“ATF Admits To Secret Database Of “Nearly One Billion Gun Records”
Zero Hedge by Tyler Durden; Monday, Jan 31, 2022 – 09:40 PM
What a bomb shell headline – must be a conspiracy theory, huh?
Nope! That’s not me in the photo, or the author of the headline…besides the hat just isn’t my style, but!!!!!! There sure is a lot of confusion about firearm records, record keeping and databases. I’ll attempt to add some clarity.
This tid-bit of news appeared in The Washington Free Beacon1 and many newsy websites2 on Monday, Jan 31. It may sound like conspiracy theory to some but could well be a future reality considering the progressive nature of the times.
Many of my past customers and students shared the belief (or fear) that their firearm(s) are part of an existing “registration” of gun owners. While that point maybe, historically speaking, debatable, the future of having such a Federal Registry certainly could become reality. As recent as this past November, our President indicated as such, with recent actions by the ATF seemingly having such focus.
Gun control, registration, and eventual confiscation is by no means a new topic. FDR was once called the “father of gun control” for his actions following the gangster days in the early 20th century. In 2019 a Washington Post article3 stated; “In response [to gangland gun violence], President Franklin D. Roosevelt was pressing Congress to act on his ‘New Deal for Crime’, specifically a bill officially called the National Firearms Act of 1934. Informally, it was known as the “Anti-Machine Gun Bill”. His actions in the ‘30s were in response to rum running and gangland violence. Sound familiar? Same song, different verse!
A good starting point for this discussion may be a timeline and some facts:
Chronology of Gun Control4
- The original 1934 National Firearms Act (NFA) established registration of machine guns, short-barreled shotguns, and other “heavy” weapons.
- In 1938 the Federal Firearms Act of 1938 established what we now know as an “FFL” or Federal Firearms Licensee. The intent was to keep certain individuals (i.e., convicted felons) from purchasing firearms.
- The Gun Control Act (GCA) and Omnibus Crime Bills of 1968. Both bills dealt broadly with sale of automatic weapons, interstate sale of firearms and ammunition, and travel by gun owners, among other items. The GCA was essentially a re-write and revision of the 1938 NFA. The FFL as we know it today had its origins with this act.
- 1986 – The Firearm Owners Protection Act (FOPA). One important piece of the FOPA (Federal Law 18 U.S.C. 926) contained some relevant & specific language about government rule making, banned the sale of fully automatic firearms to the public. and mandated ATF approval of any automatic firearm transfers. Regarding record keeping it contained some very specifically language relevant today. It states in part:
“No such rule or regulation prescribed [by the Attorney General] after the date of the enactment of the Firearms Owners Protection Act may require that records required to be maintained under this chapter, or any portion of the contents of such records, be recorded at or transferred to a facility owned, managed, or controlled by the United States or any State or any political subdivision thereof, nor that any system of registration of firearms, firearms owners, or firearms transactions or disposition be established.”.
- In 1993 “The Brady Bill” established what we now know as the “NICS” check, or the instant background check program, requiring background checks on most firearm purchases. Expansions of this rule are referred to as “Universal” Background Checks.
- In 1994 a Federal Assault Weapons Ban was implemented, banning firearms “which looked like” assault weapons (military) and large capacity magazines. The bill contained a sunset clause after 10 years and expired a natural death in 2004.
FFL & Record keeping5
- Prior to the 1968 Gun Control Act, the ATF had operated under numerous governmental departments, acting mainly as a taxing authority on items such as whiskey, tobacco, and firearms. It further laid out provisions and responsibilities of the department and restructured the requirements, and operating rules for Federally licensed firearm dealers, or FFLs.
- Following along with the 1968 provisions of the GCA, the ATF was moved from being a department within the Internal Revenue Service and became a standalone agency of the Department of Treasury, where it resided until 2002 with the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security.
- FFL Responsibilities: Your friendly, neighborhood gun store’s operations of selling firearms are required to hold a federally issued license (FFL) and are (my opinion) more heavily regulated than any other business in the United States. A few of the operational requirements for an FFL are:
- Maintain ongoing records of all firearm transactions (sales, repairs, trades, etc.) using an AFT approved “Bound Book”, or its computerized equivalent.
- Sales of all firearms, from store or personal inventory, or by consignment, must be recorded using the ATF form 4473. The 4473 form dates to the GCA of 1968 and was first implemented in 1972.
- The 4473 form does not replace the NICS background check, but rather must show the purchaser information and approval or denial of a potential purchase.
- Once completed, regardless of the approval or denial of the purchase, it is to be retained by the FFL/gun store for 20 years for a purchase, and five years for all rejections.
- In May 2020 the ATF issued a revised Form 4473. The major revision moved firearm information (brand, type, caliber, serial#) from the third page to be the first item on the form6.
