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The Firearm Tracing System provides manual & automated data retrieval from:
All previous firearms traces from all sources,
Dealer, Importer, and Manufacturer computer, paper or microfilm “Bound Book” Out-of-Business records (including digital files required by ATF Ruling 2008-2),
Dealer “Bound Book” records (computer and/or paper) copied or photographed by ATF during annual inspections.
ATF Form 4473 from dealers copied or photographed during annual inspections and in Out-of-Business records.
Multiple Firearm Sales reports (ATF F 3310.4)
Traditional phone calls to the manufacturer, distributor and final selling dealer, 
Additional data sources, such as some state firearms sales records as required by state law or policy.
Dealer “Bound Books” over 20 years old voluntarily sent in to ATF.
Includes some antique firearms allowed to be entered in “Bound Books”.
Stolen firearms reported to ATF. (Note: Does not include stolen firearms reported to the FBI - NCIC, a separate system)
System 2000 automated retrieval system from manufacturers, importers and distributors (100 companies as of 2010)
Certain firearms dealers are required by ATF to report certain used firearms transaction to ATF for entry into the Firearms Tracing System.
For every firearm reported stolen to the NCIC stolen firearms database, New Jersey now automatically submits a trace to ATF (NJ Trace System). ATF is reported as working on a similar program.
Some state firearm registration systems are being loaded into the tracing system.
In a press release, New Jersey admits tracing (from police records) all of private gun purchases into the ATF Firearms Tracing System through eTrace. By state law, New York and Connecticut also require tracing of all such private purchase firearms.
ATF hired private consultants to catalog information on firearms and submit trace requests from police departments to ATF.
New! ATF has imposed a requirement (pilot project) to report all dealer multiple sales (2 or more) of all semi-auto rifles with a detachable magazine greater than .22 caliber. (Currently restricted to California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas - border states with Mexico). Reported justification is to identify "straw purchasers" and weapons traffickers. However, this ruling will include 100 year old Model 1907 Winchester rifles, WWII M1 Carbines, German G43 rifles, FN 49 rifles, and many other historic firearms of primary interest to collectors and are not known to be used by Mexican drug catels. William J. Hoover (ATF Acting Deputy Director) denied that ATF is seeking to create a national registry (a national registry already exists, see above), and said records would be kept for 24 months and then destroyed if not acted on by investigators.  However, this is contrary to current ATF practice and neither assertion is supported by the documentation.
All traced guns are called "crime guns" by ATF, regardless of involvement in a crime. ATF has defined "crime gun" to mean "any firearm that is illegally possessed, used in a crime, or suspected to have been used in a crime." An abandoned firearm may also be categorized as a crime gun if it is suspected it was used in a crime or illegally possessed."