What the frak?

The implications of the existence of this computer program are disturbing. There must be something else going on other than what the author is saying:

SHELBY- No suspects. No leads. Just a gun found at a crime scene.
While some law-enforcement agencies scratch their heads wondering how to start investigating the case, the Shelby Police Department uses their own investigative tool to solve the crime.
An Electronic Tracing System, or “E-trace,” is a free Internet-based system which allows authorities to create or look at the criminal history of a gun used in a crime.
“It gives me added information on a weapon,” said Lt. Tim Walker with the department’s vice and narcotics unit. “It gives me somewhere to start and gives the past actions of the weapon.”
Walker said E-trace has made a world of difference when investigating and solving crimes.
“It is comparable to a person’s criminal history,” he said.
Once the criminal history is created on the gun, it can always be traced in the system, Walker said.
“If a gun is being continually used in criminal activity, we can see who is using the same weapons over and over,” he said.
Walker said it also helps with “straw purchase” cases, when convicted felons who are unable to purchase guns rely on people who can.
Walker said if felons have someone to purchase the gun and a crime is then committed, they can track the person who is buying the guns.
“It starts to create a link between the person and the gun,” he said.
The program is provided through Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) and is free to any police agency. Shelby officers say it is a part of their daily routine.
“When any weapon is submitted to evidence, it prompts us to trace the weapon,” he said.
In recent weeks, police used E-trace to help with with local cases. One gun taken into evidence showed just 60 days from time of purchase to the time of the crime, Walker said.
In the past, if police found a gun at a crime scene, they would lock it up and wait on fingerprints or any information pertaining to the gun.
Last year, the program expanded and is now used in every division of the department.
“It’s just one more trick in my bag,” he said.

For those unfamiliar with U.S. gun laws. It is illegal for the Federal Government to have a gun registry. Without a gun registry how can this program work? How can they “look at the criminal history of a gun”? It’s not like the criminal that used it updated the registry when they were done with it and sold it to the next criminal. What is the world is this about?

Ahhh… more research has revealed some disturbing information:

  • Governor Announces Historic Partnership with ATF to Trace Illegal Firearms
    E-trace is a nationwide database maintained by the ATF that lists a firearm’s first purchaser, date of purchase and the retailer from which it was purchased. The information is compiled from police records of gun purchases provided by local departments, but until today was only accessible by the ATF and the police department that provided it.

    “Partnering with the ATF, the New Jersey State Police will now have direct access to national firearms purchasing data. This will streamline the tracing of illegal firearms back to the source, giving us a better shot at finding and arresting the person who pulled the trigger,” said Colonel Rick Fuentes.
  • Seven Central American Countries to get eTrace
  • Background Paper: Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Program on Tracing Illegal Small Arms (June 2, 2001)
    Of particular interest is Access 2000, a computerized link between the NTC and firearms manufacturers and wholesalers. This nexus allows the NTB instant access to the computerized records maintained by cooperating FFLs in order to complete traces more efficiently. Currently, 12 FFLs are online. ATF is continuing this working partnership with the firearms industry in order to facilitate the tracing of crime guns by use of a standardized automated system. Instant access allows NTB employees to query the history of an individual serial number, thus speeding up the tracing process and reducing the trace-related cost to industry. Of course, 24-hour access allows NTB employees to query the history of firearms as necessary.

As of February 2000 there were five manufactures and distributors using Access 2000: RSR Wholesale; H&R, 1871; Smith & Wesson; Davidson Wholesale; and Taurus International Firearms.

What appears to have happened was that the ATF came up with an Internet based system for the distributors and manufactures to make their sales records available to the ATF to save the businesses in the supply chain time and money in complying with trace requests. This did not give the ATF access to individual purchase records. It merely gave the ATF more immediate access to the FFL who would still have to look up the 4473 to get the sales record for the ATF. It appears this original functionality was extended, perhaps in an illegal manner.

The enhanced functionality which I question the legality of is that it appears some states have records of individual firearm sales which they are sharing, in an online way, with the ATF.

I will be sending out emails to lawyers familiar with gun laws I know to get clarification of the law on this point. I’ll let you know what I find out.


10 thoughts on “What the frak?

  1. A while back I blogged about the uncomfortably close relationship that the ATF was developing with Mexico.

    By law the ATF cannot keep records for more than 60 days (if I remember correctly) however, there is nothing stopping the ATF from SHARING those temporary records with Mexico which has no legal restriction on databasing firearms purchases. Then Mexico can SHARE the records back to the ATF and poof, we have gun a permanent gun registry.

    Look for eTrace to be the building block for a worldwide gun registry, all in the name of combating crime and terrorism.


  2. Tom Gresham from Guntalk had Bob Morrison from Taurus USA on a few weeks ago. One of the things that came up was the Tiahrt amendment, and Bob described this system. You are exactly right, Joe. Apparently Taurus has a server that they run on their end that allows ATF to query over the internet where a particular firearm went. They can query that serial number 12345 went to wholesaler X. They can’t dump the data, and all the data stays with Taurus. I’d assume that the other systems are similar.

  3. Okay, well I guess people won’t argue with me when I tell them that dealer records amount to registration, especially when the records aren’t being destroyed on a regular basis.

    How does a gun seized by “authorities” as evidence end up being used in criminal activity yet again?

  4. A few points:
    wrt: “They can’t dump the data, and all the data stays with Taurus.”
    — I can write a program that regularly polls the database until all records are pulled. Then I can poll it whenever an update is made. In that way, I can maintain a complete record of what is in the database. I’m sure the ATF has done similar.

    Remember one of the things that came up during the prosecution of Red’s – the ATF was forcing the closure of many smaller dealers and confiscating their 4473’s. They were putting those 4473’s into a database. That was one of the goals of their program. The ATF has the 4473’s of a *lot* of dealers now.

    Given that this government has no problems ‘storing’ suspected terrorists with other nations that didn’t have the strong anti-interrogation laws that the US has, it is very likely the ATF has setup a reciprocal agreement with another country on these records. And even if caught, they wouldn’t be punished.


  5. Okay, here are some of my thoughts…

    1. This has been around for almost 9 years.

    2. How many more manufacturers and wholesalers (and retailers??) have signed on since February 2000?

    3. Not that many single shot firearms are used in crimes or that they’re anywhere near the top of the list of guns that need to be banned, but if H&R 1871 is contributing to this, does that mean that they are also giving the feds the serial numbers and owner’s names whenever someone sends in their HandiRifle to get an additional barrel for it? Lots and lots of them get sent in for barrels for different cartridges.

    4. What about any guns sent in to any of the manufacturers for warranty repair work? Is that information getting logged?

    5. Where’s the warrant? Don’t purchase records fall into the category of my personal papers?

    6. If you send in that warranty registration card that came with your new gun, is the manufacturer going to report that data to the feds? If you use Davidson’s Gun Genie (formerly Gun Locator) will they be reporting that sale?

    This has the potential for being so much bigger than what that article covers.

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