Note to Antis: Tracing “Crime Guns” is a Fool’s Errand

Crips with guns (courtesy

Over at, Dan Rodricks penned an article entitled Enablers of ‘bad guys with guns’ hard to trace. Now I know what the gun control proponents will say: “just because tracing the source of ‘crime guns’ and arresting their providers is nearly impossible, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it.” If it saves just one life, and all that. The time and money-wasting-happy antis might even suggest that we go back to the firearm’s original owner and waterboard the bastard (paraphrasing). Create a safe storage law and get them for violating that! Like they have in Massachusetts where . . . it doesn’t work. Anyway, here’s the money shot from Rodricks’ investigation . . .

First of all, if a felon caught with a gun was the one who stole the gun — rare circumstance, [U.S. attorney for Maryland Ron] Rosenstein says — he’s unlikely to admit it.

If he bought it, he’d have to decide to cooperate with the feds or cops and give a name and an address, and that’s assuming he even knows the true identity of the guy who sold him the gun.

“Even when defendants cooperate, usually they either truthfully tell us they bought it from some unknown dude on the street, or they lie and say they bought it from some unknown dude on the street,” says Rosenstein.

“When a cooperating defendant gives us a name of the alleged seller, we have a lead but no useful evidence. You cannot prosecute anyone with just the testimony of an armed criminal who has multiple convictions, and usually a string of other crimes for which he was not convicted, and who is hoping for a lighter sentence in return for his testimony.”

While it’s possible to trace guns purchased recently from licensed firearms dealers, tracing guns from the underground market is much harder. “Most crime guns were probably last purchased on the street and no report was made,” says Rosenstein. “There is no way to know how many times they changed hands.”

I know! Why don’t we just forget the whole gun tracing thing? It’s an “extremist” idea I know, but the fruitless pursuit enables organizations dedicated to infringing on Americans’ natural, civil and Constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms. Like . . . the ATF.

But agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives still investigate such cases, Rosenstein says.

“Sometimes we are able to send the cooperating defendant in as an informant and make an undercover purchase of illegal weapons or catch the seller with illegal guns,” he says. “Successful cases are rare, but not because of any lack of interest or effort by ATF.”

Success is rare. And so is common sense.


  1. avatar Mack Bolan says:

    Success is rare. And so is common sense

    That is pretty much the ATF’s motto. Except in Latin. It looks better on the stationary.

    1. avatar ThomasR says:

      B- Brutalize
      A- Attack
      T- Terrorize
      F- Fire bomb

      B- Better
      A- All
      F- Falsified

      1. avatar John Thomas says:

        Federal Bureau of Autocracy, Tyranny, Fascism and Extortion

    2. avatar Roscoe says:

      ATF Mission Statement:

      Success is rare; so is common sense. We press on. Try harder, not smarter.

    3. avatar GuyFromV says:

      Prosperitas est rarus, et sic est sensus communis.

      1. avatar Ing says:

        Couldn’t you also say “Prosperitas et sensus rarus est”? (Not quibbling with your Latin; I’m just thinking of the letterhead here.)

        1. avatar explainist says:

          Cranium In Rectum Est

  2. avatar LarryinTX says:

    And I still do not have any idea how much this silliness costs us every year.

  3. avatar WhiskeyTangoFoxtrot says:

    Like the man on TV said, “Don’t confuse effort with results.”

    1. avatar SkyMan77 says:

      +1>>> “Never mistake motion for action.” — Ernest Hemingway

      1. avatar sagebrushracer says:

        heck a drowning man will try as hard as he can to swim, until he dies.

  4. avatar Chris. says:

    Personally, I think that’s a valid avenue of investigation – in the cases of stolen guns, How could they return a stolen gun to it’s proper owner if they don’t attempt to trace?

    1. avatar Shire-man says:

      Keep your own book of serial numbers, descriptions and maybe a photo or two. Relay that info to police when you report your property stolen. Then wait patiently to never get it back.

      I like using nm collector free version myself with the database encrypted and off site.

