Inside the Federal Bureau Of Way Too Many Guns
September 2, 2016 8:52 AM   Subscribe

(SLGQ) “There's no telling how many guns we have in America—and when one gets used in a crime, no way for the cops to connect it to its owner. The only place the police can turn for help is a Kafkaesque agency in West Virginia, where, thanks to the gun lobby, computers are illegal and detective work is absurdly antiquated. On purpose. Thing is, the geniuses who work there are quietly inventing ways to do the impossible.”
posted by Rangi (53 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
 
The National Tracing Center is not allowed to have centralized computer data.

Do they drink the juice of sapho before searching the microfilm records?
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 9:01 AM on September 2, 2016 [21 favorites]


Just give tech a few years, big data analysis from the massive fleet of billions of ultra-micro drones will do an inventory and build out a country wide heatmap of high concentration of personal arsenals.
posted by sammyo at 9:01 AM on September 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


Facebook should provide information on who has what gun to them via all the pictures people post of themselves and their guns.
posted by charred husk at 9:22 AM on September 2, 2016 [13 favorites]


And back to tech, "That's been a federal law, thanks to the NRA, since 1986: No searchable database of America's gun owners. "

Does that just prevent the feds from having a DB or anyone? Can't imagine how it can prevent a private db? So how can this be tossed at silicon valley VC nerds to monitize? That'll build a database fast.
posted by sammyo at 9:23 AM on September 2, 2016 [7 favorites]


I don't think VCs have a death wish.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 9:40 AM on September 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


Some Googling makes it seem like the restriction is built into the ATF appropriations law, so I'd expect that a private database would be legal.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 9:41 AM on September 2, 2016


The people who could do a private database probably don't have access to the data, I can't imagine those forms are public.

It does seem like they should maybe be able to (and yes, this is ridiculous and shouldn't be necessary, but hey) get a law past the NRA which would allow them to make their stuff searchable by those 15-letter codes and maybe by serial number. Essentially a one-way database that wouldn't make it possible to search for the actual owners to get a list of their guns, but just to search for a given gun to find the owner. That's of course hugely dumb, but it might be workable.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 9:43 AM on September 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


I bet if you created a website that let gun owners enter information about their collection for tracking and showing off, as well as getting current price data, etc, most would voluntarily use it. It's all about how you market it. Imagine Cellar Tracker for guns.
posted by jeffamaphone at 9:43 AM on September 2, 2016 [16 favorites]


“We have about 50 ATF employees. And all the rest are basically the ladies. The ladies that live in West Virginia—and they got a job.”

All of them, Charlie? All of them?

Seriously, though, this is amazing, all things considered:

Sixty-five percent of the time, workers at the tracing center are able to successfully trace a gun used in a crime back to the original purchaser. A routine trace takes about a week, but they can turn an “urgent” around in 24 hours. The San Bernardino case was an urgent. The Boston Marathon bomber case was an urgent. Gabby Giffords: urgent. Charleston. Aurora. Fort Hood. Columbine. Washington Navy Yard. Sikh temple.

And this is by no means an exhaustive list.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 9:46 AM on September 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


What an incredibly frustrating, disheartening read. I have days when I feel like my work is needlessly complicated and bureaucratic and constrained by sensless policies...I should print a picture of these guys. Just ... wow.
posted by Naib at 9:50 AM on September 2, 2016 [6 favorites]


Is anyone else getting a "Visit Canada" ad every paragraph or two?
posted by supercres at 10:11 AM on September 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


really eye opening. amazing they get anything done at all facing those odds.

Gun control is an inevitability. I think the right knows it. The idea that guns are a check on governments run amok is laughable at this point, I think the right knows this as well. I think its hard to face those facts because they dont want to feel impotent against a government run amok going forward (which they are with or without guns).

I don't think the most powerful institutions in the world are done doing terrible things, I worry about these things too. The United States in particular has such a rich history of fucking people its not the craziest leap. That vague sense of history combined with the scale and power of contemporary institutions makes people cling to their guns, because what else do they have? Obviously, we generally should be more secure with being insecure because that is how we will always be, but that isn't advice you'd give to a Syrian right now.

