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A former police officer who prefers to remain anonymous writes . . .

For those readers of this site who believe a firearms registry already exists, this won’t be a surprise. For those who have doubts, maybe this will show otherwise. I had a long career in law enforcement, working some interesting cases. One case in particular opened my eyes as to how all inclusive the NICS system is, and how long the non-records are recorded for record keeping sake.

The case involved tracking a bad guy before, during and after his deed. I’ll try not to lose you in the weeds here, but some detail is in order. When most, if not all police officers check someone to see if they are wanted, it involves both an in-state check and a nationwide check.

Let’s say you get pulled over for speeding. Besides checking to see if your driver’s license is valid, you are also run through a statewide database and the national database known as NCIC. That stands for National Crime Information Center. This is to see if that warrant issued in Georgia is still there since you moved to Nevada.

Each and every time a check is run, it’s recorded. And archived. They record who or what was checked, which agency checked and, if the officer is using an in-car computer, which officer did the checking.

The same thing happens if your car’s license plate is checked, or if a serial number is checked.

So there you are at your local gun store, buying that gun you’ve been eyeing and saving your money for. You fill out the form 4473 and wait while the employee calls his local state police or NICS. You are checked and so is the gun.

You are checked to make sure you’re not a felon or an otherwise “prohibited person.” The gun is checked to make sure it’s not stolen. You aren’t just checked locally, your information is run nationwide.

Both the gun and you have been checked virtually simultaneously, time- and date-stamped. Forever. Check and mate.

But back to our bad guy. He was caught by checking the NCIC database. We asked them to check to see if his license plate had ever been run or if he had been run individually by anyone, anywhere, any time. He had been. Many times, by many agencies. So was his license plate. We were able to use this information to help convict him.

Whether it’s legal or not — and it isn’t — I have no doubt that every time I bought a firearm after filling out a 4473, that information is now generating a permanent record. Somewhere. That’s why I try to buy from garage sales, friends, family, etc.

In my state, this is completely legal. No muss, no fuss. No fingerprints, no background check. And best of all, no permanent record created by our not-so-friendly government.

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  1. A good article, except the end.

    If youve ever bought anything firearm related online, youre hosed. If the NSA is tracking our search history for something as common as Google, dont think for a second those TTAG posts, emails, and Midway USA ammo orders arent logged. Who needs NICS when your bank statement ,Fedex/USPS/UPS ammo & firearm shipment records and your internet search history will suffice?

    • ^ This!

      Logs of transactions are simple, easy, and fast to update. Given the trivial cost of storage these days (a 1 Terabyte hard drive costs less than $100 and can easily record 1 Billion transactions), there is no doubt in my mind that search engines and major websites are tracking and storing everything. Of course our beloved NSA is recording all of those transactions as well which means government agencies can access those logs. (Alternatively, government agencies can simply use search warrants to get the data from the entities who maintain logs.)

      Keep in mind that I am using the word “transactions” in a very general sense. Any interaction between two entities, whether those entities are humans, search engines, websites, businesses, or agencies, is a “transaction”. And the transaction can be an exchange of data (who, what, when, where, why, how) as well as financial exchanges (money in exchange for products/services). Unless you trade something tangible in a face-to-face transaction, you should assume that Big Brother has a record of it or can access a record of it.

      • Now google “Automatic number plate recognition.”

        Not only are every one of your online moves cataloged and archived, now your physical moves are too.

        • They don’t really need to bother with the messy details of reading license plates. Everybody pays to lojack themselves already. For modern cell service to work the system is required to know where your handset is at all times to within a couple hundred feet. So even if you keep the GPS switched off or manage to stop it from transmitting to Google/Apple and every App vendor you have stuff installed from they still have a detailed track of where and when you were 24/7 going back to when cell service went 3G. Maybe the NSA already has a copy of that dataset, maybe they need a court order. But you can bet your carrier has it.

          Merge that, mine it, grind it down and they could quickly build up a total network map of who knows who, the ten locations any person could probably be found even if they did turn their phone off, etc.

    • All true, but there is a big difference between “we know this guy owns a gun” and “we know this guy owns this specific gun“. I’m no fan of background checks, but a list of purchases made at some time in the past isn’t quite a registry. That’s why the “boating accident” meme is so prevalent among gun owners – they can only prove that you bought it, not that you still have it, except in slave states that do maintain state-level registries.

      • In NY, other than NYC, there is no long gun registry. But since the SAFE Act, a buyer must go through a NICS check and the transfer must be done by an FFL. No more private face-to-face sales. However, I can still sell my guns out of state without NY State knowing anything about their disposition.

        Or at least, I could have sold them all out of state, had they not been lost in an unfortunate boating accident off the coast of Fire Island.

        • Form 4473 is a national firearms registry. Period.

          They know what you own, and when you bought it, unless you bought it from a private seller.

          If you’ve ever purchased ammo or any firearms accessories with a credit card, debit card, or check they know you own firearms, even if they don’t have the serial numbers.

          If you’ve posted on this, or any other firearms related site – that will flag you as a probable gun owner.

          Welcome to Total Information Awareness. This is why they need a giant data center in Lehi, Utah.

      • That is EXACTLY why when I moved from a “save state” (Michigan) to a then-free state (Colorado), I sold all of my previously registered handguns through private sales, and bought others through private sales.

        I will NEVER again register a firearm, anywhere, for any reason.

      • The “boating accident” meme is so prevalent because people think they’re smarter than the average bear.

        1. Any workaround we come up with to gun legislation is noted by state and federal authorities to be included in the next round of anti-gun bills. See California’s law passed during gunmageddon that makes it a crime to make a false report of loss of firearms.
        2. If they want your guns, they won’t take your lameass boating accident story at face value. They’ll kick your door in with a court order and turn your world upside down and sideways until they’re satisfied they have confiscated everything you own that is gun-related.
        3. LE are NOT going to side with you and your Constitutionally-protected inherent rights over feeding their families. Stop thinking they will.

        Get a clue, people

    • Yes, internet data-mining can turn up all kinds of info on you – much of it inferred. What the writer is demonstrating is that your name can and is tied to a specific firearm serial number. That is a much more serious, and actually illegal thing.

