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Are Guns Registered in a National Firearms Registry

You are watching a great episode of Law and Order and they recover a firearm from a crime scene and type the serial number into a computer and wammo up comes the name and the address of the person who is registered to that gun right? Wrong!

Generally speaking for the majority of American gun owners there is no system, database, or registry that ties us to any of our firearms. Even the Brady Act that created the background check system requires that the records of each background check be destroyed within 24 hours.Are guns registered in the united states

The Firearm Owners’ Protection Act of 1986 (FOPA) is a United States federal law that revised many provisions of the Gun Control Act of 1968. As such, FOPA makes it illegal for the national government or any state in the country to keep any sort of database or registry that ties firearms directly to their owner. The exact wording of the provision is as follows:

No such rule or regulation prescribed [by the Attorney General] after the date of the enactment of the Firearms Owners Protection Act may require that records required to be maintained under this chapter or any portion of the contents of such records, be recorded at or transferred to a facility owned, managed, or controlled by the United States or any State or any political subdivision thereof, nor that any system of registration of firearms, firearms owners, or firearms transactions or disposition be established. Nothing in this section expands or restricts the Secretary’s authority to inquire into the disposition of any firearm in the course of a criminal investigation.

A few things here are worth noting. First notice the use of the word “after” in the first sentence. Any law that existed prior to the passing of FOPA, that required guns be registered, can still exist and be legally enforced.

Second, don’t forget that just because the law says something is illegal doesn’t mean it isn’t being done or that there is any sort of a loophole. In New York City for example, the NYPD has a record of the manufacturer, model, serial number and caliber of every firearm (handgun and long arms too). You need to have a registration certificate on your person for every long arm in addition to needing a “Permit to Possess Rifles or Shotguns In New York City” (which are limited to 5 rounds among other restrictions).  Other municipalities also have a track record of ignoring the Federal Firearm Owner’s Protection Act.

Local Jurisdictions that Register Guns:

States that Require Registration of All Firearms

  1. District of Columbia
  2. Hawaii

States that Require Registration of Handguns

  • New York

States that Require New Residents to Report Their Firearms

  1. California
  2. Maryland (handguns and assault weapons)

States that Require Registration of Pre-Ban “Assault Weapons” and/or 50 Caliber Rifles

  1. California
  2. Connecticut
  3. Hawaii
  4. Maryland
  5. New Jersey
  6. New York

Despite FOPA There Are Some Limited Government Gun Databases

In addition to the local authorities who may disregard the local law we also know that the ATF keeps at least 5 databases of specific firearms and their owners to include:

  1. are guns registered government databaseMultiple Sale Reports. Over 460,000 (as of 2003) Multiple Sales reports (ATF F 3310.4 – a registration record with specific firearms and owner name and address – increasing by about 140,000 per year). Reported as 4.2 million records in 2010.
  2. Suspect Guns. All guns suspected of being used for criminal purposes but not recovered by law enforcement. This database includes (ATF’s own examples), individuals purchasing large quantities of firearms, and dealers with improper record keeping. May include guns observed by law enforcement in an estate, or at a gun show, or elsewhere. Reported as 34,807 in 2010.
  3. Traced Guns. Over 4 million detail records from all traces since inception. This is a registration record which includes the personal information of the first retail purchaser, along with the identity of the selling dealer.
  4. Out of Business Records. Data is manually collected from paper Out-of-Business records (or input from computer records) and entered into the trace system by ATF. These are registration records which include name and address, make, model, serial and caliber of the firearm(s), as well as data from the 4473 form – in digital or image format. In March, 2010, ATF reported receiving several hundred million records since 1968.
  5. Theft Guns. Firearms reported as stolen to ATF. Contained 330,000 records in 2010. Contains only thefts from licensed dealers and interstate carriers (optional). Does not have an interface to the FBI’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC) theft data base, where the majority of stolen, lost and missing firearms are reported.

To learn more about these ATF registries listen to: CCW Podcast Episode 12 The Government’s Secret Gun Owner Database

It is also worth noting that not withstanding FOPA, the National Firearms Act which was enacted in 1934 does require that certain types of firearms be registered. This includes firearms not commonly owned or acquired by average gun owners including fully automatic firearms and short barrel rifles and shotguns. Any firearm not specifically mentioned in Title II of the NFA however should not by Federal law be part of any registry tied to a gun owner.

RESOURCE: Gun Trusts: Owning and Transferring Class 3 Guns and Suppressors

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29 Responses to Are Guns Registered in a National Firearms Registry

  1. brass hopper June 18, 2015 at 3:03 pm #

    Just recently a man and I were talking about going fishing and crossing the border to Canada. Customs checked his car for inspection and asked him about his handguns he owns. He did not have any guns with him and they knew what handguns he owns and named the guns in question. He and his family were on vacation fishing. How did customs at the border know he owned any hand guns ? If there is no data base. I attended a seminar a while ago sponsored by national shooting sports foundation and A.T.F.E. agents were there and the question of records data base came up. The question was how long do they keep the records they said six months. But the records are transferred to micro film. Why?