    2. avatar MarkPA says:

      The Feds maintain a stolen gun registry. ASSUMING that gun owners maintain an accurate record of their guns by make+model+serial# AND that they report stolen/missing guns THEN stolen guns would be traced more easily and directly through the stolen gun registry.
      Problem with this tracing avenue, a gun owner is apt to be negligent about maintaining an accurate record. Moreover, the skeptical should wonder whether it’s not a better idea NOT to have any record that might be discovered in a confiscation raid. Finally, the most skeptical gun owners will be reluctant to report a stolen gun for fear of being prosecuted for failing to report the loss (assuming the Anti’s get such laws adopted.)
      The Antis’ hostility toward guns has poisoned the atmosphere occupied by gun owners. That which we COULD do we WON’T do because it merely plays into the Antis’ hands of registration and confiscation.

      1. avatar Gov. William J. Le Petomane says:

        Any stolen firearms that were purchased from or transferred by an FFL can be traced by the 4473 as long as the dealer can be identified.

        1. avatar gbo says:

          ..can be traced by manufacturer records, (optional/multiple: distributor records), dealer bound book, THEN 4473 as as long as…..

          Fixed that for you.

        2. avatar Gov. William J. Le Petomane says:

          I was referring to reporting stolen firearms that you don’t have a record of the serial numbers. If you know which dealer to contact they will have the serial number on the 4473. If a firearm is found the police have to go to the manufacturer and follow the trail to the dealer.

  5. avatar TTACer says:

    “Sometimes we are able to send the cooperating defendant in as an informant and make an undercover purchase of illegal weapons or catch the seller with illegal guns,” he says

    “And when they don’t cooperate we send the FBI in to murder his wife, son, and dog,” he added.

  6. avatar Pyrotek85 says:

    Fool’s errand? Sounds like it’s right up their alley.

  7. avatar Governmentknowsbest says:

    Check out that sweet ass Hi-Point and expert pistol technique….I wonder how long it took for OG Thugsalot to get his permit…

    1. avatar Jordan says:

      About 10 minutes. John Q. Citizen is still waiting on his and he applied for it 6 months ago. Tells you who the local sheriff thinks is the greater threat. Doesn’t it?

      1. avatar Indiana Tom says:

        About par for the course with our commanding LEOs.

  8. avatar mike oregon says:

    Has anyone else noticed that to the far left, if your plan or scheme isn’t working, it just means that we must do a lot more of it? Then repeat.

    1. avatar styrgwillidar says:

      Well, one definition of insanity is doing the same thing but expecting different results.

      So, yeah, that kind of lines up with anti’s cognitive faculties..

      1. avatar DickDanger says:

        Did I ever tell you the definition of insanity?

    2. avatar JasonM says:

      It’s not an issue with the left, it’s an issue with anyone who has treats policy views with religious fervor. You’ll see it in the right wingers who support bombing the entire world until they all become friendly and the RINOs who support bank bailouts and cranking up the Federal Reserve’s printing press.

      1. avatar Jonathan - Houston says:

        Except, bombing the hell out of people sometimes does work wonders to turn them peaceful. See Japan and Germany, for example. Printing money and crony capitalism never work out.

  9. avatar Ray says:

    In every study by the DOJ and state police most of the “crime guns” traced (most aren’t) come from within the same state.

    1. avatar gbo says:

      That’s because most transfers across state lines must go through a dealer to be legal, especially when it comes to handguns. Criminals don’t want to run afoul of those pesky interstate firearm trade laws/regulations, right?

  10. avatar Bob says:

    ATF always wants to ‘trace’ firearms – through eTrace – which then identifies the original owner and dealer as ‘suspects’ in their database. This is completely different – and a completely different system – from checking to see if a gun was stolen. Stolen guns are not tracked by ATF, but separately by the FBI through the NCIC (National Crime Information Center) system. Do the two systems talk to each other? Doubtful.

    Both systems are based on serial numbers and there is no dispute that both systems are fraught with error. Partial and incomplete serial numbers can be entered, and false positive matches happen all the time.

  11. avatar James69 says:

    That damm crackhead Dave! He has gone nationwide!!

  12. avatar James69 says:

    NCIC for stolen guns unlike everything else are in there forever. So there is some chance you may get it back someday. Unless, it was used in a crime or the police who recovered it really,really like it. Hopefully, you had enough insurance to cover it.

  13. avatar mark_anthony_78 says:

    How dangerous can those guys be? The dog is still alive…

    1. avatar Indiana Tom says:

      The dog is still alive! Hey, they must be more humane than many LEOs.