I guess I should add the disclaimer I had a hyperconservative father who loved limbaugh and a marxist, agnostic grandfather who loved chomsky and my mother and grandmother very patiently tolerated their hot air. Both were intelligent men but the dual indoctrination definitely shaped me as a child. So if I seems like I'm a redneck apologist simpleton it might be because the shoe fits I guess.
posted by forgettable at 10:18 AM on September 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


It does seem like they should maybe be able to (and yes, this is ridiculous and shouldn't be necessary, but hey) get a law past the NRA which would allow them to make their stuff searchable by those 15-letter codes and maybe by serial number. Essentially a one-way database that wouldn't make it possible to search for the actual owners to get a list of their guns, but just to search for a given gun to find the owner. That's of course hugely dumb, but it might be workable.

Not really. Even if you built it to accept queries like that, suddenly you have all this data in digital form, and it would not be hard to convert that (hypothetically) to do lookups the other way - name to gun, rather than gun to name.

I think we should do it, I think having a centralized record of guns is sensible the same way we have a centralized record of cars ... but there's not really a way to store the data so you couldn't reprocess it to allow the Wrong Kind of lookup, which means that's not an argument that can be used to make the gun lobby happy.

(To make an analogy that people here - myself included - fall on the other side of, the NSA collects tons of phone call data, and swears really hard that they'll only use it in officially approved ways. And we know that's bullshit, that the world doesn't work that way.)

I don't think we're going to find a technical solution here; you can't take a set of data, say that one set of queries is good and another set is bad, and enforce that at the database layer. The best you can do is put controls around it - restrictions on who can access the data, logs of what was accessed and when, oversight and accountability - and then make the argument that the social good outweighs potential abuse.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 10:19 AM on September 2, 2016 [7 favorites]


"...The idea that guns are a check on governments run amok is laughable at this point..."

Anyone who believes this hasn't been paying attention for the last 12 years. During this period a group of 14th century zealots have beaten the worlds most powerful military to a total standstill using primarily small arms and household chemicals.
posted by shnarg at 10:28 AM on September 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


I see your point shnarg but I think the government in question ran amok nevertheless. I also wouldn't use the word standstill. For someone on the ground, its not as if the zealots you speak of prevented bad things from happening to their cohort.
posted by forgettable at 10:39 AM on September 2, 2016


Thank you, Charlie.

I wish we were not so insane about guns in this country. I have no idea if we can ever recover from it.
posted by corvikate at 10:48 AM on September 2, 2016


Does that just prevent the feds from having a DB or anyone? Can't imagine how it can prevent a private db?

The law does not prevent private databases. Which is why The National Rifle Association has the most comprehensive database of firearm owners in the country.
posted by Uncle Ira at 11:00 AM on September 2, 2016 [9 favorites]


Wait. Hold on. All of this is insane but this part had me whip out google and my calculator:

... in 2013, U.S. gun manufacturers rolled out 10,844,792 guns, and we imported an additional 5,539,539. The numbers were equally astounding the year before, and the year before that, and the year before that.

According to the ATF, 4% of the guns manufactured in the U.S. in 2013 were exported, so 10,413,880 stayed in the U.S. Add in the imports and there were 15,953,419 new guns in the U.S. in 2013.

(The count of guns manufactured in the U.S. excludes guns manufactured for the U.S. military but includes firearems purchased for domestic law enforcement according to Business Insider.)

According to the U.S. Census Bureau the U.S. population at the end of 2013 was 317 million.

Which means that in 2013 there was a new gun for every 20 people in the U.S. That's just one year.
posted by mcduff at 11:16 AM on September 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


No Database for the National Tracing Center is a depressing reverse of Algorithmic Photo "Zooming" For Police.
posted by clew at 11:36 AM on September 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


I think we should do it, I think having a centralized record of guns is sensible the same way we have a centralized record of cars

Do we?
I know my state's DMV has a record of my car.
But can a cop in West Virginia login to a database, type in my VIN (or partial VIN) and get a matching record?
Can the Feds without contacting my DMV?

