Report: ATF Order to Seize 4,000 Guns Incites Calls for More Control

Will retrieval requests result in thousands of gun seizures, or is USA TODAY merely stirring the pot for more gun owner controls? (FBI- 2016 NICS Operations Report)

USA – -( “Feds issue 4,000 orders to seize guns from people who failed background checks,” USA TODAY ‘exclusively’ reported Monday. “[T]he background check system should have blocked from buying weapons because they had criminal records, mental health issues or other problems that would disqualify them.”

The “orders” are next characterized as “requests” from the Federal Bureau of Investigation to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. They want ATF agents “to retrieve guns from prohibited buyers.”

How does the “need” for that happen?

Federal law requires National Instant Criminal Background Check System firearm transfer checks to be completed within three days. If that doesn’t happen, the transfer proceeds.  If the FBI later finds it would not have been approved, they notify ATF to initiate retrieval efforts.

It’s hardly a new process, despite claims of an “exclusive” based on “a USA TODAY review” and the subsequent amount of hysteria being generated in the media. The “4,170 gun purchases cited in the story were listed in the front-end summary of the 2016 NICS Operations Report. Similar reports could have been issued last year, and the year before, and… (While still drafting this, a reader forwarded similar observations by Stephen Gutowski at The Washington Free Beacon.)

What’s going on to bring this up now?

There have been a lot of gun sales lately, despite the best efforts by the gun-grabbers to convince everybody that the public’s appetite for firearms is dwindling. Then there was the Air Force screw-up that did not forward disqualifying records on that loser who shot up a church and had to be stopped by a good guy with a gun. That prompted Attorney General Jeff Sessions to order a systemic review to keep the government from being embarrassed again. Add to that the “bipartisan bill” where John Cornyn is inexplicably intent on helping Chris Murphy take “baby steps.”

Then consider the source, or in this case, the sources. USA TODAY, with its chainsaw bayonet hysteria, is hardly an objective broker when it comes to “gun control.” Neither is its parent, Gannet. They’re the parent of that paper in New York that published a map with names and addresses of legal gun owners, and then hired armed guards when frightened by justifiably angry backlash.

Likewise, “former ATF official” David Chipman is a spokesman for Giffords (the reboot name for Americans for Responsible Solutions), which recently called for restrictions on muzzleloaders and even on shutting down “ghost gun” websites. Of course he’s going to hype the danger of retrieval (without producing substantiating documentation) and then stump for longer waiting periods.

So how would that retrieval work, and how much effort is put into it?

“The FBI said the ATF is not required to report back on the status of the retrieval efforts,” USA TODAY admits. “Yet in 2004, the Justice Department’s inspector general found that the ATF’s retrieval efforts were plagued by staffing shortages, technological inefficiencies and a general lack of urgency that resulted in recovery delays of up to a year.”

This is what USA TODAY’s scare headline implies will happen next. (ATF/Facebook)

That means we’re not likely to see nationwide teams of balaclava-masked, machine gun-brandishing feds kicking in thousands of doors and hurling flash-bangs into windows throughout the Republic.

“Of the nine outstanding cases, five buyers could not be located,” USA TODAY explains. “Two had already re-sold the firearms. One case was turned over to local authorities. And another was not pursued because the agency ‘did not have the resources to retrieve the firearm,’ the report found.”

The government could have probably gotten the buyers for lying on the 4473, but why give ‘em ideas?

Not knowing how the “retrieval” process works I asked an attorney and colleague who responded:

“What happens most of the time is that the ATF will make a few phone calls and say the weapon needs to be returned/forfeited ‘or else.’ I’ve handled one of these ‘take back teams’ requests for a guy that didn’t want to forfeit his pistol. I told him I was not interested in violating the law, but if he wanted to pay me to fight it I would. I believe the .gov will eventually need a warrant to get inside to get the gun involuntarily but I’ve never been involved in that type of case.”

We expect overblown, gun-grab agenda-advancing hysteria from USA Today. What we shouldn’t  expect (but sadly have come to) is the same kind of hyperbole from “A+”-rated John Cornyn, who is trying his hardest to give concessions to the gun-grabbers with “Fix NICS,” which Rep. Thomas Massie just warned will be tacked onto the national concealed carry reciprocity bill being voted on this week in the House.

“For years agencies and states haven’t complied with the law, failing to upload these critical records without consequence,” Cornyn gushed. “Just one record that’s not properly reported can lead to tragedy.”

Way to throw private sales under the bus, senator. And say you finally manage to surrender that point completely: Does anyone with a brain think that would  slow down the slaughter in “black market”-dominated places like Chicago or Baltimore one bit?

About David Codrea:David Codrea

David Codrea is the winner of multiple journalist awards for investigating / defending the RKBA and a long-time gun owner rights advocate who defiantly challenges the folly of citizen disarmament.

In addition to being a field editor/columnist at GUNS Magazine and associate editor for Oath Keepers, he blogs at “The War on Guns: Notes from the Resistance,” and posts on Twitter: @dcodrea and Facebook.

