Dear BATFE Acting Director Melson:
We at Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership recently received the document that is copied below for your convenience. We would respectfully ask you to either validate these assertions or refute them in detail.
Our organization has had a long and disconcerting experience with the agency you now head. We would suggest that you might seek to bring a refreshing era of candor and honesty…and, if possible, a substantial dose of legality… to the BATFE. You can certainly start by examining the following carefully compiled expose in detail, and then tell Americans if you are truly planning a national gun registry. (JPFO’s open letter continues below following document …… )
BATFE Backdoor Registration Scheme
For nearly 20 years, contrary to the Intent of Congress and in violation of 18 U.S.C. 926(a), BATFE has been quietly building a massive Firearms Registration System for Firearms, Firearm Owners and Firearm Transactions.
The Firearms Owners’ Protection Act, signed into law in 1986, specifically forbids registration of firearms records at 18 U.S.C. 926(a):
“No such rule or regulation prescribed after the date of the enactment of the Firearms Owners’ Protection Act may require that records required to be maintained under this chapter or any portion of the contents of such records, be recorded at or transferred to a facility owned, managed, or controlled by the United States or any State or any political subdivision thereof, nor that any system of registration of firearms, firearms owners, or firearms transactions or dispositions be established.”
When a firearms dealer, importer or manufacturer dies or otherwise goes out of business, all the Acquisition/Disposition records (the “Bound Book”) kept by the business must be delivered to the BATFE Out-of-Business Center. Currently (according to the 2010 BATFE Budget Submission), over 1.2 million records per month are being received by the BATFE Out-Of-Business Center.
Most recently, on August 25, 2008, BATFE implemented Ruling 2008-2, allowing Federal Firearms License (FFL) holders to keep the Acquisition/Disposition “Bound Book” on a computer. However, when the FFL goes out of business, he must provide a computer file (digital file) and file layout to the ATF Out-of-Business Records Center – in addition to a printout of the “bound A/D book”. Since BATFE kindly allows dealers to also record antique firearms in the A/D book, these records are also being turned in to BATFE.
Obviously, BATFE intends to make use of those digital records. The digital file includes the Name and Address of every Buyer and every Seller for each gun, as well as the Name, Make, Model, Caliber and Serial of each firearm. In fact, each set of Out-of-Business digital records is precisely a system of registration of firearms, firearm owners and firearm transactions specifically prohibited by 18 U.S.C. 926(a). BATFE has not revealed what they are doing with these files.
In 1992, BATFE began creating a computerized “index” (based solely on firearm serial number) to the microfilm Out-of-Business records, called the “CARS” system (Computer Assisted Retrieval System), as reported in a 1995 letter to Tanya K. Metaksa of the NRA. Since there are so many duplicate serial numbers, this system must have been woefully inadequate for tracing.
By 2004, BATFE acknowledged the existence of an automated Microfilm Retrieval System (MRS) containing information on 380 million firearms with an additional 1 million firearms added per month. This system had been enlarged from the previous system (CARS) to contain not only firearm serial number, but manufacturers and importers as well.
More recently (since at least 2005), ATF has been converting microfilmed dealer out-of-business records to “digital images” of the records. It is not clear whether this is a digitized “picture” file, or an actual digital record of the acquisition/disposition. However, regardless of the method of storage, and whether access to the detail record is automated or manual, this system is precisely, in fact, a system of registration of firearms, firearm owners and firearm transactions specifically prohibited by 18 U.S.C. 926(a).
From the 2005 Appropriations Bill:
“Conversion of Records. The conferees recognize the need for ATF to complete the conversion of tens of thousands of existing Federal firearms dealer out-of-business records from film to digital images at the ATF National Tracing Center. Once the out-of-business records are fully converted, search time for these records will be reduced significantly. The conference agreement includes $4,200,000 for the ATF to hire additional contract personnel to continue the conversion and integration of records.”