  14. avatar Robert says:

    It’s very amusing how the line about public safety is always words to the effect of “if it saves the life of one child/dog/cat/house/gerbil”. However the basis for our legal system is that it’s better to let 100 guilty men go free than imprison 1 innocent man. (Obviously we are talking about the ideal, not the sad flawed human reality in which we live)

  15. avatar Chip in Florida says:

    So you can trace the gun back to Mr Dobbs of 123 Main Street. Big deal. He wasn’t the one who committed the crime with the gun so why does his name being available by serial number help in any way?

    1. avatar Jordan says:

      *Knock* *knock*
      Police: Good morning Mr. Dobbs. We recovered a pistol used in a drive-by. The serial number shows that you bought it 5 years ago. Can you tell us what you did with it? OR, “Do you own as pistol w/ serial # 123?”

      Mr. Dobbs: It was stolen 2 years ago.

      Police: Did you file a police report? (they have already checked and no he didn’t)

      Mr. Dobbs: Well no I didn’t.

      Police: Why not? (they are now very suspicious of him)

      Mr Dobbs: (I’m at loss because I cannot think of a valid reason not to.)

      Police: Were any other guns stolen? (This guy is sketchy. We should investigate him to see if something pops.)

      Mr. Dobbs: Well, yes and they were X, Y, Z.

      In this instance, police suspect that this guy might have unlawfully sold a gun to someone and will investigate appropriately (break his front door, kill his dog and put a rifle barrel in his temple.) OR they find out it really was stolen or legally sold to someone else and the trail goes cold.

      In order to trace crime guns, police need to do some serious leg work and get lucky. While a registry/ mandatory reporting laws would make it easier for police to follow the legal paper trail/pressure “suspects” for information, governments (all governments) have proven untrustworthy with such information, and it still would not provide any evidence to follow the guns path once it went underground. The only way you get that evidence is luck, stupidity of the criminal, and/or eviscerating constitutional protections.

  16. avatar JasonM says:

    Most crime guns were probably last purchased on the street and no report was made

    How is that possible? We have universal background check laws in several states now (including those with the worst gang problems). Is he saying that these criminals don’t abide by the UBC laws? I’m shocked I tell you! Shocked!

    1. avatar Ing says:

      But…but… muh background cheks!

    2. avatar BlueBronco says:

      There is an idea: “Universal Background Checks for Bangers and Criminals.”

      1. avatar John Fritz - HMFIC says:

        That is some genius right there. Josh Horwitz, pay attention!

  17. avatar Mark N. says:

    I’ve been saying this for years. The tracing exercise is entirely pointless. Most crime guns are stolen, straw purchases, or obtained from a family member. Although it is different in different areas, the “time to crime” is usually measured in years, and the original purchaser most often innocent of any crime. So why are we spending millions of dollars on this? FAst & Furious demonstrated that the only point, ever, is political.

  18. avatar DaveL says:

    One big way career felons get firearms is they get their girlfriend to buy it for them, which is of course illegal. So here’s something easy they can do: every time they catch a felon in possession, and the 4473 points to his girlfriend (or mother, or wife (hey, it could happen)) you either charge the latter with the transfer (knowing sale to a prohibited person and/or lying on the 4473) or, if they deny giving it voluntarily, charge the former with the theft, keeping them in prison longer.

  19. avatar BlueBronco says:

    All a “universal registration” will accomplish is set up a data base for confiscation at a later time. It is the Nelson “Pete” Shields Model that HCI and the Brady Bunch have been using for decades. Shields wanted to register ALL guns and then ban them.

  20. avatar Sixpack70 says:

    Let’s put people in jail for errors in a registry, because guns! That’s what a registry would boil down to when it doesn’t catch enough criminals with it. You just make more criminals.

  21. avatar Indiana Tom says:

    BATF was created in 1972 so guess who? Although it was part of the Treasury Department before this. FDR? Abolish it all.

  22. avatar crzapy says:

    I had a gun stolen around 2006 from a locked center console in my truck. I reported it stolen and 7 months later, after I had forgotten about it, a detective from another town called and said he had recovered my stolen gun from a drug dealer they had arrested.
    I asked when I could have it back and they said it would be after trial since it was evidence and that could be over a year.
    Month later I get a call from them again. Guy pled to the drug charges and they dropped the gun charges and I could come pick up my revolver. I was bummed the bad guy wasn’t getting charged with theft of a firearm and illegally possessing a firearm but was happy to have my gun back. It was even in the same condition as before.
    Point is, keep records and you can get your gun back. AND there is no need to do an illegal firearm trace because, as we all know, the government rarely even bothers prosecuting gun crimes.

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