Gun Paperwork Errors can Lead to Unsolved Crimes, ATF Says

Posted at: 08/27/2013 5:43 PM
Updated at: 08/27/2013 9:16 PM
By: Alan Hoglund

When making a gun purchase, errors on paperwork could lead to a criminal never getting arrested, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

The agency is trying to prevent those mistakes here in the Twin Ports through a series of seminars held at Duluth's Public Safety Building, two of which happened Tuesday. ATF Senior Special Agent and Public Information Officer Robert Schmidt described it as an "opportunity to get the word out about proper documentation of firearm transactions."

Should some of that information be incorrect, Schmidt said it could lead to a crime not being solved. Without proper information "we may not be able to get correct trace results. We may not be able to find out who the original purchaser of the firearm was," Schmidt said.

Schmidt described "tracing" as making a series of phone calls to the gun manufacturer, wholesaler and dealer to find out the original owner of the firearm. It's done after authorities find a gun.

According to Schmidt, there are between 330,000 and 340,000 traces done each year in the United States, and the number has been staying consistent. He said in Duluth, he has seen an uptick in traces, but couldn't give Eyewitness News any hard numbers.

There are about 120,000 firearms dealers and about 1,600 of them are in Minnesota, Schmidt said. He said there are 650 Industry Operations Investigators work for the ATF "so obviously they are not inspected on an annual basis but they are prioritized with the needs of the Bureau."

Schmidt explained that the ATF holds the seminars because they can't do more inspections. He said "we're in the business to educate these licensees.