GAO Report: ATF Failed to Comply with its Record-Keeping Policies

atf record-keeping

The GAO has a few things to tell the ATF. (Photo: Facebook/ATF)

The U.S. Government Accountability Office, or GAO, has given the ATF unsatisfactory ratings for improper record-keeping. The oversight agency instructed that the ATF “should better adhere to its policies” in its report. The ATF agreed with the GAO findings and plans to follow the report’s recommendations.

Specifically, the GAO found that the ATF failed to comply with its record-keeping policies by storing FFL records on an in-house server and keeping records that should have been destroyed, including records of multiple sales. The GAO audited 4 of the 16 ATF servers and took issue with what they found on three of the four data systems.

These policy violations represent a potential breach of privacy and a breach of trust. The ATF is prohibited from maintaining a database of gun owners and must carefully walk the line between tracking and targeting illegal gun use while keeping legal gun owner’s privacy intact.

“[The] ATF is responsible for enforcing certain criminal statutes related to firearms, and must balance its role in combating the illegal use of firearms with protecting the privacy rights of law-abiding gun owners,” states the GAO report. “As part of this balance, FFLs are required to maintain firearms transaction records, while [the] ATF has the statutory authority to obtain these records under certain circumstances. [The] ATF must also comply with an appropriations act provision that restricts the agency from using appropriated funds to consolidate or centralize FFL records.”

The ATF runs a program called Access 2000 (A2K) that allows the National Tracing Center to electronically search certain FFL records to perform gun traces. These FFLs volunteer the data to the Tracing Center. The catch is that the information is supposed to be stored on-site at the FFLs — the GAO found some of the information stored on a single server at the ATF.

The server kept records of out-of-business FFLs. The ATF deleted the records to comply with its policy. The GAO also recommended that the ATF establish stronger guidelines on how to use A2K out-of-business records.

See Also: Should the ATF Merge with the FBI?

The GAO also discovered that the ATF mishandled records from the Firearm Recovery Notification Program or FRNP. The FRNP is a database of guns that they have reason to believe are involved in criminal activity. These include stolen guns and uncovered crime guns and guns tied to ATF criminal investigations. FRNP records are supposed to be destroyed after two years.

What the GAO found instead was that records from between 2007 and 2009 were still intact and due to a “technical defect” accessible to ATF agents “beyond what ATF policy permits.” The ATF ended the program in 2009 and deleted the records in 2016.

Lastly, the GAO discovered that the ATF was not destroying multiple sales records after two years per ATF policy. The GAO report stated that the ATF was “inconsistent” in destroying multiple sales records and was keeping data on more than 10,000 people. The ATF keeps records on individuals who purchase two or more handguns within five consecutive business days in order to track straw purchasers.

The ATF has agreed with the GAO but only time will tell if these policy violations have affected gun owners. The GAO will provide updated information on its report once the ATF has taken action and updated their record-keeping methods.

“We’re a small agency with a big job,” said ATF Deputy Director Thomas E. Brandon in an interview on CBS’ “Sunday Morning.” Brandon lamented the restrictions that prevent the agency from keeping deeper records on guns and gun owners.

“There’s a lot of things that don’t make sense in this town, you know?” Brandon told CBS correspondent Richard Schlesinger. “And, so, yeah, would it be efficient and effective? Absolutely. Would the taxpayers benefit with public safety? Absolutely. Are we allowed to do it? No.”

{ 31 comments… add one }
  • Vette August 10, 2016, 7:39 pm

    With the way they have setup our elections it is in a way now that even if Trump wins the popular vote ( most citizens votes ) he will still loose the presidency!! So we all know with this system and with the only states that are needed to win they have the largest deceased voter turnout and that’s how they ALWAYS win now. If you don’the believe that you are deaf dumb and blind..

  • CaptainBob August 6, 2016, 1:14 am

    The American dream ended on November 6th, 2012 in Ohio. The second term of Barack Obama has been the final nail in the coffin for the legacy of the white Christian males who discovered, explored, pioneered, settled and developed the greatest republic in the history of mankind.
    A coalition of blacks, Latinos, feminists, gays, government workers, union members, environmental extremists, the media, Hollywood, uninformed young people, the “forever needy,” the chronically unemployed, illegal aliens and other “fellow travelers” have ended Norman Rockwell’s America.
    You will never again out-vote these people. It will take individual acts of defiance and massive displays of civil disobedience to get back the rights we have allowed them to take away. It will take zealots, not moderates, not reach-across-the-aisle RINOs to right this ship and restore our beloved country to its former status.
    People like me are completely politically irrelevant, and I will probably never again be able to legally comment on or concern myself with the aforementioned coalition which has surrendered our culture, our heritage and our traditions without a shot being fired.
    The Cocker Spaniel is off the front porch; the Pit Bull is in the back yard. The American Constitution has been replaced with Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals” and the likes of Chicago shyster David Axelrod along with international socialist George Soros have been pulling the strings on their beige puppet have brought us Act II of the New World Order.
    The curtain will come down but the damage has been done, the story has been told.
    Those who come after us will once again have to risk their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor to bring back the Republic that this generation has timidly frittered away due to white guilt and political correctness.” – Franklin Graham

    • Tom Horn August 6, 2016, 1:58 pm

      Damn well said, Sir! The United States of America has been sold out from under us. Millions of Patriots, from the Framers of our U.S. Constitution, to the Greatest Generation, to the men and Women who died on the battle fields of our current War on Terror, are rolling over in their graves. We owe it to those who paid so dearly, to fight like hell for the America they believed in, entrusted and passed on to us.

