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An audit by the ATF in 2005 in regard to NIBIN (National Integrated Ballistic Information Network) states:

Finally, we found that the ATF had established minimal controls to ensure that ballistic images of bullets and cartridge casings from newly manufactured, imported, or sold firearms are not entered into NIBIN in violation of the Firearm Owners’ Protection Act of 1996. However, we found no evidence that NIBIN users were entering prohibited data into the system.

As far as I can tell, the relevant portion of this Act (Cornell Law Link) is:

No such rule or regulation prescribed 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 dispositions be established. Nothing in this section expands or restricts the Secretary’s 1 authority to inquire into the disposition of any firearm in the course of a criminal investigation.

While the definition of Firearm is:

The term “firearm” means (A) any weapon (including a starter gun) which will or is designed to or may readily be converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive; (B) the frame or receiver of any such weapon; (C) any firearm muffler or firearm silencer; or (D) any destructive device. Such term does not include an antique firearm.

A bullet and casing is not mentioned or provided for in the language of this act so that the following process is legally possible: ATF requires all gun manufacturers to submit bullets/casings to NIBIN and keep their own records of the bullet/gun pairs.

As far as I can tell, this type of requirement would not satisfy the prohibition on keeping a registration of firearms. Why, then, does the ATF specifically state in their Audit that they cannot force newly manufactured ballistics into NIBIN?

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You are correct that there is nothing in the law which would prevent the government from storing and cataloging bullets and casings. The fact you seem to be overlooking is that there is a critical difference between a usable entry in NIBIN and some bits of scrap metal coated in toxic residue: associating the bullet and casing with a specific firearm. Making that association requires a list of firearms and that list is specifically forbidden by FOPA.

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  • Can you specify where that is specifically forbidden? – JJ for Transparency and Monica Aug 6 '19 at 20:23
  • @JJJ It is quoted in the question – krb Aug 6 '19 at 20:25
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    If the ATF had a record of Bullet + Manufacturer, for example, Bullet + Glock...then upon finding a registered bullet at a crime scene, the local law can then give the referenced bullet to Glock to obtain the firearm serial number and shop it was sold to, who would then have record of the person who bought it. The paper trail from Glock -> Person already exists and the law doesn't seem to disallow for NIBIN to be a forced process for manufacture. The ATF, at the end of day, still wouldn't have a bullet-gun pairing. Please explain how this process would violate the law? – WheresTheMiddleAgain Aug 6 '19 at 20:25
  • @WheresTheMiddleAgain Except the ATF Appropriations bill prohibits the ATF of turning the NIBIN into a general registry of every firearm sold. It can only be used for guns associated with crimes. – Drunk Cynic Aug 6 '19 at 23:02
  • @DrunkCynic When I was researching this question, I didn't see that. Can you point me? – WheresTheMiddleAgain Aug 6 '19 at 23:04

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