“Daytona Beach police Chief Michael J. Chitwood sent letters to gun shops across Central Florida asking for the names, addresses and phone numbers of customers who purchased [a .40-caliber Smith & Wesson Sigma series pistol],” The Orlando Sentinel Reports. “Police think a serial killer shot three prostitutes — and possibly another woman — to death using that weapon. It’s the newest lead they are following aggressively in the stalled six-year investigation.” Aggressively, eh? You might want to swap out that word for “illegally.” Not that it’s time to complain. Truth be told, the battle to make the feds and the states and municipalities maintain gun owners’ confidentiality was lost a long time ago.
You know that form you fill out when you buy a firearm? What do you think happens to those 4473s and the information you provide? Hell, even wikipedia knows that:
The dealer also records all information from the Form 4473 into their “bound-book”. A dealer must keep this log the entire time they are in business and is required to surrender the log to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) upon retirement from the firearms business. The ATF is allowed to inspect, as well as request a copy of the Form 4473 from the dealer during the course of a criminal investigation.
So why is Daytona Beach police Chief Michael J. Chitwood writing letters to gun dealers asking for customer data rather than asking the ATF to search their database (yes, they have a database) or swoop down on Florida gun dealers on his behalf? Because the serial killings are not an ATF beef.
Yes but— “Individual dealers possessing a copy of the form are not subject to the Privacy Act’s restrictions on disclosure.” So Florida gun dealers can reveal their customer information without blowback, if they so choose. Guess what? They so choose.
Several gun-shop owners contacted would not comment about Chitwood’s initiative or whether they had cooperated with the request.
But Scott Buckwald, co-owner of Buck’s Gun Rack off International Speedway Boulevard in Daytona Beach, said the Smith & Wesson police think is linked to the four slayings is a popular, full-sized weapon used for personal protection and target practice.
Buckwald said he received the request from Chitwood sometime in 2009 and allowed investigators to review his records because it was not a “fishing expedition.”
“For the most part, I’m going to always help law enforcement if they are working on a case and have specific requests. My records are open to them,” Buckwald said. “But I do think they are looking for a needle in a haystack.”
Nice to know your local gun dealer is deciding whether or not a criminal investigation is “serious” enough to rat you out. Although the NRA is bitching about this, no one’s asked the Chief whether or not he will destroy the customer information he receives.
Anyway, thank God the Sentinel is standing up for its readers’ privacy rights. Or not.
Complicating Chitwood’s initiative is the lack of a comprehensive national system of gun registration, something law enforcement has long pushed for.
Don’t you hate it when a criminal investigation gets . . . complicated?