      If you have taken an oath to defend the U.S. Constitution, now is the time for action. If you have not taken that oath, it is not to late. You only need to hold it in your mind, keep it in your heart, and live it with your soul. It’s free (thanks to those who have paid for it with their precious blood):

      “I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.”

      • Tom Horn August 6, 2016, 3:23 pm

        “We owe it to those who paid so dearly, to fight like hell for the America they believed in, entrusted and passed on to us.”

        We owe it, even more, to the Americans who come after us, our children and grandchildren, to leave them with the liberties and freedoms guaranteed all people under the U.S. Constitution. We owe it even to the ignorant, who know not what they’ve done, and who will soon awaken from their, entranced by dogma state, to a world of subservient hell.

  • SGT-N August 5, 2016, 9:52 pm

    If a FFL doesn’t cross a “t” correctly, they take his license. On the other hand the ATF violates numerous laws so the POTUS, along with numerous unconstitutional orders, can illegally implement the gun control that Congress won’t pass. Hypocrites one and all.

  • Pseudo August 5, 2016, 1:53 pm

    Can someone explain to me why any of our police forces need actual fully automatic weapons. These are in fact “assault weapons”. I cannot recall any crimes where a plain AR type semiautomatic would have been just (probably more so) effective. When shooting full auto many guns climb up and off to the right, so I guess using one in full auto and shooting up the neighborhood would be acceptable?

    • Beachhawk August 5, 2016, 5:47 pm

      You reveal your ignorance or denial of reality, Pseudo. No police agency issues fully automatic weapons to their officers, even their SWAT teams don’t carry automatic weapons. AR15s are semiautomatic rifles. AR stands for Armalite Rifle, not “assault rifle” which is a made up term used by gullible commenters, ignorant reporters and liberal, gun banning politicians. You should learn the facts before you make a fool of yourself again.

      • Rouge1 August 6, 2016, 12:32 am

        Are you serious? You may be the ignorant one. I know that my local sheriff’s and their deputies can all purchase post 86 full auto weapons by using official letter head of the department.

      • Pseudo August 6, 2016, 4:06 pm

        Well beach hawk you need to learn how to read. I know full well what “AR” stands for and I stand by what I stated ‘AR Type’ as that is what the media likes to blather about, or else they call them standard “AR’s” “assuslt weapons” which they are not. And yes many police agencies to include other federal agencies are being issued fully automatic weapons. In other words they have the option of using the selector switch to select the FA position, something which you apparently are not ware of or have ever fired a full auto type weapon.

        I stand by my first question, what in fact does any agency, police or other wise need with guilt automatic capability weapons?

        Is one going to use full auto to stop a crime. Crowd control. Just what reason is a full auto weapon needed for, crowd control, in a riot. Or are the police going to be going to war against the citizens they are suppose tone protecting?

        And this question had nothing to do with being allied against any police officers, just asking the logic of why law enforcement needs full auto weapons.

        Even the military discovered that there are just a few uses or times for using full, and even went to three round bursts. Especially I. Thus day and age when God help a LEO if a shooting involves one of them.

        So which situation does law enforcement need full automatic weapons, if the country is being invaded then ever citizen of the USA should have the same right to have a full auto weapon for their defense.


    • Kivaari August 5, 2016, 5:55 pm

      It’s noty a need. I doesn’t hurt anything. What makes a difference is training. I carried an MP5 for about 10 years. We knew how and when to use FA. What you should be asking is if civilian police can own machineguns, and they should be allowed to do so, why can’t private citizens own them. Even more, why can’t people in several states own semi-automatic rifles like AR15s, and magazines over 10 rounds?
      I think cops can have any damn thing they desire – as long as the public can have the same stuff.

  • Joseph Burke August 5, 2016, 12:52 pm

    Wow! Big surprise there.

  • gourdhead August 5, 2016, 10:48 am

    The Judge is correct. As a former FFL holder victim of BATF (for something an employee did secretly), I can tell you these folks are in the thug, bully business. As far as ” protecting the privacy rights of law-abiding gun owners” you’re dreaming if you think anything of the sort.

    • RayJN August 5, 2016, 11:42 am

      If a citizen makes a mistake they come down like a 800 pound gorilla, but when they deliberately violate the law, oh well, we will do a better job of covering it up next time.

      • Beachhawk August 5, 2016, 5:54 pm

        This administration is completely lawless when it comes to regulating their perceived enemies. Look at what Lois Lerner and the IRS did to conservative nonprofits. She was not punished but instead allowed to retire with a fat pension most of us can only dream about. In fact many of those IRS officials were promoted or transferred to more desirable locations. No one at the ATF was ever punished for the loss of firearms during Operation Fast and Furious even though many of those guns showed up at crime scenes in both Mexico and the USA including the on-duty murder of a Border Patrol agent.