  2. Juliano Ciaramello December 11, 2015 at 2:57 am #

    Apparently there is some fishy shit going on here… what is the truth god damn it!

  3. Gunnar B May 11, 2016 at 5:44 pm #

    Is There A National Firearms Registry – This was a very interesting article – thanks for publishing.

  4. Igor June 6, 2016 at 8:49 pm #

    You people that belive there is a national database are smoking to much weed you are paranoid… For every gun manufactured or imported in the US is test fired 2 times, the first round is kept on file by the manufacturer or the company that conducted the test fire.. The second round is forwarded to the ATF to be entered into the ballistics data base by the weapon serial number.. The only record of owners by serial number is kept by manufacturer and FFL Dealer where purchased. .

  5. Bob June 25, 2016 at 7:57 pm #

    I have a question that I would like to get your opinion on.

    The 2nd amendment states:
    A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

    If, as the the amendment states, a “well regulated militia” is necessary, how shall the “state” know who to depend on for said militia, if they don’t know who owns, and will be available to, “bear arms”?

    Please, I would ask that only truly reasoned responses be submitted, so I can get a better understanding on why a national registry wouldn’t be needed to help fulfill the intent of the 2nd amendment.


    • Jacob Paulsen June 28, 2016 at 10:00 am #

      Bob, its a fair and difficult question. I’ve been pondering on this for a day or so. Here are my own personal thoughts:

      First, when the bill of rights was written the government had no idea who had guns. So, even on day one out of the gate the founding fathers didn’t think it necessary to have a registry in order to call up a militia. The people have always been able to use the “town square” to call others to action. Today we don’t gather in a town square but we use other forms of media to get a message out and I still think it more than doable to call up a militia without having a list of those who have firearms.

      Second, I don’t know that the intention… or the current need is for the state to call up the militia as you put it. I think the people have the right to assemble.

      Third, I think while the intent of the authors of the bill of rights is worth understanding and studying it is also up to us the people today to determine how we want to interpret and apply the laws for our own situations. That is why we have a living and breathing legislative and judicial system that is… at very least in theory elected by the people.

      Also noteworthy to this discussion I think is the fact that the federal law prohibits a registry of guns and gun owners and that has never been brought to the court as being potentially in violation of the constitution.

    • Matthew Maruster June 28, 2016 at 1:45 pm #

      Hi Bob, good question and Jacob hit on a few things already. I would just also add that the Founding Fathers were extremely worried about giving power to a centralized government and, instead opted for stronger state rights. The idea behind a militia was to be at a state level, and not regulated by the federal government like say the US Army. The selective service is a way for the federal government to have ‘tabs’ on all adult males (and possibly females) if there is ever another need for a draft or mobilization like during Viet Nam.

      The implications of putting people on some sort of national registry list, for simply owning a firearm, creates such a scary precedence that would allow the federal government to keep lists on Americans for whatever reason they seem fit. In addition, these registries cost money to maintain and update, and this money would be passed on to the gun owner in yet another way to dissuade someone from owning a firearm due to more extra fees.

      I think one of the biggest fears, is that a national registry could result in the targeting of Americans based solely on their exercising of a constitutional right. Similar to the well documented issue where the IRS targeted specific groups based on their political affiliation. States still have the option of having a registry, and many states do. For example in California, every firearm that is purchased is registered to the purchaser, and that information can be accessed by law enforcement.

      Leaving it up to states to decide their gun laws, allows the citizen to ‘vote with their feet’ and leave a state that has gun laws that they feel may be too oppressive, and vice versa for someone wanting to live in a strictly gun controlled state.

    • Skip Plummer August 2, 2016 at 3:41 am #

      Actually, the way that it is worded, The “people” would be assumed to be armed and to be maintaining their own firearms. It would also be expected, if the need were to arise, that the people would be ready, willing and able to meet the call that a “militia” be formed as needed… that they would be expected to do so.

      A peek at the federalist papers and a few other articles would seem to indicate that this was, in fact, an “unwritten” law and that if any able bodied man between the ages of 18 and 45 was not prepared to meet that call, for whatever reason, that reason should be turned in to any possible group commander, in written form, and that they would then be excused from that duty.

    • Arthur R Tenny September 24, 2016 at 9:00 am #

      So what stops the Federal Agencies from requiring FFL dealers to submit their records?

  6. Kelvin Graves July 4, 2016 at 5:48 pm #

    The person that mentioned about smoking weed you must be on it.
    If you were going to Canada and they check your record they have more info on you than our government has.

  7. Mk2517b August 11, 2016 at 9:51 pm #

    As a student of Constitutional Law in the 21st Century, does this make sense? There was no real military back then. So at the writing of the US Constitution and Bill of Rights, they needed the abilility to call upon those members ” that well regulated militia” for protection. They didn’t have a quartermaster corps, so bring your own guns and be ready to fight!!! It’s my opinion after years of trying to understand these documents, that was their purpose! They didn’t foresee automatics or suppressed weapons………yes it was that simple. Keep you Guns to hunt and protect, but when we need a militia, supply your own guns too. Well today the National Guard is that militia and they have fighters, A10’s and tanks……… Message sent message heard.