I honestly have no idea.
posted by madajb at 11:46 AM on September 2, 2016


Forgettable
They were not fighting their govt they were fighting a foreign invader (us/US). If not a stand still, what? Have we completed any real effective, beneficial outcome for our Trillions of treasure and thousands of lives. On the other hand, they indeed have made benefit out of their actions, they have thwarted every initiative we've started. Complete WW2 type defeat is not in their playbook but us stealing away in a sane move to end the bloodshed is very much part of the possibilities. The only reason we have not done that is because no president wants to be the one who left and no one can make it a win.
posted by shnarg at 11:46 AM on September 2, 2016


He's holding a hefty book, one of his favorite gun encyclopedias, and he would like to tell me about the Beretta 92 and its various doppelgängers. “Now, the real Beretta's made in Italy,” he says, “but Taurus is made in Brazil. So you have the Beretta 92 and Taurus PT 92. They're the exact same gun except the safety's on the slide on one and on the frame of the other.”

Clearly this man hates guns and gun hobbyists!

“She's not the kind of wife you're gonna expect. She's an arson-and-explosives expert. She's working on a serial arsonist tonight.”

... nah, not terribly surprising actually.

Also the bit about Charlie Houser's background and process innovations is a good example of why computer science is not about computers (somebody who works with the same kind of algorithms but not under the banner of CS is probably going to get mad at me - okay, we don't own that stuff)
posted by atoxyl at 11:49 AM on September 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


I don't think we're going to find a technical solution here; you can't take a set of data, say that one set of queries is good and another set is bad, and enforce that at the database layer. The best you can do is put controls around it - restrictions on who can access the data, logs of what was accessed and when, oversight and accountability - and then make the argument that the social good outweighs potential abuse.

Yeah, you need actual policies to make the technology actually solve the issue of access control.

But there's not a whole lot of 'potential abuse' of a registry of licensed firearms owners and registered firearms if you're living in the 21st Century where if a SWAT team shows up to arrest you, you're getting (a) arrested or (b) dead and the idea of rising up and "Taking America Back" really should get you a visit to a counselor.
posted by mikelieman at 11:53 AM on September 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


But there's not a whole lot of 'potential abuse' of a registry of licensed firearms owners and registered firearms if you're living in the 21st Century where if a SWAT team shows up to arrest you, you're getting (a) arrested or (b) dead and the idea of rising up and "Taking America Back" really should get you a visit to a counselor.

I don't disagree, and I think policy is the right answer here. All I'm saying is that "let's make a magic database that doesn't work how real-world databases do, because that will make the gun lobby feel better" is not something we can realistically do. And I think it's a distraction from discussions about what *would* make these sorts of controls politically viable.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 12:05 PM on September 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


Can we make a law that the NSA can't use databases?

You wanna search through my email? Sure, get Google on the phone and have them sort through all their microfilm to get my email.
posted by Galaxor Nebulon at 12:10 PM on September 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


I am an outlier. I spent a *long* time in insurance, risk management, financial services it, auditing, etc.

And our current system of licensing, insurance, and registration for motor vehicles does a pretty good job of managing the risks of unlicensed and uninsured operators, unregistered motor vehicles, &. by using licensing and registration to give law enforcement the tools to arrest dangerous drivers and impound unregistered vehicles.

See where this is going? I advocate for a *national* firearms owner license, with classes based on the skills and knowledge you demonstrate. And the mandatory registration of any firearms which a licensed owner has, plus proof of financial security. After a while, the police will have a whole lot of firearms out of the hands of the people who aren't responsible. In a decade the landscape will be totally different.

And you know, if The Shit Hits The Fan, and it is armed revolution, then we always have the measured blueprints for stens, don't we?
posted by mikelieman at 12:11 PM on September 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


Maan, I read this article because I wanted details on algorithms for searching a physically printed database. The answer was pretty much "and the guy said blahbeddyblahbetty queueing theory". So at least I have that one keyword.
posted by Galaxor Nebulon at 12:17 PM on September 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


Just nationalise the NRA and put it under the control of the ATF.

Sorted.
posted by Devonian at 12:17 PM on September 2, 2016 [6 favorites]


Facebook should provide information on who has what gun to them via all the pictures people post of themselves and their guns.

