gun stores without intervention.

See how that works? Or, in fact, doesn’t?

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  1. Tracing guns used in crimes IS very helpful to police. They can actually connect a gun used in one crime to a gun used in another crime, evidence that the criminal is a criminal. Police can trace a gun owned by a suspect to a crime the suspect thought he/she was too clever to get caught doing. Police can then use that information to connect the suspect and family members to murders for hire, or extortion, or drugs. Saw it all on television about police and prosecutors. Can’t put anything on television that is not true. FCC says so.

    • Ahem. Not. All that tracing does is tell the police who the original manufacturer is (if that info is not already inscribed on the gun in the first place), and to whom it was originally shipped/sold. That is IT. After that, it is up to the police to track down the FFL (assuming he or she is even in the same state), find out to whom the gun was first sold, find that person, find out to whom he or she sold it (or if it was stolen) and so forth and so on. Connecting one gun at one crime scene to another crime scene calls for matching bullets (a fairly accurate but not exact science) or casing (a uselessly inexact science, except for caliber) found at the scene. That process has NOTHING to do with tracing. The fact is that MOST crime guns are stolen, and the “time to crime” (from original sale to commission of a crime) is measured in years; hence, it serves no reliably useful law enforcement purpose. And it is virtually useless if guns are traded in unrecorded person to person (private) sales.

      • No, no. They can really do it. Watch Law and Order, or NCIS, or Blue Bloods, or Criminal Minds. Really. They show tracing all the time. The databases they use are really, really big. They even can trace expanded hollowpoints to a single gun. I’ve seen it all. TV shows are based on what is already reality in real life. Really, really.

        You just gotta believe.

      • Mark, while you are correct, you really should have read all of Sam’s post. The last two lines, “Saw it all on television about police and prosecutors. Can’t put anything on television that is not true. FCC says so.” should have negated the need for a /sarc at the end.

  2. Funny, as the ATF databases grow, the number of guns they successfully trace grows too. Who would have ever guessed that might happen?

  3. The article states that the ATF is actively contacting departments and asking them to submit traces that the departments don’t seem to be important.
    IMHO this move negates any credibility of future claims that an increase translates into an increase in gun crime.
    On the bright side if they’re too busy tracing guns they don’t have time to think up the next fast and furious or a sting using mentally challenged people.

    • You have to understand how federal budgets work; increased workload means more staffing, more budget. People are rewarded not for being efficient, but for the size of budget they control. Budget = bragging rights; credibility, power.

      So, as we have noted before, the ATF tells us they are too burdened with NFA applications, and to be patient. Now ATF is casting about for busy work, which becomes part of the backlog, and support for increased budget. But wait….an agency never asks for sufficient budget to actually reduce the backlog, because that would mean no need for increased budget. So, staffing and other resources are kept just below the level that would permit efficient and effective activity. This sustains support for larger and larger budget. The kicker is that agencies get to brag how efficient they are because they are succeeding without sufficient resources to really perform the mandated tasking. While simultaneously complaining that they are hopelessly burdened with inadequate budget.

      If that all makes no sense, then you are not a government employee. Not necessarily a bad thing.

      • All the ATF regulations, equipment, property, facilities, budget AND personnel will simply become FBI resources and employees. “It’s the Chicago way”.

  4. In the real world, they call this “make work”……………………………….. 🙂

  5. Read between the lines…the goal of the ATF is a computerized database. Recalling a Sunday morning news show. ATF currently has to slog through paper forms to trace a gun and wants funding to track every firearm.

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