    • So the NSA knows I’m a gun owner? Whoopdie Do.

      I’m not afraid of an agency that can’t prevent terrorist attacks, but insists on copy and pasting the entire internet to its external hard drive in an effort to accomplish the first part of this sentence.

    • That’s why garage sales, estate sales, and private transactions were specified, and no dotcom was ever mentioned. If you buy a firearm for cash, from a man, face to face, no record is generated. A private bill of sale makes it a legal deal. Classified magazine and newspaper ads work too, but NOT DOTCOM ads! EVERYTHING on the internet is tracked, recorded, and put through algorythms looking for patterns. And, ofc, can be called up at a whim.

    • Proxies, an FFL who is family or a close friend, and certain other precautions are all that is necassary. Unfortunately, people who do not understand networking or how the internet work have attributed damn near mythical powers to the NSA after the recent revelations. Distrust and skepticism are great things, falling off the paranoid fringe is another thing all together.

      • I lost interest in the “NSA Records All Things” meme when, in a kidnapping/murder case in which cellphone texts were required to prove culpability, the FBI screamed bloody murder when they couldn’t get the owner of the manufacturer of a cellphone to get around the password. If the NSA did what the carefully-cultivated paranoid fringe said they could do, the NSA would have already had the text. As a result of that case, some sharp people did some investigation and learned that what the NSA recorded was not texts, but just “pen register data” — in other words, what number called what number at what date and time.

        Also, some of you unfortunate slave state residents may be linked, somewhere, some how, to the serial number of what gun you bought, but providing that data to NICS is not required by NICS: In a free State like Arizona, the weapon information plays no part in a NICS check; all that is required is the Form 4473 data, which does not include that information. And if you have a CCW permit, and show it to the dealer, the NICS check is not required. (Of course your fingerprint and personal data is recorded by the Department of Public Safety, but so what? They already have most of that data because you have a driver’s license, don’t you? And now, thanks to a federal thug Republican named Pete King, we have to have “Real ID” — which has the same information as a regular ID (no biometrics), but you have to show stronger papers to prove you are who you say you are, like a birth certificate AND another document confirming it, and/or perhaps a fingerprint. If you have a CCW, your fingerprint is already on file.

        It’s good to engage in private sales and purchases, but if you make a private sale it is to your benefit to obtain a copy of the purchaser’s in-State ID just to prove a reasonable attempt at “due diligence” proving a legal sale, or if the weapon is used in a crime. That being said, you can’t complain if the purchaser asks the same of you to prove he obtained the weapon legally. Thus the weapon remains traceable, and you have the right and justification to legally stand your ground against the jackboots when they try to make you a scapegoat.

        • Well, you convinced yourself to feel better about phones. But how do you feel when Roger Stone is arrested, and Apple promptly hands over *his* iCloud data without protest?

          Their inaction on a terrorist, then complete compliance on a political case… speaks volumes. That is chilling.

    • This is totally wrong. During the NICS check, the gun is only identified as handgun, long gun or other. The serial number is on the 4473 but is bit part of the check. FFL’s keep this information in their database for 20 years and are only asked to send a copy of it if there is a question down the road which is very rare.

      • You are EXACTLY CORRECT!. Data entered into NICS (Which by law is supposed to be deleted after one day) does not identify a specific firearm. It says: HANDGUN, LONG GUN, OTHER FIREARM.

        The dealer has a record with the data, but that information is provided only when ATF is “tracing” a firearm and requests it for that transaction. And to do that they begin with the manufacturer, a specific firearm and its serial number and trace its path through distributors, retailers, and the end point.

        • In Washington state they DO keep a record of the specific handgun info tied to the sale transaction…

    • Since any reputable online sales site you buy from is going to implement TLS strong encryption on the connection, I don’t think you have that much to worry about as far as the NSA intercepting the online transaction. Braking the sha256RSA encryption algorithm on a single connection would be monumental enough (if it is even possible). Doing it for every gun and ammo site on the net would be the stuff of science fiction (Person of Interest?).

      You have much more to worry about from NICS.

      • RSA has been broken for years now. It’s a fairly trivial matter for the government these days.

        And most of the other publicly available systems have either been threatened or paid for access.

  2. The so-called “universal background check” has never been about the check. It’s about registration. Just registration. The check is a Trojan Horse.

    • True. And thanks to our nearly cashless, wired society, virtually everything we do is documented. “No”, Big brother is not ‘watching’ you, but he is populating data bases. But when the time comes, that it is necessary to build a case against you, every purchase (booze, cigarettes, ammo, online purchases) will be cherry-picked to present a specific picture they want the world to see.

    • it was very unfortunate; the boat sank so fast…and it was at night so I could not tell where we were located. Such a shame. I’m lucky to be alive.

    • You know what I wish? I wish I could grab every single jerk-off who says their guns were lost in a boating accident and then beat on their face until all of my knuckles are broken.

      That is how tired I am about hearing about guns and boat accidents.

      Give. It. A. Rest.

      Everybody. Please.

        • Looks like John lost his sense of humor with his boat….. that sank… in a mysterious boating accident……..

      • That kind of talk might be rewarded with a 72-hour stay at your local mental health facility. You should contact your primary care physician and head the mandatory incarceration off at the pass.

        Local gun-nut threatens to bash faces in – story at 11:00 pm.

      • So, I shouldn’t tell ya about what happened when the zombies attacked my boat that night a few months ago and I lost all 12 dozen of my guns overboard while whacking those nasty green rotting things over the head with my tactical paddle? Except for those two old wall hangers over there, the takers can have them of course, I will just hang up a picture of my boat before it sank!

    • And I’m sure that totalitarian government will take your word for it. I’m likewise certain that they’ll just shrug and walk away, wringing their hands at your brilliantly thought-out loophole.

      No. That only works for a government that hasn’t completely discarded the personal freedoms of their citizens. Once they’ve taken that last, crucial step off that precipise, you nor your boat will be spare by such a flimsy excuse. At worst, you will be interned indefinitely at the whim of the state. At best, you’ll be in good company with Albert Einstein whose home was tossed as the brown shirts searched his home for firearms–

      Best of luck.

      • That is why I will have guns to surrender like a good little slave. The rest of my guns were sold to the guys who lost them in a boating accident.

