Lawless BATFE

Free Beacon BATFE illegal database.

For the sake of an orderly discussion, I will explain how the Brady Bill firearms sales record system is supposed to work.

Firearms are tracked from the manufacturer or importer through distributors and finally to the retail dealer. The dealer is required to keep records of these sales for 20 years.

In the event a firearm is used in a crime and is recovered by the police, they can find out from BATFE which dealer sold the firearm, and with a court order, examine that dealer’s records of that sale to determine who bought the firearm. That’s it. They can’t even look at any records other the one for that particular firearm. The BATFE is allowed to check dealer records for proper procedure, but is not allowed to copy or make any record.

When a dealer goes out of business, he must surrender his records to the BATFE for storage and for police access under the same rules as if the records were still in the possession of the dealer.

The Brady Bill explicitly prohibits using such records, or copying records held by dealers, to assemble a database that connects forearms purchasers to a firearm unless it is involved in a criminal investigation.

The problem is that the BATFE has digitized these records, and illegal copies obtained in the course of inspections, into a searchable database of almost a billion forearms sales.

There is no grey area, this is flat out illegal, but they’re doing it anyway, and of course, the Biden DOJ is not prosecuting. Republicans in Congress want an investigation, and after the coming elections will certainly get one.

I look forward to seeing the BATFE bureaucrats frog marched off to prison.

Regardless of how you feel about gun control, blatant disregard for the law by the government is more dangerous than any crime a citizen could commit.

31 thoughts on “Lawless BATFE

  1. “I look forward to seeing the BATFE bureaucrats frog marched off to prison.”

    Your solution to everything and everyone you do not like.
    Pro tip: Don’t hold your breath.

    Your spin on this story is a little bit south of honest. The records in question are LEGALLY in the possession of the ATF. Under the law when a gun dealer goes out of business his paper transaction records become the property of the government to administer and search. There is nothing illegal about digitizing records OWNED by the government so that it can use those records to aid in criminal investigations. Furthermore, the digitizing of paper records OWNED BY THE ATF was explicitly approved by the Congress as it was detailed in appropriations bills.

    The GAO has looked into the Out-of-Business record keeping and made this finding: “ATF collects and maintains firearms transaction information in each system incident to the implementation of specific statutory authority and it does not exceed those statutory purposes”

    The ATF has responded to the investigation with some actual facts. . .


    Liked by 2 people

    1. Your link does not work.

      In any case, the BATFE does not OWN the records, they are the CUSTODIAN of the records. They can be accessed under the same rules as though they were still in the possession of the dealer.

      Federal law specifically prohibits the assembly of a registry both in the NICS section of the Brady Bill and in the Firearms Owners Protection act of 1986.

      The opinions of BATFE bureaucrats on their persistent violation of the clear letter of the law does not constitute a fact.

      But your approval of the government violating the law is duly noted.


      1. Baloney.
        No crime is being committed by digitizing paper records.
        Cite the law that you think is being violated. Chapter and verse.
        As I read it the government cannot build a database of the Form 4473’s processed and they don’t.

        Cut the entire link and pasted it into your browser and it will take you the letter to Congress in which ATF answers these “charges.”

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Tried that, still doesn’t work

          They are digitizing 4473s into a searchable database. That is illegal. The only search permitted is by serial number.

          They cannot legally search by name to find out how many firearms I purchased, for example.


          1. What do you mean by a “searchable database?” Which data is searchable? How do you know it is not just the serial numbers?

            The fact is that they are collecting images of the documents. They have been doing that with the approval of Congress since 2006. That is NOT illegal.

            It may be technically possible to search images for text, but that is not exactly what is usually meant by a “searchable database.” More to the point, just because something is possible does not mean it is being done. Again, the GAO was tasked with reviewing these matters and reported as cited above: “ATF collects and maintains firearms transaction information in each system incident to the implementation of specific statutory authority and it does not exceed those statutory purposes.”

            That says to me that the only uses of these images have been legal uses. Or is GAO “corrupt” as well? Need to Lock them up too?

            Liked by 1 person

          2. RE: “It may be technically possible to search images for text…”

            It is both possible and feasible, depending on the characteristics of the source documents from which the images are produced. It can be easy or hard to extract searchable text from the images, but that’s not really the problem at hand. The problem is figuring out how to oversee the government to ensure it does not create a gun registry.


