Tracing a gun used in a crime often requires federal agents to search through boxes of handwritten records.
That’s because federal law prohibits the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives from creating an electronic, searchable database of gun records.
“The fact that there is a law on the books that forces agents to comb through millions of files by hand is absolutely ridiculous,” said Nelson, who is facing an election challenge from Republican Gov. Rick Scott.
The bill would give ATF three years to create a searchable, computerized database that would include all records in its possession on the sale, importation, production or shipment of firearms.
Agents can’t key in a serial number under the present system to find out who owns a gun.
When investigators recover a gun and serial number, they must make a series of phone calls to find out whom it was sold to — first to the manufacturer, then to the wholesaler and finally to the licensed dealer. If the gun shop is out of business, investigators have to thumb through paper records kept at the ATF’s National Tracing Center in West Virginia.
Parkland activist Emma Gonzalez issued her support for the bill on Twitter Friday, writing “This bill is Super Important, with it we will Actually be able to find the original owner of weapons like we see in Criminal Minds.”
The National Rifle Association has long fought efforts to track gun ownership. The organization maintains that gun owners have a Second Amendment right to bear arms and shouldn’t be required to register with the government to exercise that constitutional right.
Florida state law makes it a felony offense to create a list of gun owners, and government agencies can be fined up to $5 million for violating the statute.
The Florida Legislature concluded a database of gun owners would be “an instrument for profiling, harassing, or abusing law-abiding citizens based on their choice to own a firearm and exercise their Second Amendment right.”