      • You really think we live with a ‘totalitarian government’? I am sick of every person who spews such rhetoric because they aren’t getting there way politicaly or certain politicians have different views and support different methods towards capitalism.

        It is insulting to my grandparents who actually lived through totalitarianism as well as being insulting to people who are living and dying right now as a result of totalitarianism. You live in the U.S. and sound like a fucking cry baby.

        Every politician here is a capitalist but all approach the concept differently. Certain sides throw out terms like socialism and communism when the majority of them wouldn’t know socialism or communism if they were smacked in the face with the means of production. These words along with totalitarianism are thrown around far too often by people who haven’t gotten their way. It is pitiful and once again remarkably insulting to my grandparents who were reduced to ashes by fascism and totalitarianism. Think before you speak, paranoid asshat.

        • I traveled back in time to let you know that no one cares about your burned up Nana and Papa. No one. They died in vain because you cannot be a man and not a crybaby. So do us all a favor and move to the craphole communist/socialist/fascist country that was smart enough to weed out your weak willed and naive grandparents.

          Here is the interpretation for you, I’m sure you will need it. Don’t try and lecture me when your family has a history of not standing up to those who would destroy them. My family has a history of going over to those facist countries and kicking the sh*t out of them by shooting them in the face. So don’t insult my family by trying to tell Americans what the should or shouldn’t be saying. Got it?

  3. The gun is checked to make sure it’s not stolen.

    I’d love to know how often somebody actually fills out a 4473 when selling a stolen gun.

    • if you buy a gun from someone face to face in your state, and don’t know it is stolen, and then sell it later to someone else and a 4473 gets completed for some reason, assuming the serial number is intact. . . . yep, there you go.

  4. What the hell man?! You put a link to an FBI website on your home page? Thanks. Now my IP is logged on their log analytics with this site as a referer. I realize that’s just one of many ways we’re tracked online, but sending your unsuspecting readers to a fed site is just inconsiderate at best.

    • Get a virtual private network (VPN) that doesn’t log IP addresses.

      Many options available for low cost.

    • Only if you click the link. Looks like they’re running Google Analytics, of all things, though they probably have something processing log files too. Of course, Google shares with the NSA anyway, and so does your ISP, so you’re already screwed. Not even TOR is perfectly safe.

      • As a Silicon Valley software engineer, I know what’s what. All the supposedly safe ways of surfing are mostly BS. That still doesn’t mean TTAG should be putting links to fed websites without at least alerting users to the destination.

    • You must be going to the wrong garage sales. Mostly I’ve seen them at rural area garage sales but still I’ve seen them. Usually it’s something like a Marlin model 60 that some old timer has replaced.
      Long live second hand firearms. I only own one gun… Sold all the others. Legally!

  5. I do buy firearms from dealers on occasion. But only from smaller stores that don’t file the 4473 electronically. At least in my state, the ccw takes the place of running the check. An ATF agent would actually have to come and look through the file cabinet to see what I’ve purchased, if I’m not mistaken.

    • They do that, and they bring cameras and take photos of every 4473 ever completed. Ask your shop if he’s ever been audited by the ATF. If he has, they have a copy of every 4473 that he had on file up through the date of the audit.

      • Yes, they have started doing this [and scans] despite it being illegal thanks to pressure from the Obama administration the last couple years. My FFL/01 dealer’s ATF agent refuses to do it, but ultimately it’s up to the FFL dealer to stand up to them and refuse. My ATF agent doesn’t care with my FFL/03 (my junk is already in the system for these), but she has also made it clear she won’t do it.

        To everyone else worried about NSA/FBI tracking … seriously … stop believing everything you see in the movies and TV. I’m a IT professional of 17yrs, so lets be clear. Is the NSA archiving all global internet traffic for analysis? Yes. Is your search history easily pulled from your computer? If physically in front of it or they’re Google, yes. Can warrants be used to obtain information from any of these sources and used against you when there’s probably cause? Of course dummy. Assuming you’re abiding by the law, does the gov’t give two sh!ts about you and your cute kitten fetish? NO. Get on with your day and re-up your prescription cause you’re obviously running low on meds.

        • And with roughly 40,000 laws passed last year in the nation, and more on the way, it ain’t possible to know and obey them all even if you wanted to. Just like the IRS targeting conservatives, the law is selectively enforced.

      • Most of the firearms I bought were from businesses that have since folded up. So all those 4473 forms have been sent to BATFE many years ago. And I recall filling out paper work in NJ when I was still a prison…oh ahh…. resident and the officer on duty pulled up on his ‘puter every gun I owned, my brother owned and my mom owned. He marveled that mom owned a .44 mag. No boating accidents in my past, I have never owned a boat, but aliens came one night and took a lot of stuff. Keep in mind that every sporting goods store that closes is supposed to send in their records to the feds. In north NJ during my bachelor days (1970’s to 1980’s), that would have been Laneco, Pioneer Sport shop, River Sport shop, Dan’s Sport shop, Ray’s Sporting goods, Warren county Firearms, and a few others, all out of business. Stuff happens in 40 years. I suppose I can hope that my records got lost along with the IRS e-mails in some gubmint computer crash.

  6. Receive NRA junk mail via the post office? Gun owner.

    Have a valid state hunting license? Gun owner.

    Valid state CHL/CWL? Gun owner.

    Get spam mail from gun related things sent to your email? Gun owner.

    Ever purchase anything firearms and/or ammo related with a credit card? Gun owner.

    Ever post on a gun forum? Gun owner.

    Like it or not, the G has our numbers.

    • Too true. I’ve given up on hiding it. Besides I had to get an FPID and take the Police Cheif to court over a wrongful denial. That on top of the 4473, a hunting liscence, and my online ammo orders basically means there is no way to hide it for me. So now I just post it all up on Facebook and try to win some normalization points and do battle with the antis from time to time.

    • are correct. It would take..from the order to the eN esss A to ‘compile a list of likely gun owners’ to the completion of that meta-search, probably about a day, maybe two for a 95% accuracy list. Huh? what? Shit, you are right. That list is already in place. Embrace it!

