Firearms Data: ATF Did Not Always Comply with the Appropriations Act Restriction and Should Better Adhere to Its Policies, Report to Congressional Requesters [open pdf - 4MB]
From the highlights section in the document: "ATF [United States Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms] is responsible for enforcing certain criminal statutes related to firearms, and must balance its role in combatting the illegal use of firearms with protecting the privacy rights of law-abiding gun owners. As part of this balance, FFLs [Federal Firearms License] are required to maintain firearms transaction records, while ATF has the statutory authority to obtain these records under certain circumstances. ATF must also comply with an appropriations act provision that restricts the agency from using appropriated funds to consolidate or centralize FFL records. GAO [Government Accountability Office] was asked to review ATF's compliance with this restriction. This report (1) identifies the ATF data systems that contain retail firearms purchaser data and (2) determines whether selected ATF data systems comply with the appropriations act restriction and adhere to ATF policies. GAO reviewed ATF policy and program documents, observed use of data systems at NTC [National Tracing Center], reviewed a generalizable sample of one system's records, and interviewed ATF officials at headquarters and NTC. GAO recommends that ATF provide guidance to FFLs participating in A2K [Access 2000] on the provision of records to ATF when they go out of business; align system capability with ATF policy to limit access to FRNP [Firearm Recovery Notification Program] firearms purchaser information for ATF agents; and align timing and ATF policy for deleting MS [Multiple Sales] records. ATF concurred with our recommendations."
United States Government Accountability Office: http://www.gao.gov/