ATF Admits It Has Nearly 1 Billion Gun Records, GOP Lawmakers Ask, ‘How Is This Not a Registry?’

Is the ATF planning a gun registry?

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives is in hot water (again) after one of its officials admitted that the agency currently holds nearly one billion records of gun purchases and that 94% of those records have been digitized.

“In total, ATF manages 920,664,765 OBR as of November 2021. This includes digital and an estimated number of hard copy records that are awaiting image conversion. It is currently estimated that 865,787,086 of those records are in digitalized format,” Assistant Director of Public and Government Affairs Daniel L. Board, Jr. said in a letter to Congress.

The controversy began after 52 members of Congress sent a letter to the ATF demanding that the agency justify a new rule that would prohibit FFLs from destroying gun purchase records after 20 years. Current law allows gun dealers to destroy records older than 20 years.

Since the ATF requires FFLs that go out of business to transfer all records to their facility in West Virginia, prohibiting those dealers from destroying records would, eventually, give the ATF a registry of all gun purchases made throughout the country.

“We are concerned that this Administration is leveraging its power in a way to establish a federal gun registry,” the congresspeople said in a letter back in November 2021. Such a registry would be illegal under federal law.

SEE ALSO: ATF Raids Home of Amish Man in Pennsylvania Who Admits to Selling Firearms

Board claimed in his response that the ATF’s “Out of Business Records Imaging System” does not “capture and store certain key information, such as firearms purchaser information, in an automated file.” But Board also tries to justify the system by pointing out that the records are used by law enforcement to trace “crime guns.” It’s unclear how those traces are useful if purchaser information is not captured.

The congresspeople who sent the original letter weren’t satisfied with the ATF’s response, so they issued another letter this week seeking additional clarification.

They point out that the ATF has thus far not provided any reasonable justification for its new prohibition on destroying firearm records older than 20 years. The average time between a gun purchase and its presence on a crime scene is just over seven years, and the ATF cannot say whether adding records over 20 years old would have any measurable impact on solving crime.

SEE ALSO: BREAKING: ATF to Start Confiscating These Today!

In the proposed rule (which also happens to be the new “frame or receiver” definition), the ATF claims that records over 20 years should be stored because the “durability and longevity” of firearms keeps them in “circulation” for over 20 years. They also claim that “some traces of firearms involved in crimes” have not been completed because the records have been destroyed, but they do not offer any additional detail.

The congresspeople ask the ATF to answer the following questions:

  • Of the annual trace data that you provided in your response letter, how many and what percentage of traces were conducted that required records older than 20 years?
  • Please provide a breakdown of the trace requests conducted and percentage of traces for firearms that required records which were 10 years old, then 11 years old, and for every year after up to 20 years.
  • Of the nearly billion records you reportedly have on file, how many of them involve transactions that are older than 20 years?
  • Your response states that the National Tracing Center (NTC) does not have the ability “to determine the successful prosecution of hundreds of thousands of crime gun traces,” nor can it “link a trace for a specific prosecution.” We understand these limitations. Without these numbers, what concrete evidence can ATF provide to demonstrate that records older than 20 years are useful or necessary for ATF to complete firearm traces?
  • Your response states that “the NTC only traces crime guns, and every time must be identified as such by the requestor selecting the appropriate crime codes.” Please provide a list of all the crime codes a law enforcement agency must choose from when a trace is requested.
  • Please provide a breakdown of all the trace requests conducted in the last three years by the crime codes that NTC uses.
  • The Out of Business Records Imaging System is simply one database. Can you provide the number of records included in each of ATF’s other databases which include firearms purchaser information, like the Multiple Sales (MS) System, Access 2000 (A2K), and the Firearm Recovery Notification Program (FRNP)?

We’ll update you when the ATF responds.

About the author: Jordan Michaels has been reviewing firearm-related products for over six years and enjoying them for much longer. With family in Canada, he’s seen first hand how quickly the right to self-defense can be stripped from law-abiding citizens. He escaped that statist paradise at a young age, married a sixth-generation Texan, and currently lives in Tyler. Got a hot tip? Send him an email at jordan@gunsamerica.com.