      • The existence of that list might actually be one of the reasons there’s not much stomach for full-retard gun banning at the Federal level at this point. They pull together the list and say, “Shit, there’s eighty million of them out there!”

        I suspect that realization is why the antis have tried to move the fight to the cultural level, and to brainwash kids in schools. They have to get the number of gun owners down through attrition and changing attitudes before any outright ban has a chance of sticking. Unfortunately for them, shooting is a whole hell of a lot of fun. Which is why our greatest tool in the fight is taking non-gun-owners to the range.

    • Yep I bring up that unfortunate fact every time the discussion comes up about 80% lowers. Some people just like saying they finished their own, not my cup of tea but to each their own, but invariably someone starts to ramble about being “off the grid” or “unregistered” etc etc… hate to break it to you but unless you have bought everything with cash or prepaid Visa cards the gubbmint knows the make, model, and caliber of everything you own. If they check how frequently you buy ammo vs going to the range they might even be able to make an educated guess on how much ammo you have sitting around.

      Honestly there is probably a whole lot less red tape to hit your credit report and then query all of your credit card companies on where you spend your $$ than to wade into the murky legal waters of subpoenaing a gun shop’s 4473’s.

  7. .” The gun is checked to make sure it’s not stolen. You aren’t just checked locally, you are ran nationwide.


    • I’ve watched many times as the clerk fills out the second page of the 4473 with the info of the firearm I’m purchasing. Just because you didn’t put it there doesn’t mean it’s not there.

      • That info is only on the form. The NICS check is only on you. The only info on the gun NICS gets is what type of gun it is. The author doesn’t know what they are talking about.

        • There is NO check on the firearm during the NICS check. The only info supplied on the weapon is “sale of handgun” … “sale of long gun” …. “sale of other”. The name and description of the individual is checked and current state of residence but no address, phone or email info. The 4473 is maintained by the store by law for 20 years. Yes you can be tracked a trace check from NICS/ATF and they can get your info … The states that collect weapon info for registration purposes like Washington do run those people&weapon checks thru NCIC and is in their data base … bad guys don’t do 4473 forms that’s why they are bad guys they don’t obey the law … so what good are more laws they won’t obey ???

      • They don’t keep a record of the weapon bought, BUT every FFL from manufacturer down to the local gun store is required to keep a permanent copy of every serial number and who it was sold to. When they need to know who owns a gun with serial number xxxxxxxx they ask the manufacturer who tells them the distributor who got it on down the line to the purchaser. Then they knock on your door and you better have a good answer as to why you don’t have that gun and where it went after leaving your hands. They don’t need a registry….

      • I believe what Louringe was saying is that no gun info is given during the phone call begging for approval. The info IS there on the form though, y’all are correct.

    • The only info given over the phone is whether it is a handgun or a long gun, however exact descriptions and serial numbers DO exist on the 4473.

    • Article is wrong; poster is correct that only the individual’s information and the type of firearm are revealed. When you call into NICS, the only information about the firearm is whether it’s a “hand gun”, “long gun” or “other”. The FFL does not send the 4473 to the ATF, but must keep the 4473 for 20 years (and then promptly throw it away), and will not provide that information to the ATF unless specifically asked (i.e. a specific serial number) for an ongoing legal investigation. The only other way the ATF gets access to these files is if the FFL does something illegal or goes out of business… then records less than 20 years old must be surrendered to the ATF.

  8. Anybody thinks the .gov don’t know who we are is delusional. Our safety is our numbers. They know exactly how many we are and even if they allow MDA or other shills to pass bogus info about our declining numbers, they know the truth. And it scares them.

    A lot of people in our community have conned themselves into believing they can drop off the grid and remain undetected. I thought it was still possible til I googled a satellite image of my old mans place in rural KY. And there he was.

    • “Our safety is our numbers.”

      This is the key people! And it is why we HAVE to stand together. Don’t let gun grabbers frighten you with their threats about what they plan to ban next. They will ban as much as they can regardless of what we do. Open carry, concealed carry, magazine capacity, handguns, long guns, military style rifles, hunting rifles … the gun grabbers want to ban all of it. Don’t think for a minute that they will relent if we give up anything on that list. They will always come back for more. History and their own statements prove this.

    • I couldn’t believe it either. I could see the bird bath in my backyard from a satellite photo. Privacy is an illusion and people need to accept that fact sooner than later.

    • “Our safety is our numbers. They know exactly how many we are and even if they allow MDA or other shills to pass bogus info about our declining numbers, they know the truth. And it scares them.”

      ^ This.

  9. They have records of all our background checks and gun purchases but it took them 10 years to find Bin Laden. #gubmint

    • That had something to do with the fact that he was being hidden by the Pakistani secret service and because he used no electronic communications devices (computer, phone) from his residence. We, on the other hand, leave electronic breadcrumbs wherever we go.

      • yeah, 200 million crumbs.. 200 zillion times.. that makes a big azz loaf.. let em search it for those ” bad” crumbs

  10. If you’re worried about hiding it or maintaining some level of anonymity you’ve already lost.
    Embrace it. Know they know and dare them to act on that knowledge.
    The state is always threatening us into action or inaction. We should be threatening the state.

  11. Just took this off the NRA website for Pennsylvania Gun LAws… Nothing in the law allows a government agency or an agent thereof to create, maintain, or operate any registry of firearms ownership within the Commonwealth.

    • It’s not a registry it’s just a record of individual gun sales that is timestamped and can be cross-referenced with timestamped background checks. Definitely not a registry. Nope.

    • Which means only that they do not keep a record of what firearms you own–that does not mean there is no record that you are a firearm owner.

    • Yet the PA State police keep records of all handgun purchases, which are required to go through an FFL. I talked to a cop about this, and he insists that all those records are paper only, and piled up in boxes that would be almost impossible to search. I think that is how they get around the law, though I would be greatly astonished if all those records haven’t been scanned by now.

      • I work in the IT department of a medical university. If you think those paper records are safe, you are dead wrong. I have watched literally 100 years of medical records digitized in just a few years. A few high speed scanners, and a good keyword compiler will have all the data you need at your fingertips…in days. each scanner capable of digitizing 8000+ documents a day. That is, searchable PDF documents. 1000 scanners, 8000 4473s…8 million a day, and you know when a plan like this goes into effect, there won’t just be 1000 scanners. Take that data, work history, address history, financial history, online history, and you have a profile that is pretty damned detailed. Throw in a few search algorithms, massive high speed/high capacity server farms, and you have what amounts to a society on disk.

