Under the rather benign heading of Recommendations and Future Enhancements in the ATF’s National Firearms Commerce and Trafficking Assessment (NFCTA): Crime Guns – Volume Two.
These ten pages hide the incredibly annoying 3rd suggestion which walks like a gun registry, quacks like a gun registry, and would effectively be an instantly searchable database of 4473s, and therefore gun owners and their purchase information.
Expand the Use of NTC Connect Program: NTC Connect is a free service available to manufacturers, importers and wholesalers who maintain electronic Acquisition and Disposition (A&D) records. NTC Connect utilizes a secure web-based application through which authorized NTC personnel, when conducting a crime gun trace, can send a query, by serial number only, against an FFL’s electronic firearm acquisition records and retrieve the corresponding disposition data if available.]
They promise, by serial number only. They promise they won’t query it to build a database of gun owners and what they own. The promise it will only be searchable by S/N and that the API won’t allow for more than that.
[The data remains the property of the FFL and is not housed at ATF. Participation in the program is voluntary and can reduce FFL costs associated with maintaining personnel on staff to provide a response to NTC crime gun trace requests. At the same time, this program benefits the NTC by providing immediate access to a participant’s firearms data on a 24/7 basis, thereby allowing for operations to continue outside of normal business hours and leading to improved response times in completing crime gun trace requests for LEAs engaged in active and urgent criminal investigations. NTC Connect seems to produce efficiencies in trace response and completion time as well as cost savings to the participating licensed firearms industry members, however it does introduce additional overhead and costs to the government, which limit the overall scalability of the program.
There is no denying the usefulness of the digital age. Having the 4473 information digitally done, digitally accessible, and with autofill technology helping complete all the required paperwork for a transfer makes things convenient and cuts down on time and errors. Having LEAs able to query that info from their computer near instantly instead of calling, faxing, emailing, etc. would also be a massive time savings and engage far less people in the search. That is true.
But here’s the thing about protecting rights, such as privacy of ownership. It’s supposed to be a pain in the ass to violate. It is supposed to take time and be annoying, so you only do it when you need to. The government should be incredibly inconvenienced in anything of this sort.
An integrated, opted in database of 4473s from FFLs to LEAs and the ATF sounds great, right? It is ‘voluntary’, after all. The FFL still owns the data (that they have to give up on close of business to the ATF and are heavily liable for).
Until it isn’t voluntary anymore and you are required to be on the connected system. Of course then the UI only allows the ATF and LEAs to query any given form via a serial number trace, and that would be only off a recovered crime gun… until it isn’t. But ALL the information on ALL the forms has to be accessible by the system in order for the system to work and filter. It would only require a little bit of very simple program work to generate a full database of all the information off of all the 4473s which could then be date sorted for the most recent list of who owns what.
The system, as proposed, would not technically be a list. It would just be everything they need to make a list at any point in time they choose with or without congressional, judicial, or executive oversight.
But the government would never misuse data they have access to but shouldn’t, right?
The ATF in not so subtle language, and with full knowledge they are not allowed to have a useless, bloated, expensive database of firearms and owners, wants one that they promise totally isn’t a database of firearms and their owners “technically” because they promise to only use the right filter to show the data. That’s what is protecting it from being a list of gun owners and their guns, a filter algorithm.
I’m not buying it, and neither should you. Even if the government never misuses the data, even if they do exactly as promised and permanently lock this integrated data into a case by case trace system that is never used to itemize a list of guns and owners, all that data exists in a searchable format and anyone with enough gumption to try can probably trojan their way into making it make the list for them either from the FFL upload portal end or the LEA inquiry portal end.
This is absolutely something companies do with your data already. Amazon, Best Buy, Chewie and so forth all have data on you to better advertise to you in helpful ways. This data has measurable value.
But we know unscrupulous activists will misuse gun ownership data, they published a whole NY County with a FOIA request and exposed names and addresses of gun owners to the world. All because they believed everyone had a right to know if you were a gun owner or not and where you lived. That newspaper, that media outlet, took it upon themselves to put every single one of those people in danger. of theft, harassment, and retaliation for the offense of daring to be a gun permit holder. Now we want a database that gives potential seekers who view themselves on some moral mission or other to have more detailed information than that situation resulted in and for the whole nation?
Not okay. We’ve multiple instances of this type with collected data being breached and abused, and that is before accounting for willful government abuses. We cannot trust and should have no faith in the government to execute the protection of this information from third party abusers and should be suspect of their ability to keep from misusing it themselves.