A new report from one of the government’s top watchdog agencies revealed that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) stockpiled information of lawful gun purchasers through negligence and refusing to follow its own policies. Auditors from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that the ATF failed to remove the names of law-abiding gun owners from its Multiple Sales (MS) database and another system called Access 2000.
Arms dealers that have Federal Firearms Licenses (FFL) are required to report the names of customers who purchase multiple firearms at once to the ATF. Policies by the ATF dictate that the organization keep those names on file for two years. After the two year period has passed the ATF is required to remove all identifying information from the databases if the weapon in question has not been linked to any crimes. The ATF has failed to comply with this policy and only deleted the names from certain databases while allowing them to remain on other servers or hard drives.
A loophole in the policy allowed the database to be created. According to the policy any FFLs that go out of business are no longer subject to the ATFs requirements. Officials continued to delete the records of FFLs that were still in business but allowed the out-of-business FFL records to accumulate. By the time the records were deleted over 10,000 names had been archived.
The GAO report states that it didn’t find any evidence to show that the databases were created maliciously. The attribute the list to what they call negligence or “extreme carelessness.” The ATF responded by immediately deleting the policy violating records. All inappropriately stored names and data has been deleted as of March 2016. The ATF has issued an official statment claiming they will look into the deletion or “churn process” of their MS database to ensure the violation of policy does not recur.