        Now, the resources to pull this off in a small time span are enormous but possible in our current stage of technology. Given another hundred years, there will be nothing about you that isn’t available to the right people, or the right price. It’s coming, and unavoidable. The question is, what will you do to keep it in check of being abused.

  12. The section about the gun being checked is flat out wrong.

    When we call in or use the e-check system, only the type of firearm is passed on to NICS or the State if they are handling background checks……An FFL if he has a relationship with his local PD/Sheriff could certainly have a firearm checked if it’s used and comes into his shop.

    I have heard that 4473 are being recorded during audits, I have not had it happen….yet. In the end, ATF ends up with all of the records anyway, If you close, you have 30 days to turn them all over.

    I am willing to bet in a round about way that they ARE build a registry but it will take them time.

      • 26 through 30 are to record (on paper) what firearm the purchaser is buying. That info doesn’t actually go anywhere other than being entered into the bound book when the gun is received, and then dispositioned (buyer’s info entered into the bound book, also stays at the FFL) to someone when it’s bought and gone. The only time that info would go anywhere is if the BATFE asks for a firearm trace on that particular gun.

        For instance, if someone commits a crime with a gun and the gun is later found by police, they’ll ask the BATFE to find out from where it came. BATFE will call the manufacturer, who will tell them where they sent the gun. BATFE will then call the store where the gun was sent, and ask for the info from the 4473 for the buyer of that gun. I say ask, but in reality the FFL must comply within 24 hours with the ‘request’ or risk getting in big trouble. The FFL will find the acquisition entry for that particular gun in his bound book, where he can then see who bought the gun (since the gun was dispo’d to the buyer in the book). He then finds the relevant 4473 (ensuring that fields 26-30 match the gun the BATFE is asking about) and sends all the buyer’s info to the BATFE.

        Not REALLY registration, but they can find who owns any gun that’s been sold through an FFL in the last 20 years.

        • Should that store ever close for any reason, those records are to be sent to the BATFE for “safe keeping”. Many of the store I did business with 40 years ago no longer exist, so I know the the gubmint has my list.

  13. Sure, I looked at his license! Before I sold him that gun. I think it said Portland, Maine.

    No I don’t remember his name, sorry.

    I don’t know of a law or regulation that requires me to keep that info for an in State sale to another in State resident.

    They may have a registry of sorts, but they do not have a lawful one. If they use it just once, how high do you think it will blow up in their faces?

    BTW, why do we have politicians and voters that want to disarm VICTIMS? I say the gun-grabbers, politician and voters that put them there, are the killers by proxy!

  14. I quit worrying about 4473s, and registration long ago. Playing the NFA game puts you at the top of the list. At least some of us will slow them down, for most of you. 😀

  15. As someone whom works at a gun store in Missouri, let me provide some clarification. When you purchase from or do a transfer at an FFL and that person calls you in the only info about the gun given to NICS is whether the the firearm is a handgun, long gun, or other (receiver, pistol grip shotguns, etc). They are not told the make, model, serial number, or caliber. That info is recorded on the 4473 but it is usually not sent in to the FBI unless they are performing a trace. And that happens rarely. In other words if your state calls solely into the NICS system and your state does not require any sort of permit for purchase, and you are a law-abiding, upstanding citizen then most of if not all of your guns ARE NOT registered. If you are buying a Mossberg 12 ga, a Glock 9mm, and an AR15 then the only info told to NICS is “sale of hand gun, sale of long gun”. They do not know or ask for any other info other than that. The only time this is not true is when a purchaser buys more than one handgun with in a 7 day period (and in the case of southern border states long guns as well.) If you buy two Glocks at one store or a Glock today and a Smith tomorrow then a multiple sales report is filled out with the buyers info and the firearms info.

  16. NICS never asks for serial number when calling in a background check. 22 states allow a concealed carry be used and NICS is never contacted.

  17. TTAG strikes again with an article written by someone that knows a little, but definitely not enough. “The gun is checked to make sure it’s not stolen.” BS flag out, penalty on the play!
    No, there is no check on the firearm at all. The firearm data on the 4473 is part of the dealer’s records and not transmitted to the ATF unless a trace action has been initiated (which they already have the info on the firearm, they just want to know who it was transferred to by the last known FFL to have possession of it). The only thing forwarded to NICS is the info on the top half of the first page of the form, the identity info.

  18. You’re also missing the most important point of all. When the NICS system was passed by Congress, they mandated that none of the transactions could be stored permanently by the FBI. The Feebies played games for a while about keeping the info on hand longer than they were supposed to and Congress responded by amending the law to order the FBI to destroy ALL NICS info w/in one business day. It’s a felony to keep the info any longer. And trust me, the folks on the Hill keep an eye on this.

  19. Serial # is on file with BATFE, don’t s**t yourself believing otherwise. My uncle WAS an ATF field agent, and has pulled 4473s to start gun traces. How do you think they know which FFL holder to get the info from? Inbound, and outbound log books are probably where they comes from.

    • It’s not rocket science. BATFE starts at the manufacturer, follow it to the distributor, then to the dealer, and finally the purchaser.

      That said, the process only works for a gun that was sold as new. Buying a used gun from an FFL generally has no trail. ATF would trace it to the original owner who would then have to tell them where they disposed of the gun. That may or may not lead to another FFL.

  20. this article is indeed, confirmed BS.
    As an FFL holder, let me help. When a NICS check is done, no serial number is provided. Firearms searches are a loooooong,exhausting paper trail to follow. the search starts with the manufacture, then to wholesaler, then the FLL, then whomever. You get the idea. Then its usually gone. unless you reported it stolen, and years later it may actually turn up again. Do not fear background checks.
    This article is just another in a long line of propaganda pushing BS from TTAG. Please, go back to publishing honest reviews, not taking ammo sponsorship that you wont use for accuracy testing, and stop this slide into irrelevancy.