  2. RE: “There is no grey area, this is flat out illegal, but they’re doing it anyway…”

    Maybe no grey area, but there is a technical point to be aware of.

    One can distinguish between a database itself and how it is used. There is no essential difference between a collection of paper records and a collection of digital records; both are databases in every sense of the term. A digital database, however, can be searched easily in various creative ways. Also, you can combine multiple digital databases into a kind of data warehouse that allows even more creative search and retrieval functions. It is in the nature of the technology that one could create a national firearms registry just by developing the right search algorithm and running it.

    In other words, merely digitizing the out-of-business records might not be an infraction, but certain manipulations of the resulting digital data might be. In fact, once you have the algorithm for an illicit data manipulation, you can run it or not run it as you please. So, if the law says, “Don’t run it,” you can just hold off until some excuse comes along for doing so.


    1. There is only ONE legal search that can be applied to the records, no matter what form.

      If Glock SN# XXXXX was used in a crime, that firearm can be traced by Glock to a specific dealer. Law enforcement can then go to that dealer, or the custodian of those records and get a copy of the Form 4473 for that serial number.

      The Serial number is the ONLY legal search, and when found, that specific 4473 can be viewed. not the one before it or the one after.

      There is no grey area in the law.

      It was when Janet Reno attempted to create a database “for research purposes” that Merrick Garland disqualified himself from SCOTUS consideration by trying to allow her to break the law.

      The NRA does not forget or forgive.


    2. RE: “There is only ONE legal search that can be applied to the records, no matter what form.”

      Of course. Let’s hope everyone involved is complying with the law, because any number of illegal searches are conceivable and easy to do.


    1. That is somewhat of a relief, though at odds with the Free Beacon article.

      Still, it is only what a representative of the NRA was allowed to see. I don’t trust the BATFE any further than I can throw my howitzer.


      1. …”at odds with the Free Beacon article”

        So which one is accurate? It seems to me that your believe the FB is. I have read some of the posts there, and am not impressed with accuracy on a regular basis. Opinions are not facts.


          1. “That is somewhat of a relief, though at odds with the Free Beacon article”

            I did not detect any hint from the NRA author that he was not getting a full tour of what they were doing in that facility. If he had any such suspicion, he surely would have aired it.

            It is worth mentioning that the letter from the BATFE to Congress answering the “charges” is NOT at odds with the NRA article. A rational person would put a big question mark on anything he reads at the Free Beacon going forward before demanding that public servants be frog-marched to jail.

            Liked by 1 person

          2. RE: “It is worth mentioning that the letter from the BATFE to Congress answering the ‘charges’ is NOT at odds with the NRA article.”

            ATF’s response to Congressman Cloud’s first query (November) was a bit slippery. For example, ATF wrote, “Rather, GAO recognized that OBR do not capture and store certain key information, such as firearms purchaser information, in an automated file.” Here, “automated file” is a term of art. The OBR does indeed “capture and store” the information in question in a file, just not in an automated file.

            In other words, the information exists in the database (as “static images”), but it is not searchable through the user interface.


          3. There was nothing “slippery” about BAFTE’s response. It is self-evident to even the most tech illiterate that capturing an image captures all the data on it.

            This fretting about an “illegal” database borders on the absurd. And not just because it is absurd to keep records of gun transactions in cardboard boxes at 50,000+ locations. These are records from out-of- business gun dealers. In total there are about 1 million records going back decades. They are a tiny portion of gun transactions – roughly 16 million per year. Hardly a gun registry.

            I will add that this simple expediency goes back to 2006 when Congress first authorized the money to digitize the paper. It continued unchanged throughout the Trump years but only now have these Republican Congressmen taken an interest. Pure partisan hackery.

            Liked by 1 person

          4. RE: “In total there are about 1 million records going back decades.”

            Your numbers are off.

            Free Beacon: “ATF maintains a database of 920,664,765 firearm purchase records…”

            Once we decided to digitize the records we created an ongoing need to oversee the program. There is nothing “absurd” about Congressional oversight in this instance.


          5. “Your numbers are off.”

            Egg, meet face.