I know this is a joke, but it seems like some level of informal, private data collection could do this. Folks submit facebook posts, tweets, and other media they see, and some correlation happens.

Yes, lot of folks have their cache buried in the Washington back-county that we'll never see. But, truthfully, I'm less worried about some survivalist's stash (which, because he's saving for the End of the World, he doesn't want to use) than I am the random dude with a gun.

If this builds enough momentum, it may even lead to the NRA preferring a government-run database with clearer controls than a vigilante one.
posted by MrGuilt at 12:51 PM on September 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


Man, the Grateful Dead had THAT problem sorted ( heh ) long ago.

The 3x5 index cards fit in the shoeboxes. As many shoeboxes as you needed for a particular show.
posted by mikelieman at 1:01 PM on September 2, 2016


There must be a LOT of surplus Card Catalogue furniture out there for cheaps, right?
posted by mikelieman at 1:02 PM on September 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


I was also slightly disappointed at the lack of details provided on the improved workflow Charlie worked out. The quote “So we fire the Glocks through as fast as they go into mainstream tracing, and we send the gun made in the Czechoslovakian factory, which is gonna take a genius an hour, send Czechoslovakia over here…. That's how you start stripping time off stuff!” is tantalizing but frustratingly so.

But kudos for the journalist who found and wrote this story. I finished it with a lump in my throat.
posted by of strange foe at 1:10 PM on September 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


Why hasn't some Russian hacker stolen the NRA databases? I doubt that the NRA has brilliant computer security skilkz.
posted by monotreme at 1:31 PM on September 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


It does seem like they should maybe be able to (and yes, this is ridiculous and shouldn't be necessary, but hey) get a law past the NRA which would allow them to make their stuff searchable by those 15-letter codes and maybe by serial number. Essentially a one-way database that wouldn't make it possible to search for the actual owners to get a list of their guns, but just to search for a given gun to find the owner. That's of course hugely dumb, but it might be workable.

It should be possible to do this about as securely as current password storage methods allow.

Table 1: guns
Table 2: bcrypted gun info, owner info.

To search, find the gun that most closely matches the info you have, use bcrypt to derive that gun's hash, then search table 2 for that hash.
posted by Jpfed at 1:37 PM on September 2, 2016


I wish we were not so insane about guns in this country. I have no idea if we can ever recover from it.

My strong thoughts, hope of courage and relief from worry, and firm friendship to my America friends who carry the burden of this concern.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 1:39 PM on September 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


Maan, I read this article because I wanted details on algorithms for searching a physically printed database. The answer was pretty much "and the guy said blahbeddyblahbetty queueing theory". So at least I have that one keyword.

It seems like that part is probably more about allocating labor to tasks than performing individual searches? The great thing about math is the algorithms here are probably fundamentally the same as you'd use designing a processor pipeline, or an actual assembly line, or I dunno, managing network load. And the algorithms applicable to searching a printed database are probably not much different from the algorithms applicable to searching a digital database - with the incorporation of human-brain heuristics like "I'm looking for a W." But yeah I'd also love to be able to talk to any of the employees they interviewed myself.
posted by atoxyl at 1:50 PM on September 2, 2016


spaceman_spiff: Not really. Even if you built it to accept queries like that, suddenly you have all this data in digital form, and it would not be hard to convert that (hypothetically) to do lookups the other way - name to gun, rather than gun to name.

Not necessarily. They already have the go-ahead to convert their documents to PDFs, they just (presumably) can't OCR them, so the document and its info is an image you have to look at. If you just indexed those PDFs by serial number or ID number, but didn't include the name in machine readable form anywhere, you could look up the PDFs by number, but not by name.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 2:02 PM on September 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


I think I made it more than halfway through before the panic symptoms started. And that's what the evil people are counting on, that most of us just aren't going to be able to handle it and we'll have to just go on thinking about other things.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 2:30 PM on September 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


There's a video at the end, by that way, in case anyone else missed it - I did. Charlie mentions in the video that they "tag [electronic copies] with description and FFL number" (I guess that's dealer license number?) and that they are expressly forbidden from maintaining anything searchable by owner name. It's not entirely clear to me whether this means they can search on certain attributes other than name and it's not clear to me whether the gun serial no. is one of those attributes if they can.
posted by atoxyl at 2:34 PM on September 2, 2016


but there's not really a way to store the data so you couldn't reprocess it to allow the Wrong Kind of lookup,

I don't know why I thought of Harold Finch from Person of Interest when I read this...but he might have ideas :P
In other news, this is even more antiquated than my work. What are these people gonna do when microfilm keels over and dies?
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:43 PM on September 2, 2016


Is anyone else getting a "Visit Canada" ad every paragraph or two?