{ 56 comments… add one }
  • Rex Hosfeld August 12, 2022, 4:00 pm

    No doubt the ATF can offer any manner of lofty and well intentioned reasons/excuses for creating this electronic record.
    However, if It is specifically illegal by Federal Statute to create and maintain said Gun Buyer/Owners data base,
    THAT is what the Congressmen should be stating and emphasizing.

    No matter what the stated goal, No means No. Kinda like “Shall not infringe..”

  • Barry Clinton April 17, 2022, 12:22 am

    Gun bans : I just don`t understand why any politician would pass a law that would prevent themselves as well as civil protection agencies from owning or even purchasing any firearm or does that only apply to politicians to have the right to ownership ?

  • Charles February 16, 2022, 11:58 am

    I was a FFL for over 27 years and at my last inspection the guy doing my records check was looking through my bound book and asked where the rest of the records were. I asked what he meant.. He said they only went back 20 years… I said well yes…anything beyond 20 years had been destroyed. He said WHAT? I said the law stated I only needed to keep records 20 years. His reply?? Well that wasn’t true. It might be the letter of the law. But not the true intent. At that point I asked if he was a BATFE agent or a Supreme Court justice? He wrote me up a violation and he said they were going top take my license. I ultimately had the violation removed (and my renewal) after talking with the idiot’s superiors (I even got an apology) Bet they no longer make apologies. A year later I got rid of the FFL due to health issues…ie. cancer. To this day I get put on hold every time when I purchase a firearm at a dealer which luckily is very seldom. And yes.. When I went OOB I had to surrender my bound book and 4473s. I sent them the records they asked for…to the WV site

  • Don Tros February 15, 2022, 2:41 am

    Lot of interesting comments. The sad truth is the 200 year or so experiment is winding down. Hopefully we are able to keep it going a little longer. This is all heading one way. A massive un-elected group of evil world leaders with power consolidated. That’s the plan and that’s the outcome!

  • Ej harbet February 14, 2022, 11:58 am

    Violation of the bill of rights should be punished at the minimum by loss of job and pension at the maximum by 20 years enslavement in a gulag made just for such people.
    Complete with chain gang labor.
    Let the trash pick up trash.

  • DocLoch February 13, 2022, 3:54 pm

    This is a criminal act. They are alleged to have committed a crime. Treat them as they would treat any criminal that they encountered. If this does not happen, there is a two-tiered justice system. Of course, we all know that this is the case. They will face no justice. Why should we allow justice from them then? The rule of law is broken

  • YankeeDespot February 12, 2022, 10:18 am

    Instead of sitting typing, we should follow the lead of the Canadian truckers. A few million of us camp out in front of the WV ATF complex and peacefully demand that the demonstrate that the records are kept according to the law. We have the right to assemble.
    And if they don’t comply, we’d see who’s willing to defend the constitution. I’m personally comfortable, and not brave. But the folks on here screaming about abolishing agencies bother me. What good are you doing ranting here, to like minded people? Do you regularly write and call your reps?
    The American revolution kicked off big time when the Brits went all gun control and confiscated the common powder. I wonder if we’ve got the balls to do anything…until it’s too late and the republic is split.

  • james w. smith February 11, 2022, 6:59 pm

    i was an ffl dealer in the early 90’s. when i went out of business i was only told to hold the paper records for 5 years and then to destroy them. that tells me they do not have any records prior to 1993. wa state always required a submission of paper work for handgun purchases. way back then they had not gotten to the point of computerizing docs since didital age was just beginning.

  • ger February 11, 2022, 3:22 pm

    Heh. Government gaslighting government.
    Come on. The ATF can trace the lineage of a firearm back to the factory. How can they say they don’t have any owner’s info when they can do that? Do they ‘only keep info on guns that will be stolen in the future’? Sheesh.
    Just admit it. They keep ALL of it. They are cataloging ALL of it. Eventually, when the time is right, they will use that info to confiscate ALL of them.
    Just a matter of time.