            With that mea culpa, the need to get these nearly billion paper documents in a form that allows the BATFE to answer law enforcement inquiries in a timely manner becomes even more obvious.


          6. “absurd”

            Congressional oversight is fine.

            The “absurdity” I was referring to is the hair-on-fire reaction of the writers at Free Beacon and their readers so eager to be gulled and to call for “frog-marching” of people merely doing their job. Read Dr. Tabor’s original post. It is almost hysterical. Based on baloney. That is absurd. IMHO.

            Liked by 1 person

          7. The need for the digitization is debatable. ATF says it used its OBR database to trace crime guns 259,091 times last year. It is unknown how many prosecutions these efforts supported.

            Click to access Letter-Response-Rep.-Michael-Cloud-R-TX-51-x-GOP-co-signers_Federal-Gun-Registry-signed-letter.pdf

            On the other hand, we do know (from your NRA article) that the OBR traces are klugy in the sense that ATF researchers can only search the database by store name and time period. Researches have to manually examine handfuls of records to find the one that answers the trace request. This is a built-in inefficiency that drives up the cost of service provided.

            The program appears to offer an undefined benefit at an inflated cost.


      2. RE: “That is somewhat of a relief, though at odds with the Free Beacon article.”

        The thing to keep in mind is that once the original documents are stored in the database as images they can be “post-processed” in all sorts of ways. Think about it this way, you can reproduce the original just by printing the image. The NRA article says that “static images” are stored in ATF’s database, but that isn’t saying much.


        1. While hand written text can be hard to convert to digital, numbers are pretty easy, and the Form 4473 has a blank for SSN. Once they have that, name address and other data is public record.


        2. The format standardization introduced by the 4473 is a godsend to the digitizers.

          In a typical database application, two separate versions of the system are always running, the development system and the production system. The development system is like a sandbox where the programmers play with bug fixes and create new capabilities. The production system is the one end users use.

          I’m guessing the ATF does its digitizing on the development side, then cleans up the records for porting over to the production side.

          If I were Congressman Cloud, I’d want to know a lot about the development system, particularly what capabilities have been created and tested there and whether other government agencies have access to it.


          1. “If I were Congressman Cloud. . .”

            So, you think GAO was lying?

            There is an easy solution that is in plain sight. The monumentally stupid NRA law seeking to protect criminals with guns should be repealed. It makes no sense for a nation riddled with gun violence to make it difficult to track the ownership of the guns and hold their owners accountable when crimes are committed with them. Guns should be registered, insured, and tracked just like automobiles. IMHO.

            Liked by 1 person

          2. “Congresscritter. . .”

            You think that the idea of accurate and usable gun ownership records is unpopular? You are dead wrong.

            According to Pew Research in 2021 66% of Americans favor creating a federal database to track all gun sales. Even among Republicans, there is substantial support at 43%. Democrats support this idea very strongly at 86%.

            So, yes. Democrats should put that in their platform. They could use the boost going into November.


            Liked by 1 person

          3. “5 million converts a year.”

            Well, that raises several thoughts. . .

            1. Gun owners, of which I am one, are representative of people in general in their views about gun control. Check the data in that same Pew link.

            2. “Converts” is an interesting choice of words – usually applies to religion.

            3. That 5 million “converts” is way down from the year before. And without the numbers on people who got rid of their guns, or who died owning guns it does not say much about the share of the population who own guns. But,

            4. According to Statista, 43% of Americans lived in a household with a gun in 1972. Five decades later, the most recent number from 2021 the number was. . . . 42%.

            Liked by 1 person

          4. “If these radical, vicious racist prosecutors do anything wrong or illegal, I hope we are going to have in this country the biggest protest we have ever had … in Washington, D.C, in New York, in Atlanta and elsewhere because our country and our elections are corrupt,” DJT.

            I wonder who will heed the clarion call and start the shootin’. And which side will be American and which will be traitors.

            There are many well armed folks who would like nothing more that to start a civil war.

            American exceptionalism is on trial, in my opinion. Gangs v. Americans…? I guess we will soon find out.

            Liked by 2 people

          5. RE: “So, you think GAO was lying?”

            That depends what the definition of “is” is.

            I am opposed to any form of gun registry.


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