  21. Sorry, but this article has an issue with accuracy. Maybe that’s why the former police officer remains “anonymous”.

    The article states:
    “So there you are at your local gun store, buying that gun you’ve been eyeing and saving for. You fill out the form 4473 and wait while the employee calls his local state police or NICS. You are checked and so is the gun. You are checked to make sure your not a felon or an otherwise “prohibited person.” The gun is checked to make sure it’s not stolen. You aren’t just checked locally, you are ran nationwide.”

    As an FFL / dealer in Illinois, we do not call in a serial number from a firearm when performing an individual’s background check. We only disclose if the individual is obtaining a long gun or hand gun.

    Now, if (2) or more handguns are purchased within a 5 day period, a Report of Multiple Sale form must be submitted to the ATF and our local / state agency with the serial number, make and model of the firearm.
    The Gun Control Act (GCA) of 1968 requires federal firearms licensees (FFLs) to report multiple sales of handguns to the same purchaser [18 U.S.C. § 923(g)(3)]. The sale of two or more handguns must be reported if they occur at the same time, or within five business days of each other. ATF Form 3310.4

    How many copies of the ATF Form 3310.4, Report of Multiple Sale or Other Disposition of Pistols and Revolvers, must be completed and what becomes of each copy?

    ATF Form 3310.4 must be completed in triplicate (3 copies). The original is sent to ATF’s National Tracing Center by fax at 1-877-283-0288 or by mail to P.O. Box 0279, Kearneysville, West Virginia 25430-0279. A copy is to be sent to the designated State police or the local law enforcement agency in the jurisdiction where the sale took place. The remaining copy is to be retained in the records of the dealer and held for not less than 5 years.
    Simple solution: don’t buy multiple handguns within a 5 day period.

  22. So after that “long career in law enforcement”, he never figured out the difference between NICS and NCIC?

    An NCIC property alert only reports something as stolen (gun, car, boat, lawnmower, whatever), if the reporting LE agency bothered to manually enter it into NCIC. That has absolutely nothing at all to do with NICS, the 4473, or FFL-01 Dealer records.

    This column was full of BS.

    • Yes it is full of bullshit. In Florida, FDLE runs these checks and they don’t ask what the gun is other than handgun or long gun. Its also a felony for any agency or group to keep a list of lawful gun owners or a registry of guns. Plus, if someone sells a gun oh well. If it is a used gun such as a colt 1911a1, it could have been sold several times over the years and be in multiple bound books or none.

      Plus, he makes it sound like because someone’s plate gets ran multiple times, it automatically makes someone a criminal. Many cops in certain town run people’s plates randomly while driving around. Plus there are automated plate readers.

  23. In a digital world, there is no privacy.

    Unless you plan on ditching your cell phone, never going online, cutting up your credit cards and paying for everything in cash. If there is a digital record, they will mash it up with some other digital database to profile and find you.

    The government does this as they say “to make you safer” Raise your hand if being digitally followed makes you feel safer?

  24. We are an FFL and we do background checks every single day. When we phone in a background check, the only information NICS or our state agency ask and are told is whether the customer is purchasing a handgun or long gun. NO OTHER GUN INFO IS GIVEN. No manufacturer, no model, no caliber, no serial number. It is strictly a background check on the purchaser. The 4473s are kept by us, the gun store, for 20 years. They are not sent to the FBI unless there is a denial or unless a crime is committed and the form is requested.

  25. I had often wondered about what exact info was transmitted during the 4473 process. Thanks to those that gave us that info here.

    • This isn’t accurate as it is different in various states. In Florida, you can be standing there when the ffl calls it in to FDLE. They read your DL, Birthday etc. That is it. No gun serial number(s).

  26. If you think the government doesn’t track all of us you are hopelessly naive. Especially if you are halfway honest. Do you think the gubmint is here to help? My son spends his days spying on people( DOD). And there are thousands like him. Whatever-believe what you want

  27. You say each firearm is recorded by S.N. and ran though the 4473. Well you are WRONG I’m a dealer they never ask for a SN they only ask what kind of weapon is it pistol, long gun, and other (this last group includes AR receivers).
    Also if BATFE does want to find out if you have sold a certain weapon they call you and ask if you have sold a certain make and caliber, if you have they will ask was one of those SN XXXXXX. If you have not the conversation is over. The only people who have access to the forms are employees and BATFE if they conduct an audit. Even then they cannot remove them from the premise and must be
    It is obvious to me you don’t have a clue what you are talking about. Some of your claims about NCIC are also incorrect. I would encouritorial staff to check tour cridentials closely.

  28. Am I a prohibited person or not?

    If I am, the serial number of my gun does not matter. ( Because I am not going to get it )

    If I am not, the serial number of my gun does not matter.

  29. Read this:

    then this:

    And we should “trust the people on the Hill who are monitoring ATF and NICS? Like they did on F&F? Benghazi? IRS? You know why Holder resigned, right? Here’s a hint; it wasn’t people on The Hill…

  30. NOT TRUE!!! I’m an FFL dealer in Florida and all FDLE (Florida Dept of Law Enforcement) knows is a background check was done because your buying a) a handgun, b) long gun, c) both d) receiver. That’s it. We do not enter any gun information such as the serial number.
    With that said there is a tracing system. If they need to trace a firearm they contact the manufacturer, they tell them what distributor they sent it to. Distributor tell them what FFL (Federal Firearms Licensee) they sent it too. FFL then searches by serial number to find who they sold it to.
    This goes for Florida and a lot of other states. Except states that have a registry

    • So, there’s still a paper trail. It’s just more complicated than one step.

      If they ever decide to do universal confiscation, all that matters is whether they can identify gun owners, obtain warrants, search houses and seize property.

      They already have all the information they need to do that. The reason they don’t is because they suspect the response would be “problematic” – hence the incremental approach.

      • They have to know to look at that paper trail. However, it isn’t illegal for a law abiding citizen to sell a gun to another law abiding citizen in Florida. So in a week or more, there is no guarantee that there is a trail. Florida law intends for it to be that way. Florida law states that gun registries and lists of lawful owners are not crime fighting tools.

  31. I hope all of those people who have a really hard time with their boat and loose things overboard have pictures of themselves on the boat and a state issued hull number for the time the boat was owned, before it sank!