Nope, but I was reading it from Canada.

Also...

Caveat: LEAVE YOUR GUNS AT HOME: CANADA BORDER SERVICES AGENCY
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 2:47 PM on September 2, 2016


Why hasn't some Russian hacker stolen the NRA databases? I doubt that the NRA has brilliant computer security skilkz.

Other than embarrassing the NRA, of what use would that be? It would be funny at first, and then it would turn into a total shit show of accusations and threats.

Gun control is an inevitability.

I'm no expert but my sense is that this is not the case, aside from small tweaks. If gun control were really happening, we wouldn't have kafka-esque situations like the antiquated system described in the FPP. The pendulum will swing and there will be another round of assault weapons bans, but I do not expect to see any kind of national gun registration in my lifetime.
posted by Dip Flash at 4:22 PM on September 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


Its the first time I've seen a video buried so deep - I prefer to read anyways, but am glad I watched it - there is some gold in there. I'm halfway through and had to stop and comment on the guy showing the unusual firearms who, upon showing a gun in the form of a fancy walking cane, said:

"and you're walking along, then if a wild animal or something comes to you, you have some type of weapon." With your dressy cane-gun!

This is right after talking about how handicapped hunters use sniper rifles so they can still hunt up to a half mile away.
posted by ianhattwick at 4:53 PM on September 2, 2016


If you just indexed those PDFs by serial number or ID number, but didn't include the name in machine readable form anywhere, you could look up the PDFs by number, but not by name.

My thought exactly. But, this whole attempt at preventing the creation of a database was doomed the moment they stored files on anything other than paper, and especially on computer. What is to stop a malevolent entity with control of the center (assuming one with the capability to organize and enact a gun confiscation policy) using OCR at any time on a stored image - and then running scripts to organize the records based on the amount of recoverable text?
posted by ianhattwick at 5:00 PM on September 2, 2016


Gun control is an inevitability.

I'm no expert but my sense is that this is not the case,


Yeah, I expect more polarization between high and low population density areas. I've read some blue areas have tightened their gun laws and many red areas definitely are dismantling their firearm regulations. Constitutional concealed carry passed with enough votes to override Jay Nixon's veto, making Missouri likely to join Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Puerto Rico, Vermont, West Virginia and Wyoming that seem to have decided individuals can decide for themselves if they want to carry a gun open or concealed.
posted by ridgerunner at 5:27 PM on September 2, 2016


spaceman_spiff, I think that would be possible in such a way that precludes an index: store a table of gun ID with some random salt, and use that as the key for a symmetrically-encrypted owner information column. Jpfed’s proposal still allows for an index of gun owners to be created, which is presumably the step before the jackbooted thugs come in—even though they don't know what guns you have, they know how many you have.

I assume there’s a non-technical reason they haven’t done this.
posted by reluctant early bird at 8:40 PM on September 2, 2016


Jpfed’s proposal still allows for an index of gun owners to be created, which is presumably the step before the jackbooted thugs come in—even though they don't know what guns you have, they know how many you have.

The "Jackbooted Thugs" ( i.e. SWAT Team ) doesn't care what guns you have or how many. The assume you have enough to be a threat to their lives, throw in a flash bang, crash the door, and if you twitch in the wrong direction, you're dead.

So, we clearly see the fear of a database is unjustified in the real world.
posted by mikelieman at 9:28 PM on September 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


It should be possible to do this about as securely as current password storage methods allow.

Table 1: guns
Table 2: bcrypted gun info, owner info.

To search, find the gun that most closely matches the info you have, use bcrypt to derive that gun's hash, then search table 2 for that hash.