    • John Rogers February 12, 2022, 10:11 pm

      They can’t confiscate all of them. All that their documents prove is what you’ve purchased, not what you posses. Can’t confiscate something I sold 10 years ago, and I’m under no obligation to keep a record of who bought it from me.

      This is a flaw of confiscation schemes. Unless you live in a state the requires gun registration.

    • Dave Emery February 14, 2022, 1:42 pm

      You mean TRY to confiscate. A war will break out. If not, we don’t deserve to be called Americans. Sua Sponte

    • Prof June 18, 2022, 11:04 am

      Why hasn’t anything been done about anti Bumpstock legislation?
      NRA?
      These were legally purchased accessories that were criminalized.
      You are a Felon if you didn’t turn yours in or prove it’s destruction.
      It is unconstitutional to criminalize a legally acquired gun or accessory, that is why GCA 1968 and later NFA restrictions were Grandfathered to not make the Legal General Public a criminal/felon.

      Don’t people realize that the Bumpstock Criminalizing Law could be your next “any gun” Criminalizing Law.
      How did this happen and everyone sit on their hands? NRA?
      Why weren’t legal bumpstocks grandfathered?

      Why won’t my AR or my Glock be grandfathered when the Government crimimalize them?
      Why did Trump sign the law?
      Untold citizens were turned into Felons overnight!
      FYI, the manufacturer and employees in Moran, TX had to shutdown and the whole town literally died. Believe me, Google it !!!

      We can not let the Government get away with this massive miscarriage of our constitutional rights.
      The Government can not just wake up one day and decide what legal “existing” rights we have as a people that they want to criminalize.
      Your AR, your Glock, your Bumpstock are just the beginning.
      Then it’s your speech, your religion, your assembly your voting.

      I demand the criminalization of Bumpstocks be repealed or at least Grandfathered.
      Never in my lifetime has a citizen been criminalized after owning a legally purchased weapon/accessory.
      WTF?

  • Jim February 11, 2022, 2:27 pm

    For years, it has been estimated that “up to 500 million privately-owned guns” exist in the U.S. I never believed it, and am now somewhat vindicated. Forms 4473, or equivalent, have been held by licensed dealers since 1968. Only those dealers who have ceased business since 1968 are required to turn over 20 years of 4473’s, any business which ceases does not have to turn over 4473’s more than 20 years old. So, where does the “one billion guns” number come from? Is it the number of guns listed on surrendered 4473’s from closed business? That seems unlikely, as that would not include ANY guns sold by current dealers. Are they making a guesstimate based on U.S. production of guns? Are they illegally tapping into the NICS phone logs (likely), and using the number of background checks for the number of guns owned?

    Rather than knowing what the real number is, it is far more important to ask the ATF, “Precisely, how did you come up with a number?” They are not allowed to closely track production numbers, nor sales from maker to dealer.

    Whether there are 500,000,000 or 1,000,000,000, or 5,000,000,000 is immaterial. How the ATF arrived at ANY number is of greater concern, since the ATF is not allowed to track gun ownership.

  • RICKY PRICE February 11, 2022, 2:07 pm

    Does anybody have any back bone to stand up for the right thing today. I hope something is done.

    • Dave Emery February 14, 2022, 1:43 pm

      Now, THAT’S the question of the century.

  • ChiptheBarber February 11, 2022, 2:06 pm

    Not being in law enforcement, I’m sure I’m missing something, but I’ve always wondered how tracing a gun to it’s original sale helps solve a crime. I’ve tried to think of multiple scenarios, but it just eludes me somehow. I’m not a complete moron and I’m sure I could understand if someone would just explain it to me. Also, for a 2nd point, could the WV state police not conduct a super-secret raid on this building and seize all computers and records? In years past, I would have said the FBI, but they’ve been shown (under previous leadership and current) to be a most corrupt organization. They should also be closed down and completely revamped along with the ATF.