        • Tom Horn August 5, 2016, 7:17 pm

          ..and now appears a weapon from Fast & Furious ended up at the Paris, France terrorist night club attack, according to National Public Radio, last week. Go figure.

        • Rouge1 August 6, 2016, 12:38 am

          The problem is that most government personal are scum their selves. This isn’t just because of crooked leadership it’s because the whole bunch are corrupt. Out of millions where are the whistle blowers, or are they just to stupid to know that they are law breakers?

  • Tom Horn August 5, 2016, 9:50 am

    Don’t worry about the BATFE losing this illegal data. I’m sure they back it up already on Hillary’s Above the Constitution personal e-mail server.

  • Kalashnikov Dude August 5, 2016, 9:43 am

    No more games. The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. From this moment forward any laws, federal, state, or local which do not meet this standard are null and void. Attempts to enforce them will be met with deadly force.

  • Tom Horn August 5, 2016, 9:33 am

    Oh, sure. It was just an oversight, that they kept the records on multiple firearms purchasers for more than the 2 yrs. allowed by law. And if you believe that, I have some ocean front property in Iowa for sale, that you might be interested in.

  • jimmy August 5, 2016, 9:23 am

    Heads will roll!!Oh wait, no, this is FedGov. Absolutely no one will be held accountable. In fact, they\’ll get a larger budget and an award of some sort. And plenty of conservatives will worship these heroes.

  • Robert Opsitos August 5, 2016, 8:53 am

    “We’re a small agency with a big job,” said ATF Deputy Director Thomas E. Brandon

    I read this as: We’ve only got so many jackboots, and there are all these people we want to put under those jackboots.

  • Charles August 5, 2016, 8:46 am

    And than we wonder why we have no more jobs in this country? The Washington DC, Bureaucrats have taxed and regulated ordinary jobs out of existence?

    • Mas August 5, 2016, 9:26 am

      Yes, the govt exercises the power we, the people, entrust them with to regulate private sector jobs out of existence while increasing the size and intensity of the govt job sector. That is a part of the empire building and career advancement within the govt sector. It is not that far away where we will fall on our own weight just like Greece where the 30% of workers are govt employees…..:)

  • Michael Vega August 5, 2016, 8:43 am

    “Live FREE or DIE”, GOD save our FREE REPUBLIC!
    Scout Motto, “ALWAYS BE PREPARED”
    The civics lessons we were raised on, are what we pledged on, every day for years! ONE NATION UNDER GOD!

    People who come here, MUST ABIDE by the lessons with no exception for the new citizens that come here to live the “AMERICAN WAY” of life, many have died for and still must do so in lesser numbers, without complaint to keep the dream alive!

  • Pontificant August 5, 2016, 8:21 am

    Well, it appears the BATFE has failed in their duties..,repeatedly. Shut them down, destroy the servers and transfer the employees to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services to check backgrounds of refugees, patrol sanctuary cities and deporting undesirables. No one loses their job, the 2nd Amendment can go back to being respected and the country become safer. DONE.


  • Need Info August 5, 2016, 7:41 am

    Just so I understand. The government taxes the heck out of us for money to run organizations to create rules and guidelines to make a gun dealer, gunsmith, and owner do more work. Then when a one man shop misses a rule, they shut him down or suspend his license and ability to make an income.

    So here is how you fix that. ATF loses their ability to intervene for 90 days. Upon which time they are reinspected and if they do not pass 100%, they are all fired and the group is disbanded. Pretty simple if you ask me and it’s no more than what they would do to any business today.

    • gourdhead August 5, 2016, 10:51 am

      As an FFL that was shut down, I will say you are more than correct. We do all the record keeping for the gestapo.

    • Rouge1 August 6, 2016, 12:44 am

      You can never get rid of a federal agency. Like getting pig crap on your shoes. The smell will always be there.

  • DRAINO August 4, 2016, 11:53 am

    If that’s what was found on 4 servers then the other servers should have been searched as well. “The more you find, the deeper you dig!!!”, was my moto from my QC/Inspection days. And this whimpering deputy director is obviously a democrap….whining about not being able to keep records to use for a registry. Shut the ATF down! They are useless, pointless and a waste of funds. Vote Republican or you will see your guns/gun rights gone!!!!!

    • Joseph Burke August 5, 2016, 12:59 pm

      But the Republican leaders are going on record as voting for Hillary to stop Trump. There is only one political party now …the enslavement party.

      • DRAINO August 5, 2016, 4:58 pm

        I said vote Republican….if you vote republican in this presidential election, you will be voting for Trump. If enough people vote for him, he will win. If he wins….yes, the republican leadership should be scared because hopefully he will get rid of the good old boy club that’s in place now. Put some people who know what they are doing in charge of these runaway govt agencies. Get the govt out of the hands of the POLITICIANS……RINO’s and Dumbacrats alike. That’s why I’m voting for Trump.

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