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03-30-2009, 7:21 AM


I would like to take this opportunity to describe the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ (ATF) nationwide forward trace initiative. As you know, Federal law, 18 U.S.C. Chapter 44, requires Federal firearms licensees (FFLs) to maintain and make available certain records for inspection by ATF. Among those required records are the acquisition and disposition (A&D) book and ATF Forms 4473 for sales of firearms to individuals. Verifying this information is critical to our mission of protecting the public as it is the starting point for a FFL retailer accounting for firearms received. Through partnerships with and the continued cooperation of the firearms community, the forward trace initiative was implemented by ATF to ensure firearms are properly accounted for by FFL retailers.

The program focuses on types of firearms that are diverted by the criminal element from legal commerce. ATF Industry Operations Investigators (IOI’s) will visit manufacturers and ask for their assistance by identifying specific firearms makes and models and ask for the name of the distributor to whom they were sold. We then “follow the gun” to the eventual retailer. Any information requested by ATF IOIs as part of this program does not presume any wrongdoing by those firearms industry members contacted but simply will be used as a tool to ensure accountability for firearms received by FFL retailers. Cooperation by the industry with our forward trace requests is voluntary and not considered an ATF inspection under Federal law and regulations.

Industry members supplying any information are requested by ATF not to initiate any action as a result of our inquiry because it could potentially impact any ATF inspection or investigative effort. As always, if a manufacturer, importer or distributor has concerns regarding any retailer they should contact the nearest ATF office for assistance. Our continued open dialogue and partnership with the firearms industry makes for a safer America.