    • Stan d. Upnow February 14, 2022, 7:30 am

      I’ll try to help you out here. Say a gun was recovered at a murder scene. Using the serial number, the investigators can find out who purchased the gun. Perhaps the gun was purchased by the victim’s ex, who now becomes a prime suspect and is eventually convicted of the crime. Perhaps the gun was reported stolen, which would eliminate the original purchaser from suspicion. It’s a legitimate tool to fight crime.

      But, the Big Lie that the would-be totalitarians push is that we gotta have national gun registration for that purpose. The ONLY real purpose for the federal govt. to have records like that is for confiscation of firearms from those “domestic terrorists” who won’t submit to “mandatory buy-back” ruses.

  • DIYinSTL February 11, 2022, 1:04 pm

    Finally, someone asked about the successful and beneficial use of gun tracing. And the only answer ATF could provide was “I dunno.”

    • Steve February 11, 2022, 2:49 pm

      One thing I’ve learned in my 67 years on this Earth..never trust Government! EVER!
      Musings:
      Manure and Revenure, sounds familial. Maybe cousins…?

  • Dennis February 11, 2022, 11:30 am

    Abolish the ATF. They are a criminal organization, unconstitutional in nature run by communists seeking to destroy Americans and America. Everyone working here needs to be vetted and reapply for citizenship every 5 years. These are terrorists.

    • Stan d. Upnow February 14, 2022, 7:48 am

      The BATF has only been around since 1972. It’s principle function was to enforce the provisions of the Gun Control Act of 1968. Says a lot, doesn’t it?

      Show me ANY govt. enforcement agency that doesn’t thirst for expanding its power & control. Waiting…..

  • Randy February 11, 2022, 11:10 am

    Another stern letter
    That’s what we give are lives and fortune for

  • Carbine Williams February 11, 2022, 9:54 am

    It’s far past a reasonable time frame to get rid of all Unconstitutional lettered agencies. Start with the BATF ,the FB I should be able to handle the duties of the ATF. Too many agencies with employees wasting millions of tax dollars

    • Boss February 11, 2022, 11:05 am

      Yeah! The FBI can lie to us and scam us just like the ATF. Why spend the money on the whole department, get rid of it and save the bucks.

    • Stan d. Upnow February 14, 2022, 7:54 am

      FBI? Are you serious?!
      They’re a buncha corrupt, subversive scumbags. Maybe you need to refresh your memory as to their role in the Trump Russian Collusion Hoax, among other outrages.

  • Doug Reichman February 11, 2022, 9:25 am

    TERM LIMITS & for the little bureauRATS too. Afterwrds, no lobbyist jobs, no sitting on any board of directors& no other govt jobs. Politicians will work pro bono.

  • MOB February 11, 2022, 9:18 am

    Where’s the NRA now? Haven’t heard anything from them. Another lawsuit in the making for JoeBama and Headboard Harris.

    What they’re saying here is pure BS. The government already has a database of all serial numbers recorded in a system maintained by the DOA. This system has interfaces with every supply distribution system of small arms/light weapons within government and law enforcement. It includes captured weapons by our military, LEOs, and the ATF. It already tracks where that serial # has been throughout the world until its physical destruction. The ATF and CMP are tied to this system as well. I know, I worked in these systems.

    Why do you think criminals obliterate serial #s? Bottom line people, this ATF file is another track and trace element to now put a name and address to a receiver’s serial number. Another lawless attempt to circumvent our 2A.

    • FirstStateMark February 11, 2022, 10:08 am

      Very good question. Where is the NRA? Must not be any money in this.

      • Stan d. Upnow February 14, 2022, 9:52 am

        By law(at least for now), it is illegal for the feds to have any sort of list of firearms, or firearm owners.

        “…now put a name and address to a receiver’s serial number.”