This would work.

In layman’s terms, the way this works is that it takes some small amount of time, on the order of seconds, to access each record. If you only need to look at one record because you’re going [gun]→[owner], a second or two is no big deal. If you wanted to go the other way, [owner]→[gun], you’d have to decrypt every gun’s entry one‐by‐one till you got to one with a matching owner. When you have to check tens of millions of records, the seconds add up quickly. A million seconds is 11.6 days.

The “images‐only PDF” solution is a similar idea, but there the human factor is the speedbump, rather than the cryptography.

Of course there’s no technical solution to keeping the authorities from running a second, unencumbered database, but for all we know, the NSA already is.
posted by Fongotskilernie at 11:13 PM on September 2, 2016


ATF has a table of (ID, gun, key). Somebody else has a table of (ID, encrypted owner info) and maintains a service through which ATF can request encrypted owner entries by ID.

Mediating the lookup with a hash doesn't seem to make that much difference if nobody is preventing you from hashing each entry once - a different matter than hashing each entry for each desired owner lookup - and storing them? But then I guess nobody is preventing you from storing all the owner entries one at a time - or then again maybe somebody is?

This is all silly but it's meant to be silly.
posted by atoxyl at 1:14 AM on September 3, 2016


So if the NRA has the database, why can't the FBI or whoever go to them with a court order when they want to ID a gun used in a crime? If the police in the UK know I've got something germane to an investigation, they can (in general; I have some protection of sources as a journalist) come and get it if they can justify a warrant.

(ETA - there's the All Writs Act that the FBI tried to use on Apple to get them to create a decryption mechanism, which didn't really apply there but I think might apply here

But then, the list of things that could help the police while in no way infringing the 2nd is very long, and very obvious, and very clearly unacceptable to the special snowflakes who wish to be as beyond the law as possible.
posted by Devonian at 7:37 AM on September 3, 2016


So if the NRA has the database, why can't the FBI or whoever go to them with a court order when they want to ID a gun used in a crime? If the police in the UK know I've got something germane to an investigation, they can (in general; I have some protection of sources as a journalist) come and get it if they can justify a warrant.

The current and past membership lists of the NRA are basically a list of gun owners, which was the basis for the original joking comment above. But the NRA doesn't (as far as I know) have a way to keep a list that would link gun serial numbers to gun owners. The reason that a partial list of gun owners isn't of any use for anything is that about 1/3 of households in the US own guns, so all you would need to do is knock on a few doors randomly and you will have found gun owners. It's commonplace to the point of being entirely unremarkable, and totally useless except for fantasies about gun confiscation.

What isn't common and reflects some deep antagonism to government oversight of gun ownership are the legal hurdles to compiling any list that does link individual gun owners and individual guns. I've always figured that the NSA would have a version of that list or at least would be keeping copies of the background checks for firearms purchases, but whatever the NSA has doesn't seem to be shared with law enforcement for regular criminal investigations so it doesn't much matter.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:03 AM on September 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


The more I think about this, the angrier I get. The notion you can search a gun's serial number like a VIN number is something most American's probably take for granted, given that ubiquity on TV. A tiny it vocal minority make it so you can't have technology that existed in a Commodore 64 would shock them. The fact that vocal minority are so Immature that they index on toilet paper to prevent something no one but an even tinier minority has suggested (round up the guns) tells me how little progress we can have in the status quo.

How to energize people: have TV start showing how it really works.

Cop 1: "Cool–we got a serial number."
Cop 2: "Let me call West Virginia"…"OK, the store it was purchased from is closed. They need to dig in the paper files. Said they'd call us in a week."
Cop 1: "OK. Man, glad I don't hve that job!"
posted by MrGuilt at 11:17 AM on September 3, 2016 [4 favorites]


This is fascinating, and I'm glad to know what it means that the weapons unit in my agency runs an e-trace on every gun we recover. That said, there is an exception to this, which is stolen guns that have been reported to the police. If I run an NCIC query on a stolen gun by serial I'll have a response with owner information and agency and case number for the loss within seconds.
posted by firebrick at 11:11 PM on September 3, 2016


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