Firearm purchase records are an important resource for law enforcement because the documents can help trace guns used in crimes.
Trouble is, millions of those records are languishing in cardboard boxes at the government’s National Tracing Center because they have not been processed, the USA Today reports.
The records – as many as 1.6 million documents a month – come from defunct firearm dealers who must hand over their records to an ATF facility.
The USA Today reports:
The avalanche of records is a little-noticed yet critical component of a newly escalating firearms debate that underscores both the strained operations of the federal government’s chief gun enforcement agency and the strength of a powerful gun rights lobby intent on preventing the creation of a national gun registry, law enforcement analysts say.
The dysfunctional document management system exists even as ATF examiners are faced with a steadily increasing demand for tracing guns used in crimes — 364,441 requests last year — and as the agency seeks to assist local law enforcement authorities in a number of U.S. cities, including Chicago, St. Louis, Milwaukee and Baltimore, where there have been dramatic spikes in gun-related violence.
“It’s really sad,” said Ben Hayes, a former ATF official who for more than a decade oversaw parts of the tracing center’s operations. “It’s pathetic.”