noncrime gun exhibits derives from the Firearm Owners’ Protection Act of 1986 (18 U.S.C. 926), which prohibits the establishment of “any system of registration of firearms, firearms owners, or firearms transactions or dispositions.” It also derives from ATF interpretation of language that is regularly applied to the agency’s appropriations. For instance, the 2006 Science, State, Justice, and Commerce and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (P.L. 109-108) included 12 conditional clauses on the appropriated funds. First among these is the proviso that “no funds appropriated herein shall be available for salaries or administrative expenses in connection with consolidating or centralizing, within the Department of Justice, the records, or any portion thereof, of acquisition and disposition of firearms maintained by Federal firearms licensees.” ATF has interpreted the acquisition of an image from a specimen fired from a gun for sale as such a “record,” and hence excluded new guns from consideration in the database.1



One metric by which utilization of NIBIN can be assessed is the number of participating agencies relative to the number of eligible law enforcement agencies. Each piece of evidence entered in NIBIN is associated with its source agency through specification of an Originating Agency Identifier (ORI) code; ORIs are assigned by the FBI and are principally used to identify reporting agencies for the Uniform Crime Reports. In its audit, the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Inspector General (2005:140), used the total number of ORIs predefined in NIBIN software (for selection by evidence-entry operators) as its measure of eligible agencies. Hence, they concluded that 231 of 38,717 agencies/ORIs were NIBIN partner sites. Responding to a draft report, ATF argued that the total number of ORIs is an inappropriate benchmark (U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Inspector General, 2005:130):

ATF believes that it is misleading to use the number of ORIs as the statistical basis to evaluate technology allocation, program utilization, and performance because one single agency can have numerous ORIs assigned to it. By way of example, ATF alone has over 362 ORIs or about fifteen per field division. Similarly, many of the larger NIBIN State and local law enforcement partners have multiple ORIs within an agency, and all local law enforcement jurisdictions have at least one ORI number, regardless of size.


Other clauses in the appropriation act limit the type of information that can be transferred or maintained in the standard gun tracing process and prohibit rules requiring a physical inventory of the stock maintained by firearms licensees.

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