ATFE Form 4473
There's been some discussion in comments a few posts back about ATFE Form 4473 and how it will lead to dastardly things happening.
I've been selling guns for a number of years, let me tell you how it works here in Montana. You buy a gun from me and fill out the 'yellow sheet'. If you have a carry permit, I dont have to call for the NCIC background check ... you fill out the form, collect your thundertoy and go. If I call the NCIC background weasels, they do get your personal info but they dont get to know what you purchased ... (oh, they know "handgun, long gun or other" but thats it ... they'll know the call is about you trying to buy a pistol ... they won't know its make, model, serial, caliber, etc.)
So, you fill out the yellow sheet, collect your gun and head home. What happens to that yellow sheet? Well, here in Montana there is no state requirement to do anything like fax it to the state police or something, like in other states. So, all I do is what the feds require. Here's what that is - the yellow sheet goes into a filing cabinet and after twenty years it goes into the shredder. (They may have changed that last part.)
So how does. Gov track you, then? Well, they'd have to send someone to the shop and have them demand to go through all the sheets looking for the one with your name. Other than that, they dont get that info ... the notion that a week after you buy a gun from an FFL (in Montana, anyway) your name is in a federal database somewhere with a serial number and all is kinda silly. Unless the feds are psychic and have mastered 'remote viewing' a'la Art Bell, there's no way for them to know until they come and pick up those sheets.
So how do guns get traced? Well, let's say little Leroy blows away a 7-11 clerk in Los Angeles and for some reason ATF decides it's worth following up on. They call Remington and ask who they shipped that 870 to. Remington says it went to Jovino's in 2005. They call Jovino's and ask who they sold it to. Jovino's calls them a few days later and says that after checking their books, they find they sold it so Joe Blow in '06. They contact Joe Blow and Joe says he sold that shotgun probably around '08 at a moving sale when he moved to Iowa. Some guy came up and offered $ 150 .. he had a receipt but he lost it in another move recently. At that point, the trail ends. Unless .... in '09 the guy who bought the 870 pawns it and never redeems it. The pawn shop logs it in and know its back 'in the system' in the sense that the next person to buy it has to fill out a yellow sheet. But tracing the gun from Remington will dead-end at the point where the new owner didn't do any paperwork ... that on-the-lawn moving sale.
Or ....... They call Remington and ask who they shipped that 870 to. Remington says it went to Jovino's in 1978. They call Jovino's and ask who they sold it to. Jovino's calls them a few days later and says that after checking their books, they find they sold it so Joe Blow in '79 but tossed all the yellow sheets in '99 when they hit the 20-year-mark. They have a name, "Joe Blow", copied from their in / out log, but no yellow sheet .. no address, no DOB, no POB, no nothin '. Sorry.
Or ... ATFE checks their records from gun shops that were closed and finds the last known person who bought it, and he says he sold that shotgun probably around '08 at a moving sale when he moved to Iowa. Some guy came up and offered $ 150 .. he had a receipt but he lost it in another move recent.y. At that point, the trail ends.
So let's review .... the only way your purchase, on a 4473, gets into the ATFE's hands is if the gun shop you purchased it from has gone out of business OR they are tracing a particular firearm and that firearm never changed hands without going through a dealer. The notion that they just do a couple keystrokes and find you bought a 10/22 last week is a bit far-fetched.
Now, some states do require the gundealer to send the records into a state agency and the state agency may have a database. Thats up to the state. In a place like Montana, and many other states, there is no state registration. What about ATFE just coming into a shop, grabbing all the 4473's and going door-to-door? I suppose they could but the idea that they have the manpower for such an activity is absurd. Oh, they might try to recruit local law agencies but I bet that wouldn't go very far. And, honestly, if they ask where that AR is you bought in '04 and you say you sold it at a yard sale to some college kid .. well, that's legal (in this state) so .. sorry, can't help ya, guys.
Does that mean there's no advantage to buying unpapered guns? Well, I prefer unpapered guns but I can't really put my finger on why. Intellectually, I know that the guns I do the yellow sheets on for myself aren't going in a database somewhere ... but I still like to get those free-range guns when I can.