        It seems that you’re unaware that that is done for every legitimate purchase at a FFL. It goes into the dealer’s Bound Book, which is kept at the place of business. The problem is, that if that dealer folds his tent, he must surrender said Bound Book to the BATF. They then have access to all transactions that dealer has done. There’s one more wrinkle here. If the BATF traces a gun to an individual dealer, they will then contact that dealer and ask to review the records of sale in their Bound Book. With a digitized database, the dealer can locate the date that gun was sold, but it likely won’t have purchaser info. The BATF agent(s) will then ask to review the Bound Book to locate the specific transaction related to the firearm in question. Now, here’s the wrinkle– the agent sits down with the Bound Book –the ENTIRE Bound Book– for a given calendar period, be that a month or a year. They’re only supposed to review the transactions for the identified date, but what’s to stop them from snooping further? Nothing; the FFL doesn’t have the time/personnel to sit there looking over the agent’s shoulder to make sure he’s not exceeding the scope of the investigation. If you trust the BATF not to take advantage of that situation, I’ve got some nice lakefront property to sell you… on Mars.

        • David A Welsh March 18, 2022, 11:11 pm

          Just need a fake break in to steal bound books and computers.

  • Budd February 11, 2022, 8:52 am

    How many “records” do they have on the cartels? I’ll tell you how many…… NONE..ZERO….GOOSE EGG. Not even on the ones that OBAMA supplied them with. The best thing that the ATF puppets can do for themselves, is STAY AWAY from true Americans doors.

    • Dennis February 11, 2022, 11:32 am

      They are the cartel.

  • Phil February 11, 2022, 8:52 am

    The proposed rule the article directs us to had an expiration date of Aug 19, 2021. It is Docket No. ATF-2021-000, Docket RIN 1140-AA54. What is the outcome? If we believe in the purity of the Second Amendment, then the ATF should not exist it it’s current form. This should be a a no brainer.

  • Bob February 11, 2022, 8:34 am

    The First Thing we need to do is get to make sure we have honest and fair elections. Since electronic voting machines and mail in voting ,can not be trusted.The elected officials that do not follow the constitution,need to be voted out.The evil Demon-Rats and lying Rhinos need to go.The most important thing is the right to keep and bear arms.Without that this country would be destroyed with the stroke of a pen.

    • Al February 11, 2022, 10:19 am

      Until we start prosecuting those who knowingly violate the constitution, and commit treason, among various other crimes, freedom in this land will continue to deteriorate until we are what we call a third world country whose government officials are dictators and thugs. The second amendment is only as strong as the people who guard it. Without that, it doesn’t exist.

      • Stan d. Upnow February 14, 2022, 9:59 am

        You’re talking about the same bastards who have to vote to limit their own terms in office. How’s that been working out? And when a govt. public health bureaucracy can mandate that landlords cannot evict rent-skipping tenants, we Already have dictators & thugs running the show.

  • Randy Young February 11, 2022, 8:08 am

    The Government has No right to confacate guns from law abiding citizens, If your neighbor says that you’re unfit to own a gun “ they” have NO right to take your guns, just because your neighbor doesn’t like you. That’s
    Guiltily before proving innocent. ya I understand that We Should report illegal activities but just a neighbor saying that you’re unfit to own a gun is NO reason for the Government to break into your house and Take away your guns. The Government is getting TO MUCH power over law a bidding citizens. That goes against the Constitution and our 2nd adment rights.

    • james satory February 11, 2022, 2:08 pm

      ATF is in blatant violation of records issues.. Also the California DA who wants credit card companies to police parts and accessories sales to private individuals ” because government entities can’t.. Obviously has no commitment to his oath of office, and is no better than the worst criminals his office prosecutes!! HE SHOULD BE DISBARRED!!

  • Dr Motown February 11, 2022, 7:57 am

    All NEW gun sales go through FFLs…..hence the trail begins somewhere

  • Kwalityguy February 11, 2022, 7:55 am

    How can the ATF have almost 1 billion records when according to the FBI NICS data since Nov 1998 through Jan 2022 only 414 million applications have been processed?

