The WasteWatcher: The Staff Blog of Citizens Against Government Waste

ATF Fails to Comply with Appropriations Act Restrictions

The WasteWatcher is the staff blog of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW). For questions, contact blog@cagw.org.


The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) operates 25 firearms-related data systems, 16 of which contain purchaser information given to the ATF by federal firearms licensees (FFLs).  A June 2016 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report reviewed four of these systems and found that some data systems do not comply with the restrictions that govern the centralization of FFL records.  Since 1978, the ATF has been prohibited by Congress to consolidate records of firearm purchases in an effort to protect the privacy of firearm owners.  

The GAO found that, of the four systems reviewed, only two fully complied with the congressional restriction prohibiting the consolidation of FFL records.  Among several compliance issues, ATF agents are able to access purchaser information. Further, some systems fail to delete purchasing information after the mandatory two-year limit on retention of such data.  The GAO recommends that the ATF limit access to purchaser information and establish a policy for deleting information.

With the ATF conducting such disastrous operations as “Fast and Furious,” it is critical for the agency to follow Congress’ guidelines to protect the private information of law-abiding citizens.

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