Note: This perspective on F&F from a guy is very interesting, to say
the least, info. For the 'gunnies' this is a must read.
Those with a FFL might want to have a stiff drink first.
Thanks for this report.
I wanted to comment on one reported fact. In an email from Newell to
McMahon cited in the report, Newell reported that, as of December
2010, 241 F&F guns were traced from Mexico and 350 of them were
traced from US. That would mean that 241 were traced from some
office in Mexico and 350 from some law enforcement agency in the US.
The percentage of traces, roughly 30%, given the total reported
number of walked firearms (2000), is a statistica limpossibility.
Before a firearm – any firearm – can be traced, the person seeking
the trace must have the make, model and serial number of the
firearm. A firearm cannot be traced without that.
To obtain that information, the person seeking the trace has to have
custody of the firearm. No-one can see the above descriptors unless
he or she is actually holding it in their hands – has custody of it.
In other words it must have been recovered and in the hands of law
enforcement, Mexican or US.
This means that of the number of guns which ATF waved good-bye to
prior to December 2010 (I think it is generally agreed that F&F did
not begun until 2009, in other words, not a very long period as I
recall), 30 percent of them ended up in the custody of law
enforcement. Then, that law enforcement agency decided to trace it
using ATF's National Tracing Center. In and of itself, that is not a
common occurrence and the decision to trace is an an independent one
made by the detective on the basis of whether it may develop leads to
whatever crime he or she is investigating. Causing a trace through
ATF Tracing Center brings with it certain consequences seen below.
I am sorry but that scenario is not believable.
What probably happened is that ATF itself or through friendly law
enforcement agencies ran the traces and thereby intentionally caused
a trace of a firearm that was not in the custody of law enforcement.
ATF could get that information from the records kept by the dealers.
Then, when the trace is recorded by the ATF Tracing Center, each
firearm traced receives the label of a "crime gun."
In my view, that is the essence of statistics that DOJ was trying to
create. I could never figure out how or why expected the walked
firearms to be traced. A trace is so serendipitous that the national
statistics of traced guns is so small that is a statistical
irrelevancy. The fact that the dealers were supplying guns to
purchasers who were known to have contacts to the cartels and were
criminals is also statistically irrelevant given the serendipity of
the causes of traces. As I understand that is what this whole
episode was about. I assume that ATF would have continued to trace
the firearms known to be sold by dealers to straw purchasers until
every one of them had been traced.
That is not far removed from the Assault Weapons Ban in 1994. When
Congress was considering that bill, there was no basis to believe
that "assault weapons" were ever used in crime, although there have
been rare exceptions; i.e., try carrying a rifle and walking around
the south side of Chicago. They can't be concealed and that is the
primary concern for violent criminals.
What ATF did in the period few years before the Act was this. ATF
Inspectors performing routine regulatory compliance inspections of
dealers were sensitized to copy the make, model and serial numbers of
every firearm sought to be included in the "assault weapon" ban. The
inspectors then requested a trace of such weapons even though they
were never involved in any wrong doing. These included those that
were sold years ago as well as those in current inventory. As soon
as a trace request is made, that firearm is labeled a "crime
gun." (that in itself is a whole nother story. That labeling is to
circumvent the FOPA ban on computerizing information which prohibits
ATF from entering any data into any computer that was derived from
records required to be kept by the industry but which "excepts"
information related to criminal investigations. By labeling traced
firearms as "crime guns," ATF has built and maintains a shadow
Soon, ATF had the astonishing statistics that "assault weapons" were
the guns of choice for violent criminals. ATF then published an
official report of those findings and that report was used as the
basis for the Assault Weapon ban.
Conversely, the sunset of the "assault weapons ban" occurred ten
years later only because ATF did not continue to have the inspectors
keep tracing "assault weapons" and when those in Congress seeking to
renew the ban had zero empirical data to cite that "assault weapons"
were a problem. In fact, most police departments recognized that
fact and even the most liberal ones had nothing to sustain their
Absolutely the trace data is available and can be retrieved readily.