  • Randolph Young February 11, 2022, 7:44 am

    I have had to sell some of my guns to pay off some credit cards, But I Always get the buyers information. Is there anything wrong with that?????. I Have bought several guns for my son as a Birthday/ Christmas gifts. What’s wrong with that???????, I,m a law abiding citizen and I have Never bought a gun for anyone else just to buy it for them But like I said before, I have HAD to sell some guns to pay bills OR I just decided that I wanted a Different gun. As long as I,m Not buying a gun and prentending it,s for Me what’s wrong with selling a gun to someone I don’t even know, as long as I get their information.

  • Jim Garner February 11, 2022, 7:40 am

    Until the Constitution of the United States of America is changed legally, there is no authority for government to steal personal property that was legally AQUIRED!!!

    • Dr Motown February 11, 2022, 7:54 am

      When has the Constitution ever stopped gubbmint overreach and tyrants? Until it’s challenged for years in the courts, they get away with it😡

  • Craig L February 11, 2022, 7:32 am

    “prohibiting those dealers from destroying records would, eventually, give the ATF a registry of all gun purchases made throughout the country.”

    This is a false and misleading statement in your article. In indiana, like in many states, you can transfer/purchase a firearm without going through an FFL which means that transfer/purchase doesn’t go through the ATF.

  • michael February 11, 2022, 6:54 am

    i believe these records were supposed to be destroyed after purchase. so someone is breaking the law and needs to spend a lot of time in prison. not just one person either, all the way up the ladder they are all guilty

    • Gutsy63 February 14, 2022, 10:33 am

      The information you are talking about is from the nics background check and is suppose to be deleted from the system after a number of days. Not sure of the number. What is happening in the article is that when FFL dealers go out of business they have to turn over the 4473s to the atf. These are the records that are being digitized and kept past the 20 year mark. I am suspicious of the information that is sent during a nics check because, well, government.

  • survivor50 February 9, 2022, 9:46 pm

    OK … only 51 of those mine !!!

    Some of you are HOARDING !!!

    • J to the B February 11, 2022, 4:19 pm

      51 guns…heh, heh, heh…rookie!

  • Stan d. Upnow February 9, 2022, 1:22 pm

    Board claimed in his response that the ATF’s “Out of Business Records Imaging System” does not “capture and store certain key information, such as firearms purchaser information, in an automated file.”

    Key word in Board’s deception here is “automated file.”
    Each FFL dealer is required to keep what’s called a Bound Book, which is all the original Form 4473’s from ALL gun transactions, whether resulting in an actual sale/transfer or not. When a dealer goes out of business, the Bound Book must be surrendered to the ATF. So, while they may not have a digitized record loaded into their computers, they Do have access to every firearms transaction on hard copy, which includes all pertinent customer information as well as detailed firearm information.

    Bottom line– The BATF is Not your friend!

  • Roger February 9, 2022, 12:28 pm

    Click bate title. African Americans broke into her home. Chicago murder rate.

  • Bemused Berserker February 9, 2022, 11:15 am

    So let’s hire some Hackers to invade and destroy the database entirely.

    • Ti February 11, 2022, 11:36 am

      Some ‘insider’ dedicated to the cause, has already mirrored the data!

  • Lawrence Greenberg February 9, 2022, 10:29 am

    Okay. So just what are the Republicans going to do to stop this?

    • D.J. February 9, 2022, 1:52 pm

      Short answer , sir , NOTHING !

      They are immersed in this conspiracy as much as
      the new-age communist democrats are .

      Disarm , divide , conquer and bow down to their
      Chinese, communist masters .

      What are we to do ?
      I’m open to suggestions .

      • Joe Mannix February 11, 2022, 7:17 am

        Because the big lie we were fed all our lives (“Vote’em out of office!”) has been exposed. Anybody else remember when we used to laugh at the Soviet press and feel lucky to be living in the land of the free?

        • Phil February 11, 2022, 8:57 am

          “A Visitor From The Past” Thelen Paulk.

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