  32. OK, so the NICS checks are logged. Credit card, online orders, etc. can also be recorded and stored, but as long as there are no UBCs, the government can’t know every firearm transaction. This is the main reason we all fight against UBCs, we don’t even have to ever buy a gun through private transaction to be protected by the lack of a TOTAL registration scheme because there are millions of people with untracked guns. As long as that is the case, confiscation would be extremely difficult.

  33. Ad in the free nickel:
    want to trade:
    one slightly used AR-15 for one of equal value.

    there. that should satisfy all the paranoids out there that feel like their gun can be traced to them.

  34. they don’t really care which guns we own. they know who we all are. they enter ID with every round of ammo you by, to verify age. all our background checks and purchases. They won’t waste time looking for guns ., they’ll just come and get us. we will be their guest untill any unpleasantness is over in the orange suit Hilton.

  35. I don’t understand the ruckus. Why get bent out of shape about them knowing I bought a gun, when they can just call up my states government and see I have a carry permit and a hunting license? Bam, rifle and pistol, guaranteed. I’d be willing to bet most people who commented this have one, or both of the aforementioned.

  36. This article is flawed. I’ve worked selling guns for FFLs for almost 20 years. When the NICs check is done the SERIAL number of the gun is NOT reported. The serial number of the gun is recorded on the 4473 but wether your calling it in to do the check or doing electronically. The person doing the check never gives the serial number only the type of gun ie rifle pistol or shotgun. The serial number sits on the hard copy at the FFL so unless the Government has figured out how to read minds the author didn’t not do his homework when he wrote this article or just made stuff up.

  37. “This is why I try to buy from garage sales, friends, family, etc. In my state, this is completely legal.”

    Which is why the manic push to “close the gun-show loophole” (translation: all private sales).

  38. This former anonymous police officer obviously doesn’t know jack about FFL operations in Florida nor the FDLE etc. What a tool.

  39. Misleading at best. When you do the background check, the gun is NOT checked. The type of gun is. The serial number of what you bought never leaves the store. Nor does the 4473. And by law, the FBI must destroy the records they use within 48 hours.

  40. The 4473 does not create a permanent record, at least not legally. Of course we can come up with all sorts of conspiracy minded nonsense as to how the state police don’t obey this law but we don’t truly have any reason, other than our distrust, to warrant this. In Virginia, and most states that I know of the state police are required by law to purge all checks after a short period of time. The only records that are kept are with the dealer and a warrant is required to access them. Of course we can all live on the lunatic fringe but as for myself I like to operate in the realm of reason, evidence, and logic.

  41. What the writer did not say was that the serial-number of said firearm is NOT put into NCIC checks when a dealer calls in the purchaser. The type of firearm is recorded, but NOT the serial-number from the ATF4473. General description….rifle, shotgun or handgun, is entered. NOT the serial-number of each firearm. That is kept on-site in the ATF4473.

  42. I think a lot of this hinges on how pliant state and local law enforcement is to the federal demand to TAKE ALL THE GUNS. CA, NY, CN, MA gun owners are probably screwed. TX, LA, AL, MS, not so much. Here’s a hint…move!

  43. I’m not terribly concerned about a gun registry. That’s not to say I approve of or condone one, quite the contrary; a registry’s only practical applications are to enable the government to perform prohibited activities. But when one gets created, it’s not a cause for great concern. Like my lack of concern for NSA spying, I am not concerned about a gun registry simply because…

    …it will have no effect on the eventual outcome. Flip to the last chapter: we win.

  44. I used to own a handful of machineguns. Bought, shot, upgraded, sold at major profit. Too much hassle, nowhere near to shoot.

    I still own suppressors though. I do them on a trust to bypass the state registry and fingerprinting and time wasted going up to the state police barracks which is now an hour away instead of the former 20 minutes (they’ve “consolidated” operations to a more remote, difficult to get to office).

    Maryland has a machinegun registry and a mandatory annual filing requirement in June. Plus ten bucks. Really, they make us PAY for the effing thing. Every year you make a list of the guns you bought, their serial ##s, who you bought them from (which I never reported, writing in “privileged tax information” which it is, NFA being a TAX regulation) and send the form in with your ten dollar check.

    So I was getting finger prints this very last time at the state police barracks for another can and stopped upstairs to make sure my name was off the registry of MGs. So I wouldn’t be getting the 4AM SWATZI wakeup call one day.

    Cop behind the desk said “yep, you’re good, no MGs, just shows you have 39 other firearms.”


    Maryland has this form 77R for “regulated weapons.” Handguns, “assault rifles” and such. You fill it out at purchase and a week or months (really) later, the FFL/seller gets a note back from the MSP stamped “NOT DISAPPROVED.” They know liability law at MSP. You can’t be APPROVED for a constitutionally guaranteed right, just “NOT DISAPPROVED” but this form gets filed in a computer and – apparently – never goes away.

    He began reading the list to me. I was blown away.

    There is federal law forbidding keeping this data – on a federal level – but the state keeps its own registry.

    I had heard years later from a friend – several other people too over time – that this data is shared with INTERPOL among other agencies. Friend found out about it by taking a gun into Canada and running afoul of a border guard. I forget the exact details, but he had to file a form to bring the rifle into the country for hunting which he hadn’t done, the guard told him he got the serial number out of their database which was tied in to INTERPOL. Gun was bought in Maryland. NOT on a 77r, cash over the counter. So who’s copying/filing 4473s? (ATF but that’s another story) Sounded paranoid but I’ve been told similar stories. over the years.

    But Maryland? Sure, and NCICS doesn’t keep the data when your friendly neighborhood FFL calls in to get approval (and ATF routinely walks into gun stores for compliance checks with copy machines in hand to make copies of 4473s), but we’ve had insiders tell us what we’ve suspected all along – the feds send that information to GLOBAL agencies. There’s nothing to forbid them from doing THAT, they just can’t keep their OWN registry.

    It’s an end-run on our liberties. It’s a loophole the alphabet agencies use with relish.

    UN treaty on firearms won’t affect us? Just wait. Meanwhile, you buy a gun in Maryland, the NCICS check is run – feds are forbidden from keeping that data in a “registry” but Maryland just sends the reports on their 77r forms to the feds and global agencies.

