US govt admits it keeps almost a billion firearms sales records
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) has confirmed it was in possession of nearly one billion records of gun purchases made by US citizens.
Responding to a request by Republican Congressman Michael Cloud, the ATF said that it kept 920,664,765 such records as of November 2021. More than 855 million of these have already been digitalized, making them easier to search.
Firearm transaction records are reflected in the so-called ATF Form 4473, which includes various personal details on the buyer, including name, address and, in some cases, even social security number.According to US federal law, gun stores can destroy these forms after 20 years. However, if a firearms dealer goes out of business during that period its files become property of the ATF. And that's how the agency was able to accumulate so many records.
“A federal firearm registry is explicitly banned by law,” Texas rep. Cloud told the Washington Free Beacon. However, the Biden administration has been “circumventing Congress” and using loopholes in the legislation to still work towards creating such database, he insisted. “Under the president’s watch, the ATF has increased surveillance on American gun owners at an abhorrent level,” the congressman added.
The federal affairs director of the Gun Owners of America, Aidan Johnston, reacted to the news by saying: “Make no mistake – this is clear evidence that a partial national gun registry exists.” According to Johnston and other gun activists, the federal government may eventually use the database to “confiscate” firearms from the population, in breach of the Second Amendment.
The ATF has denied that it's trying to create a registry of gun owners, saying in a letter to Cloud that the records are only used to help law enforcement track down firearms that have been used to commit crimes. “Every trace must be identified as such by the requestor by selecting an appropriate crime code when submitting the trace request,” it pointed out.
There were over 548 million such traces last year and almost 491 million in 2020, the agency said, adding that it had no way of knowing if those activities had led to any “successful prosecutions.”
Joe Biden has made eradicating what he calls an “epidemic of gun violence” in America one of his priorities while in office. He plans to achieve this by cracking down on arms dealers who operate in violation of the law, by giving more support to law enforcement, by investing in community violence intervention programs, and helping former convicts reintegrate into society. Tightening of gun control rules is also on the cards, including introducing universal background checks and banning high-capacity magazines.