The trick is that you can't get it from ATF (DOJ) by way of FOIA or
by other means that people are supposed to be able to obtain
government documents. Merely because of the fact that the gun was
traced, it becomes a "crime gun." And is thus classified in some
pseudo category, "for law enforcement purposes." A request from the
Mexican govt or from any agency in Mexico would be difficult for DOJ
to refuse but the results would probably be scrubbed of anything
useful. The vital data which is easily hidden is the identity of the
agency originating the trace. That would be ATF and it would not be
for any legitimate investigative purpose. What I see is that the
guns that Newell is discussing in his email are not guns that were
recovered by law enforcement agencies in Mexico of the US. That was
the point I concluded from your email. ATF is tracing the guns using
the records of federally licensed dealers who are cooperating with
ATF. A complete useless exercise and a waste of time, money and
effort. The trace results from the trace by the ATF National Tracing
Center can reveal nothing (in fact the information provided by the
trace would be far less than the information they have in hand from
the dealer's records.
To understand, one has to understand how firearms tracing works. It
is not rocket science. The tracing center is nothing more than a
switching center. To initiate the trace of a gun the persosn
initiating the trace must know the make, model and serial number of
the gun. That information is called, faxed, or emailed to the NTC in
West Virginia. The NTC in turn calls, faxes or emails the
manufacturer who goes through his records to find the gun and inform
the NTC of the licensee to whom it was shipped and the date. The NTC
in turn calls, faxes, or emails that licensed entity to that licensee
who locates the gun in his records and informs the NTC of the
licensee to whom it was shipped and the date. That process goes on
until the NTC reaches a licensee who made the first retail sale (sale
to a non-licensed person). At that point, the information about the
buyer is available from the ATF Form 4473 which contains every item
of personal information about the buyer known to man. That
information is designed to never leave the licensed premises of the
dealer. When this information reaches the National Tracing Center,
it is entered into the computer and is never erased. So in the F&F
investigation, ATF would be provided with the identity of the straw
purchaser – and all of his personal information. Things which they
knew before the trace began.
The reason for tracing guns is obvious. The tracing center is a ruse
by ATF. Section 926 of Title 18 (a section added by FOPA) prohibits
ATF from making or keeping any information contained in the records
of licensed dealers. That includes Computerized data. There was
ample evidence before FOPA that ATF was creating a National
Registry. Since § 926 became law, ATF simply cannot keep any such
records. To get around that, ATF has created a monstrous bureaucracy
which classifies all guns that are traced as "crime guns" (as if
there is any such thing). Can you imagine. Here is a gun that was
made to be used in crime? So the whole purpose for tracing guns by
ATF is not to aid law enforcement or criminal investigations, it is
to develop statistics for the use of lefty academics who are advising
ATF and DOJ what statistics they need for new legislation or more
regulations. To make matters worth, we, the taxpayers, are funding
the scam. The DOJ Bureau of Research and Statistics works hand in
glove with the Gun grabbers and gives federal grants to police
agencies who will agree to trace all of the guns which come within
their custody. Most are recoveries of stolen guns, guns taken in
domestic disputes, found guns, fires, hurricanes, tornados, and
everything imaginable but not related to any crime at all. Very very,
very few guns use in real crimes are ever traced. In most cases,
such guns are recovered with the arrest of the perp and then the
trace is only of minor interest. to the gun being traced for a
genuine law enforcement or investigative purpose. Once it gets that
label, ATF is free to enter all the information concerning it into
the records. That is how the statistics can be skewed in any
direction at the discretion of ATF which will always be in the
direction of gun control, banning guns and more and more regulation.
By tracing all of the guns that walked, they all become guns that
were used in crimes and ATF and DOJ have the statistical basis for
asserting that the dealers are responsible for all of the murders.
If there is anyone alive who is stupid enough to think that the
licensed dealers who cooperated fully with ATF in F&F were not going
to end up sitting in a US District Court at the defense table, I know
of a few bridges that may interest them.