    • Ric Weide August 31, 2016 at 12:26 pm #

      THere is a “well-regulated militia” such as the National guards, AND, there is the unregulated militia, which is the rest of the people. The mere act of self-defense, and the second amendment guarantees the individual the right to own and keep a firearm. These rights, are not to be messed with as the amendment says, “SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED”. THat is settled law.

  8. John Hall August 12, 2016 at 11:22 am #

    And what do I do if there is a knock on my door and someone identifies himself as government something and says he is there to take all my firearms? Is there a battle at this time and this person is backed by the military? I am certainly going to lose this battle and probably die.

    • Rick Peace August 20, 2016 at 1:18 pm #

      Good question John Hall, I;ve wondered that also. Give them up, & live to fight another day? Because after that, THE FIGHT IS ON!!

      • Detroitheat September 28, 2016 at 11:13 pm #

        Rick; my thoughts exactly, but that will only happen once and the next time they will have a target on their backs, they took an oath to uphold the US Constitution, and once they willingly come to confiscate an American citizens firearms, they become the enemy at that point in time, I personally prefer to be on the offensive side, if you know what I mean…..

    • Gale Stovall September 2, 2016 at 12:36 pm #

      John when they come and knock on my door to take my weapons they should bring my body bag.
      They can take my weapon from my cold dead hands.

  9. John Hall August 12, 2016 at 11:24 am #

    Moderation? How?

  10. Lee August 28, 2016 at 2:02 pm #

    Ok. I know there going be some none to happy folks here based on my story. ..legacy and all that. But,,.
    My father in law verbal handshake hug gifted us a rare older 22 w a special mother of,pearl or,shell Indian head on,the stock. Beauty FYI l firearm, and he and I ha many special shooting days. The other TV is a shotgun, with which I don’t know much about accept,its,older. ..loads from,the bottom,as,if a magazine but one shell at a time.
    My husband passed in an accidental. Leaving me broken hearted and in charge of three needy kiddos.
    My eldest has some issues, and found a private school truly believe will have her thriving. ..but not a lot if options forbthe last bit of tuition.
    My question after all that is:is there some austem thall show in pawning,or even selling a rifle that was never registered to me? Would it probably be registered to him, since his dad had it back in,the 40s. Or will it likely be unowned and sellable.
    In ashamed to get here but I’m coming,up short on plans. I don’t think he would ever press charges but I think he might be super disappointed and sad

    • Jacob Paulsen August 29, 2016 at 8:32 am #

      Lee, unless you live in one of the localities mentioned above in this article the guns are not registered to your husband or anyone else and you can sell or gift them to anyone you wish. A pawn shop would be a fine option.

  11. Carla Bruch September 15, 2016 at 7:38 pm #

    I have two guns and I need to verify registration proof, how do I find out?

    • Jacob Paulsen September 15, 2016 at 10:33 pm #

      Carla, read the above article. Unless you live in one of a very small number of jurisdictions in this country your guns are not registered.

  12. tim westcott September 20, 2016 at 10:15 pm #

    in the year 2009 i purchased a 2 rifles,shotgun in arkansas and was storing them at a friends house in arkansas. last week i got call from my friend sating that one of my rifles and shotgun were destroyed in a fire. i want to know if there is some where that has those weapons registered so i can get the number to them.

    • Jacob Paulsen September 23, 2016 at 8:52 am #

      They are not registered.

  13. Nathaniel November 19, 2016 at 4:58 pm #

    A man and I were also just talking. He said that there is no state or federal registry of firearms and that the second amendment is not going to be repealed, ever.

  14. troyf December 12, 2016 at 1:03 pm #

    This is BS. Michigan law clearly states being in possession of an unregistered pistol is a felony.

    • Jacob Paulsen December 12, 2016 at 1:11 pm #

      I’m no expert on Michigan law. Can you share the statute?

  15. Bren Martin January 2, 2017 at 2:49 am #

    Upon my research (as a layperson) of Michigan law, I found that there is a requirement for a License but not a law to be registered. I think some people confuse the two.

    28.422 License to purchase, carry, possess, or transport pistol; issuance; qualifications; applications; sale of pistol; exemptions; nonresident; active duty status; forging application as felony; implementation during business hours. Sec. 2. (1) Except as otherwise provided in this act, a person shall not purchase, carry, possess, or transport a pistol in this state without first having obtained a license for the pistol as prescribed in this section.

    However, there are some exceptions and there are situations where even if prohibited can still carry a concealed weapon- so I am not really clear on that.

    There are several states where gun registration is required for assault pistols, etc. There is only DC and Hawaii that explicitly require gun registration and conversely, there are some states that explicitly prohibit gun registration such as Georgia and Florida:

  16. Loren Purk March 17, 2017 at 10:32 am #

    How do you regester a used handgun in Michigan

    • Jacob Paulsen March 17, 2017 at 10:39 am #

      handguns are not registered in Michigan

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