However, this same Appropriations Bill also states:
“Provided, That no funds appropriated herein shall be available for salaries or administrative expenses in connection with consolidating or centralizing, within the Department of Justice, the records, or any portion thereof, of acquisition and disposition of firearms maintained by Federal firearms licensees:”
Similar provisions have been contained in every annual Appropriations Bill between 2005 and 2010.
The Firearms Tracing System (FTS) contains firearm tracing information from all traces performed since 1989. The data includes Multiple Sales reports (ATF F 3310.4 with names and addresses), all guns that were “suspected” as being used for criminal purposes, as well as the detail results from all traces (which would certainly include Name and address of all known sellers and purchasers). Suspect guns include, for example, individuals purchasing large quantities of firearms (collectors?) and dealers with “improper” record keeping. Once a gun is traced, even in error, the data is kept in the trace file.
Whether all these records are being combined into a huge data base is unknown. Regardless, each of these are a system of registration of firearms, firearm owners and firearm transactions specifically prohibited by 18 U.S.C. 926(a).
BATFE is so proud of their Firearms Tracing System [FTS], they offer on-line access to the records by another system (eTrace) on the internet – world-wide! BATFE offered world access to the eTrace System in United Nations Marking and Tracing Workshops held in Nairobi, Kenya in December, 2007, Lomé, Togo in April, 2008, Rio de Janeiro in June, 2008, and other locations. In 2007, BATFE reported some 10,000 individuals representing over 1620 law enforcement agencies around the world (now over 2,000 agencies) had access to our firearms data. Now, information on your guns (and you!) is directly available to 10 foreign governments (including strong cooperation with governments having known corruption issues, such as Mexico and Columbia), and trace requests have been received from 58 foreign governments (some with terrorist connections).
Implications of these registration systems are huge. These records can easily be sorted to report on all buyers of .223 and 5.56mm rifles – or all buyers of .50 BMG rifles, or all purchases by any individual.
As BATFE has been placing increasing importance on their tracing function, they have been creating more firearms registration records. We need to question their statutory authority for automating the tracing process. Originally, the tracing process was intended to be handled by phone calls to the manufacturer or importer, followed by calls to the distributor, and finally to the dealer. By increasingly computerizing this process, BATFE has created a massive system of registration of firearms, firearm owners and firearm transactions specifically prohibited by 18 U.S.C. 926(a). The ultimate goal of such a tracing system is a registration system of every firearm and every firearm owner in the United States.
The author is a retired computer professional with over 40 years experience with computers and software.
There you have it, Acting Director Melson. This seems to us at Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership to be a methodical and carefully researched presentation, but perhaps you can prove us wrong.
The reason we at JPFO are making this an open letter, which will be widely disseminated on the Internet, is because BATFE has a sordid history unlike nearly any other Federal agency. The BATFE brought America Ruby Ridge and Waco.
More recently, people now under your leadership blatantly framed David Olofson with light primer ammunition to get his lawful rifle to fire like a machine gun. You, being a forensics expert, should understand more than anybody how patently unlawful and dishonest this testing procedure was, and continues to be.
But these travesties, no matter how grave, are truly overshadowed by the ominous plans outlined above. Perhaps you might wonder why concerned, freedom loving Americans would be suspicious of a Federal government that knew where to find every privately owned firearm…and do so with lightning speed and efficiency via a computerized database. And why would you want to share this data with foreign powers? Are we being “hysterical”? Are we being “paranoid”? Frankly, I don’t think so.
So, Mr. Melson, what is your detailed response to our inquiry?
Aaron Zelman – Founder JPFO
p.s. If you wish, we will also provide you with your own personal DVD copy of our documentary entitled “The Gang”. This is a concise history of the criminal activity of the agency you now head. We doubt any of your subordinates will share with you much of the information contained in this documentary. “The Gang” will help you understand why so many Americans would, justifiably, like to see the BATFE abolished.