What does the government know about you and your guns?




Posted on February 16, 2013 at 2:34 PM

Gun rights groups made a familiar argument as they testified this week in opposition to a measure that would require criminal background checks for all gun sales in Washington. 

They’re worried about more government intrusion into the right to keep and bear arms. 

KING 5 took at look at what the government learns about you and your firearm when you buy a gun. 

“There’s no such thing as a centralized data base of gun ownership,” says Special Agent Cheryl Bishop of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF). She says it’s a common misconception that people believe that the feds have records they use to track guns. 

Bishop says the federal government requires gun buyers to fill out an ATF form when they buy from a licensed firearm dealer. She also says that information is forwarded to the FBI only for the purpose of an instant criminal background check. 

If you pass that background, the information is erased from federal records. 

“You’re allowed to take possession of the firearm,” says Bishop. “The record that the government has of you taking possession of that firearm is destroyed. That is gone within a 24-hour period.” 

At a hearing in Olympia on Wednesday on the universal background checks bill, gun owners worried that the state would not destroy gun records after gun sales. 

“I fear you. I fear the government,” one man told lawmakers. 

The legislators modified their bill after the hearing to more closely mirror federal law when it comes to warehousing information on guns and gun owners. 

Agent Bishop says the bottom line is that the federal government is prohibited from keeping such records. 

“The only way the government would know about a gun you own is if that gun is at a crime scene or recovered stolen property and we begin the trace process,” says Bishop.