Federal agents can run scans on things such as license plates and fingerprints to instantly find out who they belong to. But when it comes to guns, they’re essentially handcuffed by a 1986 law that keeps the ATF stuck in the past.
The nearly 40-year-old regulations prevent the agency from keeping searchable, digitized gun transaction records. And efforts in Congress to modernize the system have failed.
Boxes upon boxes of paper records fill nearly every corridor of the ATF’s tracing facility. The space was so cluttered that the agency brought in 40 cargo shipping containers, which sit outside the building, each filled with up to 2,000 boxes.
Republicans have long argued that allowing police access to an electronically searchable repository of gun records is tantamount to a nationwide firearm registry