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Please excuse the double post, but when posting of a comment takes in excess of six hours while the email alerts of followup responses keep arriving at a rapid pace the commenter must wonder about the whether some manner of censorship is occurring.
Again, I apologize for the double post.


I must seriously wonder, How much time elapsed between the ersatz approval and the seizure order?
There is supposed to be NO retention of NICS check data after the back round check is performed.
Sure, the 4473 original still exists, -but- that should ONLY be available with an -in person- visit to the selling FFL’s physical location.
Now if these claw-back orders are occurring outside of a mandated time-frame that means a defacto ghost-registration is has occurred. Investigation is in order.
If a duplicate comment has been detected, how come it doesn’t appear here?

Donald L. Cline

You may remember that Janet Napolitano was asked the question whether the NICS data was destroyed as required by law, and she crowed in reply that the NICS computer was incapable of deleting any data whatever. (Personally I think that is irrelevant and conveys a false impression, because when the dealer calls for a NICS check, no information (theoretically) is added to the database. All that happens is that the name and identifying information is entered into a search function. There would have to be additional software to capture that identifying information and store it somewhere, and there is no… Read more »


I must seriously wonder, How much time elapsed between the ersatz approval and the seizure order?
There is supposed to be NO retention of NICS check data after the back round check is performed.
Sure, the 4473 original still exists, -but- that should ONLY be available with an -in person- visit to the selling FFL’s physical location.
Now if these claw-back orders are occurring outside of a mandated time-frame that means a defacto ghost-registration is has occurred. Investigation is in order.


“Feds issue 4,000 orders to seize guns from people who failed background checks” USA TODAY ‘exclusively’ reported Monday. “[T]he background check system should have blocked from buying weapons because they had criminal records, mental health issues or other problems that would disqualify them.” ………….Oh, REALLY! Does include the ‘”FAST and FURIOUS” FORCED gun running promoted by the Gov.? I am just wondering….????


Yeah, the “five buyers” that “could not be located” are now living in Mexico.


H.R. 4477 pressures feds and state agencies to submit findings to the NICS system in a timely manner and enforce this demand. The language focuses on domestic abuse and dangerous individuals but it really puts pressure on each agency or department to produce a yes or no answer which bypasses due process and violates Second Amendment rights. The fear is red tape will violate constitutional rights of law abiding citizens. There is a great deal of evidence to support this concern. There’s no checks and balances in the verbage, so I say it needs more work to even be considered.… Read more »

Donald L. Cline

It is just a tightening up of the rights violations already in progress: The conversion of our right to keep and bear arms into a government-issued privilege government has no authority to issue or deny; and violation of our 4th, 5th, 9th, and 10th Amendment-protect rights in order to get that permission. It is a sucker scam, and now they are turning the screws.


I agree. However, If we demand our reps to hold unconstitutional enforcement of laws accountable by removing them from office for violation of their oath and law of the land, it will yield results. They think the majority of Americans are brain dead, and too busy to track their dirty deeds.

Jim in Conroe

Cornyn, the NRA, and the NSSF are supporting S.2135, “A bill to enforce current law regarding the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.” Note that this bill does not create any new requirements for reporting to NICS. I think there is a little “thin edge of the wedge” hysteria in the knee jerk reaction to this piece of legislation. Now, it may be that this bill will be amended or changed as it makes it’s way though the process, and that – of course – should be resisted to the extent it adds additional restrictions on law abiding gun owners… Read more »

VE Veteran - Old Man's Club

Sounds to me like Cornyn has gone over to the dark side. Time to throw out the trash and get some new representation in Congress. What is it about “Shall not be infringed” that these asshats don’t get? I understand that they think they have some God given right to tell the rest of us how to live, but I have a news flash for them, “We the People” do not have to obey it if its unconstitutional. I think they’ve been given waaaaaaaay too much latitude and ergo have monkeyed with our God Given rights once too often. Time… Read more »


If one accepts the logic of the 4473 in the first place, Cornyn’s addition does not seem out of place.

VE Veteran - Old Man's Club

@Pete- The logic?! When it comes to the Government there is no logic. They are just trying to cover their collective butts for a failure of their gun control infringements on our rights. Cornyn only signed onto this because the ass clown who shot all the people at the church a little while back. The one who the Air Force in its wisdom decided not to release the fact that he’d been dishonorably discharged to the proper authorities … another government entity … hmmmmmm …. lemmeesee here, you got Congress trying to fix a system that relies on agencies to… Read more »

Drake Savage

I had a Ranger Sargent tell me,” you can’t fix stupid, because idiots can be so damned ingenious.” So true.

Wild Bill

, Cornyn is only conservative around election time, then he reverts to liberal elitism. The people of Texas need a senator that represents them, not a social engineer. He needs to go, but does not stand for election for six years.

