The Biden administration is in possession of nearly one billion records detailing American citizens’ firearm purchases, far more than Congress and the public has been aware of, according to new information from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.
The ATF disclosed to lawmakers that it manages a database of 920,664,765 firearm purchase records, including both digital and hard copy versions of these transactions. When a licensed gun store goes out of business, its private records detailing gun transactions become ATF property and are stored at a federal site in West Virginia. The practice has contributed to the fears of gun advocacy groups and Second Amendment champions in Congress that the federal government is creating a national database of gun owners, which violates longstanding federal statutes.
Rep. Michael Cloud (R., Texas), who led an investigation into the ATF database following a November Free Beacon report that the Biden administration had stockpiled records of more than 54 million gun transactions in 2021, expressed shock at the number of gun records being kept by the federal government. Cloud maintains that the ATF’s database could be exploited by the Biden administration to surveil American gun owners as it pursues new restrictions on firearms.
“A federal firearm registry is explicitly banned by law. Yet, the Biden administration is again circumventing Congress and enabling the notably corrupt ATF to manage a database of nearly a billion gun transfer records,” Cloud told the Free Beacon. “Under the president’s watch, the ATF has increased surveillance on American gun owners at an abhorrent level. The Biden administration continues to empower criminals and foreign nationals while threatening the rights of law-abiding Americans. It’s shameful and this administration should reconsider its continued attacks on American gun owners.”
While the ATF denies that these records are used to track gun owners, it transfers hard copies of the information into a searchable digital database that it says is used to trace firearms tied to crimes. The ATF reported that 865,787,086 of the records are already in a digital format.
As the ATF stockpiles gun records, the Biden administration is seeking to alter a federal law that allows gun stores to destroy their records after 20 years, preventing the federal government from getting them. The Biden administration wants gun stores to maintain their records in perpetuity, meaning that when a store closes, the ATF receives all of its records. The ATF’s gun records database has long been a flashpoint between Second Amendment advocates and the federal government, with the latter claiming the ATF is exploiting legal loopholes to expand the database. The Biden administration’s push to ensure that all out-of-business records ultimately make their way to the ATF has sparked fierce pushback from 52 Republicans in Congress.
The proposed change, Cloud and his colleagues wrote to the ATF in a November letter, “means that 100 percent of all lawful commercial firearm transfers would eventually end up in an ATF computer system, thereby creating a permanent database”—in violation of the law.
The ATF maintained in its response to the 2021 investigation that the “sole purpose” of its database and ongoing efforts to digitize out-of-business records “is to trace firearms used in crimes.”
More than half-a-million traces were performed in 2021, according to the ATF, and just under half a million in 2020. The ATF, however, says it does not have the ability to determine if the database actually helps solve crimes. The ATF’s National Tracing Center “has no ability to determine the successful prosecution of hundreds of thousands of crime gun traces it completes annually, nor does it have any way to link a trace for a specific prosecution for a particular year,” the agency informed Congress.
Aidan Johnston, director of federal affairs for Gun Owners of America, an advocacy group that has closely tracked the ATF’s database, told the Free Beacon that it is becoming clear the Biden administration is on its way to creating a national gun registry.
“Make no mistake—this is clear evidence that a partial national gun registry exists,” Johnston said. “If the American people don’t stand up for their rights now, Biden’s anti-gun ATF will be able to track gun owners, infringe on our rights, and potentially even confiscate our firearms.”