- Records retention: By current ATF regulations, all 4473 forms and purchase records are retained at the place of business (gun dealer) for 20 years (5 years for denials), at which time they can be destroyed. IF/WHEN the selling dealer ceases operations for any reason, all existing records are to be sent to the ATF. On this basis, if current law & rules are followed, there is no current registration.
- Firearm dealers (manufactures and distributors also) must maintain the records including serial number of each firearm sold/distributed and are subject to scheduled or unannounced onsite inspections. Upon the instance where a firearm is recovered in a criminal investigation, law enforcement and/or the ATF will “trace” the serial number to the selling firearms dealer, which will then result in the authorities obtaining personal information of the original buyer.
Conclusions (mine only!)
So, is there a current Federal database of firearm purchases as the recent headline claims? Yes, there is, however, the nearly a billion records mentioned in the article references those records stored by the ATF in its West Virginia facility where out of business dealers must send their records when ceasing operations.
That said, the groundwork has been laid, so, going forward, should there be concern among today’s firearm owners of potential registration leading to confiscation? Absolutely!
For nearly 100 years government agencies – ATF, Treasury, IRS, and now even the CDC – have been making the case for restrictions on our 2A rights, even to include full bans and confiscations. The events, legislation, and revisions to existing rules and regulations have all been baby steps in that direction. If kept unchecked the “gun grabbers” will inch closer to their ultimate goal of a firearm ban in America.
On November 22 last year, Congressman Michael Cloud (R, Tx) and 50 of his Congressional cohorts (all Republicans) sent a letter7 to the then acting Director of the ATF reminding him that Congress had passed legislation prohibiting the US Government from creating a “gun registry” targeting American gun owners, and their concern that this administration was using its power to create such a registry, and their opposition to a new regulation mandating FFLs take a role in so doing. In asking for a written response before December 31 (no knowledge of that being met) they cited several facts and asked numerous questions for that response.
This, and similar actions as have been taken by current and previous administrations must be met with passionate and meaningful efforts. It considerably displeases me that only 50 US Congress members have joined in this effort, our local US Representative among them.
Here is a link to the Gun Owners of America tool to contact your congressional members and express your concern that any effort by the Federal agencies to infringe upon your right to keep & bear arms must be kept in check.
GOA website: https://www.gunowners.org/OneBillionRecords/
We “The People” must exercise due diligence in keeping ourselves informed and taking the initiative in contacting our government representatives – federal, state & local – to maintain our Second Amendment right to participate in recreational shooting sports, defend ourselves, and keep our right to own and use firearms. Use the above link, and don’t forget to do the same with your local Virginia representatives.
Be well and stay safe!
Footnotes & Links:
- Washington Free Beacon article 1/31/22 https://freebeacon.com/?p=1560861
- The Washington Post, 8/9/19: https://is.gd/HUcsYT
- GOA YouTube Story 1/31/22- https://youtu.be/LG4N34cBQTE
- Historical information taken from Wikipedia. Below are citings with Links to Wikipedia website listing of legislation:
- National Firearms Act (“NFA”) (1934): Taxes the manufacture and transfer of, and mandates the registration of Title II weapons such as machine guns, short-barreled rifles and shotguns, heavy weapons, explosive ordnance, suppressors, and disguised or improvised firearms.
- Federal Firearms Act of 1938 (“FFA”): Requires that gun manufacturers, importers, and those in the business of selling firearms have a Federal Firearms License (FFL). Prohibits the transfer of firearms to certain classes of people, such as convicted felons.
- Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 (1968): Prohibited interstate trade in handguns, increased the minimum age to 21 for buying handguns.
- Gun Control Act of 1968 (“GCA”): Focuses primarily on regulating interstate commerce in firearms by generally prohibiting interstate firearms transfers except among licensed manufacturers, dealers and importers.
- Firearm Owners Protection Act (“FOPA”) (1986): Revised and partially repealed the Gun Control Act of 1968. Prohibited the sale to civilians of automatic firearms manufactured after the date of the law’s passage. Required ATF approval of transfers of automatic firearms.
- Undetectable Firearms Act (1988): Effectively criminalizes, with a few exceptions, the manufacture, importation, sale, shipment, delivery, possession, transfer, or receipt of firearms with less than 3.7 oz of metal content.
- Gun-Free School Zones Act (1990): Prohibits unauthorized individuals from knowingly possessing a firearm at a place that the individual knows, or has reasonable cause to believe, is a school zone.
- Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act (1993): Requires background checks on most firearm purchasers, depending on seller and venue.
- Federal Assault Weapons Ban (1994–2004): Banned semiautomatics that looked like assault weapons and large capacity ammunition feeding devices. The law expired in 2004.
- Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act (2004): Granted law enforcement officers and former law enforcement officers the right to carry a concealed firearm in any jurisdiction in the United States, regardless of state or local laws, with certain exceptions.
- Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (2005): Prevents firearms manufacturers and licensed dealers from being held liable for negligence when crimes have been committed with their products