    Not paranoid, reality.

  45. I’m confused what this article is arguing. It starts out talking about how we do have a registry, then shoots itself in the foot with that last sentence. So clearly we do not have a national registry since you can bypass it by simply buying from shady people instead of stores that do the checks.

    The call for a national database is so that we know who owns every gun, then if that gun shows up at a murder scene we will actually know who owns it. This wouldn’t restrict anyone from owning or buying whatever they want, it simply asks for more accountability. Accountability and safety should not be tall orders for any respectable gun owner, if you’re afraid of accountability then you shouldn’t own a gun in the first place.

  46. Truth about guns? I call BS. This article is not accurate. I am a FFL (Firearms dealer). The gun and you are not checked and matched up when you buy it. The buyer’s background is ran, but until the ATF checks the paperwork that I retain, no one knows if you even purchased a gun.

  47. I’ve never purchased a single firearm through an FFL nor have I ever bought a firearm in a private sale that does a background check, or not for cash (no checks, credit cards, etc) and to date not a single firearm of mine has been involved in a crime!

    Also have managed to not purchase a single round of ammo, or the self- loading materials with anything other than cash.

    I’ve also never registered or licensed any of my arms, so other than my posts that I own guns and ammo not a single local, state or federal government agency has any idea on any specific items I do or do not own. In 31 years I’ve managed to keep my collection details private, and having been a resident of New York for 46 years and living under it’s unenforceable unconstitutional laws.

  48. State of Michigan doesn’t require NICS checks for CPL holders. No data match.

  49. The information in this is so bad it should never have left the cutting room floor.
    More crap floating the internet with wrong information.

    Why you ask, well the main reason, just because a background check was done does not mean a purchase was made.
    According to this, you can have 234 checks done and own 2 firearms
    How does that make a registry?

    “I’m a cop so I know”

    Speaking to a room full of people who claim cops have no grasp of how the law works.
    Hard eye roll to this article.

  50. There’s some questionable information in this article. I’m a former FFL (in Illinois). For each transfer, we (of course) ran a NICS check. This check only used the buyer’s information, not the gun’s. Thus, there is no linkage from buyer to gun from a background check, as he says here:

    “You fill out the form 4473 and wait while the employee calls his local state police or NICS. You are checked and so is the gun. You are checked to make sure your not a felon or an otherwise “prohibited person.” The gun is checked to make sure it’s not stolen. You aren’t just checked locally, you are ran nationwide.

    Both the gun and you have been checked virtually simultaneously. Time and date stamped. Forever. Check and mate.”

    I’d say that weakens this argument a bit. The linkage from buyer to gun is still available, but only through the FFL’s 4473s. That is very different from a national registry.

  51. Just got a call form an FBI agent in Georgia, a gun [pistol] supposedly registered to me [bought 5 yrs ago] was recently used in a robbery. Agent asked if I had sold gun or reported it stolen – NO. I was the last registered owner per ATF records. I still own the pistol and had all my paperwork to prove it was legally purchased. The ATF database had my last name misspelled and the pistol regi number incorrect. The FBI was looking at a gun with 1 serial number different than mine. My paperwork, records and state pistol permit all matched name, address, make, serial number,etc . It was the ATF database that was in error. Once I sent info and pics of my paperwork – the FBI agent was very courteous and said he would let me know where the mix up was. At first I thought it was a scam – but phone number in Georgia and knowing all the details of the 5 yr old purchase was way more info than anyone other than ATF would know. They NEED to be able to trace guns used in crimes but it’s scary to think the ATF database might be corrupted???

    • While the ATF may have contacted you and had details of the purchase, that doesn’t mean they have a database with that information. They don’t! Rather, the ATF knows which FFL (it may have been a store) the original gun purchase went through. The ATF calls them up and asks for the information on the 4473 form you filled out. This has the buyer information, serial #, date of transfer, etc. Then they contact that person listed on the 4473. In your case, at least to some degree, he error was made by whomever you received the gun from.

  52. This article falls flat on reality. In states like CA where all firearms are registered to the purchaser throught the DROS process, 100% true. This is not done however in relation to the 4473 or the NICS when done in a “free state”. They simply get a thumbs up or down to approve a firearm transfer. No knowledge of the specific firearm is transmitted at that moment. The writer if full of BS on that. The NICS transaction is supposed to be expunged withing 24 hours, but we all know all electronic transactions are stored somehere forever. In a free state, they will likely know, nationally, if a firearm has ever been transfered, but not specifically how many or the makes, model or S/Ns. Information on the 4473s Only leaves the dealers file If the firearm is specifically traced by the atf’s trace center, as in it shows up at a crime scene Or if the dealer goes out of business. In the latter they must ship all the 4473s to the atf trace center so they would be able to perform traces at some point in the future. Lots of speculation has revolved around the possibility of them entering them at that time into a searchable database. I don’t think they are supposed to legally, but have they ever or do they? Fact is they by have it in there hands Unless the dealer has been in business over 20 years. Only in that case can those over 20 old 4473s be legally destroyed so nobone ever knows of the transfer. And of course only for free states where no registry exists.

  53. Individually, this could be problematic, but in the big picture nationally not so much.

    Some quick paper napkin calculations get you to the big picture
    2018 statistics (approximate #s rounded to the nearest 100,000)
    U.S. family households: 127.6 million
    Percentage of household that admit to having guns in the home 43%
    43% of 127.6 million = 54.9 million
    The average size of U.S household: 3.14 people
    Percentage of population over the age of 18: 76%
    76% of 3.14 people = 2.4 adults per household
    54.9 million homes with 2.4 adults = 131.8 million adults with ready access to more than 400 million small arms
    (3 guns each on average)
    Federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies around the United States, estimated between 750,000 and
    The United States has approximately 1.3 million active-duty troops, with another 865,000 in reserve
    850,000 + 1,300,000 + 865,000 = 3 million(ish) Military and law enforcement members with access to (approx) 5 million small arms
    There are roughly 40 of us (3 guns each on average) for every 1 of them (1.66 guns each) if they could bring every troop member home to fight.
    even if we only have 3% that will fight back we still outnumber them by 1 million fighters

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