10 months, 2 weeks ago
In the fictional world of television police dramas, a few quick clicks on a computer lead investigators to the owner of a gun recovered at a bloody crime scene. Before the first commercial, the TV detectives are on the trail of the suspect.
Reality is a world away. There is no national database of guns. Not of who owns them, how many are sold annually or even how many exist.
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When police want to trace a gun, it’s a decidedly low-tech process.
“It’s not CSI and it’s not a sophisticated computer system,” said Charles J. Houser, who runs the ATF’s National Tracing Center in Martinsburg, W. Va.
When police trace a gun, the search starts by sending all the information they have about the gun – including the manufacturer and model – to an office worker in a low-slung brick building just off the Appalachian Trial in rural West Virginia, about 90 miles northwest of Washington.
ATF officials first call the manufacturer, who reveals which wholesaler the company used. That may lead to a call to a second distributor before investigators can pinpoint the retail gun dealer who first sold the weapon. Gun dealers are required to keep a copy of federal forms that detail who buys what gun and a log for guns sold. They are required to share that information with the ATF if a gun turns up at a crime scene and authorities want it traced. Often, gun shops fax the paperwork to the ATF.
That’s where the paper trail ends.
In about 30 percent of cases, one or all of those folks have gone out of business and ATF tracers are left to sort through potentially thousands of out-of-business records forwarded to the ATF and stored at the office building that more closely resembles a remote call center than a law enforcement operation.
The records are stored as digital pictures that can only be searched one image at a time. Two shifts of contractors spend their days taking staples out of papers, sorting through thousands of pages and scanning or taking pictures of the records.
“Those records come in all different shapes and forms. We have to digitally image them, we literally take a picture of it,” Houser said. “We have had rolls of toilet paper or paper towels … because they (dealers) did not like the requirement to keep records.”
The tracing center receives about a million out-of-business records every month and Houser runs the center’s sorting and imaging operations from 6 a.m. to midnight, five days a week. The images are stored on old-school microfilm reels or as digital images. But there’s no way to search the records, other than to scroll through one picture of a page at a time.
“We are … prohibited from amassing the records of active dealers,” Houser said. “It means that if a dealer is in business he maintains his records.”
Good. This is the way I want it kept. Any further collating, storing, amassing, categorizing or any other kind of analysis means that the federal government would have a national gun registry. And that would be unconstitutional … and immoral.
The Bible does contain a few direct references to weapons control. There were many times throughout Israel’s history that it rebelled against God (in fact, it happened all the time). To mock His people back into submission to His Law, the Lord would often use wicked neighbors to punish Israel’s rebellion. Most notable were the Philistines and the Babylonians. 1 Samuel 13:19-22 relates the story: “Not a blacksmith could be found in the whole land of Israel, because the Philistines had said, “Otherwise the Hebrews will make swords or spears!” So all Israel went down to the Philistines to have their plowshares, mattocks, axes, and sickles sharpened…So on the day of battle not a soldier with Saul and Jonathan had a sword or spear in this hand; only Saul and his son Jonathan had them.” Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon also removed all of the craftsmen from Israel during the Babylonian captivity (2 Kings 24:14). Both of these administrations were considered exceedingly wicked including their acts of weapons control.
As I said. Gun control is the action of wicked governments. A national gun registry grants the government too much power, too much information, and too much control.