According to a report that prompted Cloud’s initial letter, 54.7 million of those records were handed over to the agency in Fiscal Year 2021.
The ATF has built up its storehouse of information over the past 15 years through “Out of Business Records” (OBR) — the gun sales records that federal firearms licensees (FFLs) are required to transfer to the agency when they go out of business.
According to the ATF, of the 921 million records it has, approximately 866 million are stored “in digitalized format.”
“The sole purpose of these systems is to trace firearms used in crimes, which is a valuable crime gun intelligence tool used in thousands of investigations by ATF and our local, State, and Federal law enforcement partners,” the ATF told Cloud.
While the agency says it has “no ability to determine the successful prosecution of hundreds of thousands of crime gun traces it completes annually,” it provided a table showing that in 2021, the agency received 548,000 traces and that the records were used in 259,000 traces.
Cloud contends that the management of the massive volume of records by the ATF is at odds with the statutory prohibition of a federal firearm registry.
“[T]he Biden Administration is again circumventing Congress and enabling the notably corrupt ATF to manage a database of nearly a billion gun transfer records,” said Cloud. “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.”
The number of gun records held in the ATF’s database could grow even larger in the near future, as the agency is pursuing a rule change that would require FFLs to maintain the records that are ultimately transferred to the agency indefinitely, rather than the current 20-year minimum.
“Texans fervently understand their Constitutional right to keep and bear arms,” Cloud told The Texan in a statement. “If the Biden Administration is successful in their proposed rule change, every gun record from the past twenty years and onward would be stored in a federal database managed by the ATF. This would absolutely violate federal law and would put Texans and the rest of the nation on the path of potential gun confiscation.”
The ATF, though, has shrugged off the concern.
“With regard to the proposed rule (ATF-2021R-05) on which you commented, ATF is confident that it does not violate any laws,” stated the agency.
Cloud is following up his initial letter with a second, asking the agency for more explanation as to how useful the rule change would be, especially given that the agency has no way of knowing how many crime traces in the system lead to successful prosecutions.
The letter notes that the ATF itself asserts “the average time to crime is 7.01 years from the point of purchasing a firearm, with nearly half occurring within the first three years” — far shorter than records older than the current 20-year minimum.
“[T]he evidence provided by ATF thus far demonstrates that such records likely have little utility in prosecuting crime, yet raise serious concerns about whether ATF is creating a prohibited national gun registry,” writes Cloud.
34 other House members signed the letter with Cloud, including Texas Reps. Chip Roy (R-TX-21), Louie Gohmert (R-TX-01), Ronny Jackson (R-TX-13), and Roger Williams (R-TX-25).
“Americans have every right to be concerned about the Biden Administration misusing their power to create a federal firearms registry, and it’s up to Congress to investigate further,” said Cloud.
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Daniel Friend is the Marketing and Media Manager for The Texan. After graduating with a double-major in Political Science and Humanities, he wrote for The Texan as a reporter through June 2022. In his spare time, you're likely to find him working on The Testimony of Calvin Lewis, an Abolition of Man-inspired novel and theatrical podcast.