Donald L. Cline

I do not accept the “logic” of the 4473. It constitutes a compelled violation of the right of privacy in violation of our right to be secure from having to give up a right in order to exercise a right. It also turned the RIGHT to keep and bear arms into a revocable government-issued privilege at the point of sale, and it (and the NICS check) violates our 4th Amendment right to be secure from search in the absence of probable cause of criminal conduct, our 5th Amendment right to due process, and our right to be secure from the… Read more »


The government sure has forgotten their place in this country. Each and every employee serve at our pleasure, they are not there to control us or force Unconstitutional laws on us. We have heard over and over again that is why the Framers worded the Constitution and Bill of Rights as they did. Each and every one of them need to think twice before they try to force any more ignorant gun laws on us because the populace is aware and seem to be more concerned about the “power” the government extends over us. It is simple, we pay them… Read more »

Donald L. Cline

Indeed, the facts are that after the War for Independence, each American former colony was a State with all the sovereign powers of a State no different than England, France, or Germany. After several false starts (such as the Articles of Confederation) those sovereign States got together and exercised their sovereign authority to establish a federal government to act as a one-stop-shop to represent their interests. The federal government was (and is, if the States will activate their authority again) the wholly-owned subsidiary of the States. It is the absolute unassailable right and duty of every State, both collectively with… Read more »


Agreed, I think it is time for a change! Just not with a liberal/Socialist/Democrat!!!

MN Deerhttr

Interesting how Obama did absolutely nothing for the blacks in south Chicago in 8 years. He could have built new
schools, created jobs, built day care centers. He could have done something! He did nothing. Nobody ever promotes anything to help the poor uneducated black people in south Chicago. Yet when it comes to gun control they come out of the woodwork to promote any stupid bill that is proposed. Guess that tells a person black lives really don’t matter.

Donald L. Cline

While I have no brief favoring that First Enemy Agent I call “ZERO’Bama, I have to point out no authority is delegated to the federal government to help the poor uneducated black people in south Chicago or any other people anywhere else. There is also no authority delegated to the federal government to license firearm dealers, run a gun control operation like the ATF, or compel citizens to waive their 2nd Amendment right to keep and bear arms by demanding they ask permission to exercise it at the point of sale, or compel citizens to waive their 4th Amendment right… Read more »

Wild Bill

@DLC, The S. Ct found that the GCA is a proper exercise of federal authority to control commerce. So, you might ask, ” Why isn’t it called the Commerce Control Act of 1968?” And how can Congress used its authority to abridge the people’s Second Amendment Civil Rights when Murdock v. Penn says that such use of federal authority is unconstitutional? Or when Lockner v. New York says that such an ulterior motive is an unconstitutional lack of substantive due process? The GCA and NFA are unconstitutional for so many reasons, that you might just ask how long has our… Read more »

Donald L. Cline

While I agree with everything you say about the GCA of 1968, the background check scam was put into place by the Brady Act of 1993. If you want an answer to the question “you might just act how long has our federal government been entirely corrupt, the answer is since they government illegally declared the 17th Amendment ratified in 1913, depriving States of their suffrage in the Senate when article V of the Constitution specifically prohibits such an amendment unless every State agrees. More than ten did not. And the government declared at least one State to have ratified… Read more »

Wild Bill

That is so like the Fat Boy Institute to get some other agency to do their dirty work. No cost to the Fee Bees. No bad press. If anyone gets hurt, it is not their personnel, and they say, “It was only a request. They did not have to.” Then the Famous But Incompetents pat themselves on the back for being smarter that the people that they swindled.
Every agency should meet such requests with a non response.

Missouri Born

If NICS didn’t approve the sale or deny it when the gun dealer called it in to get his approval number from the government I don’t see what gives the government the right to now come and take the firearm away, after all it was their mistake in the very beginning by not saying denied or approved.
If the customer lied on the form that’s another story however the NICS people need to get their crap together and make the correct answer to the dealers about the sale in the first place.

Donald L. Cline

What gives the federal government the authority to demand the NICS check in the first place, MB? What gives the federal government the authority to tell you or I or anyone else whether they can exercise a right or not? What gives the federal government the right to compel any of us to waive our 2nd, 4th, 5th, 9th, and 10th Amendment rights to obtain government permission government has no lawful authority to issue or deny? What gives the federal government the authority to run a federal gun control operation like the ATF? What gives the federal government the authority… Read more »


John Cornyn is a snake. During elections he’s a conservative Texan. After the election he’s just another swamp thing.


Not to worry, you can trust the Government they been doing a great job so far


Stay alert. Stay armed. Practice. The police will only show up AFTER your dead.


Unless, of course, they are the reason you’re dead.

robert wilson

Just wondering. Is there a legal way the person that is to give up his purchase (of a firearm) can challenge the action? Seems like they are being charged without a method to challenge the ruling.

joe martin

The whole gun process is unconstitutional, and not just under the 2nd Amendment. Take for example the section on the 4473 which asks if you are under a restraining order for domestic violence. If a nasty ex wants to get back at you she can swear out (lie) about domestic violence and you no longer have your rights under the 2nd amendment, and can go to jail, even though you have the right to face your accuser in a trial before a jury of your peers before you are convicted and punished for a crime (6th Amendment).

Wild Bill

martin, flood the primaries, drain the swamp, help Trump get back to the Constitution.