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Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

Firearms Tracing (ATF National Tracing Center)

What is the ATF National Tracing Center?

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives‘ (ATF) National Tracing Center (NTC) is the only organization authorized to trace U.S. and foreign manufactured firearms for international, Federal, State, and local law enforcement agencies. Its purpose is to provide investigative leads in the fight against violent crime and terrorism and to enhance public safety.

What is Firearms Tracing?

Firearms tracing is the systematic tracking of the movement of a firearm recovered by law enforcement officials from its first sale by the manufacturer or importer through the distribution chain (wholesaler/retailer) to the first retail purchaser. Comprehensive firearms tracing is the routine tracing of every crime gun recovered within a geographic area or specific law enforcement jurisdiction.

Why Trace Firearms?

To link a suspect to a firearm in a criminal investigation;

To identify potential traffickers, whether licensed or unlicensed sellers; and

When sufficiently comprehensive tracing is undertaken by a given community, to detect in-state, interstate, and international patterns in the sources and kinds of crime guns.

Services of the NTC

Firearms trace requests may be submitted by any law enforcement agency in the course of a bona fide criminal investigation. Trace request forms (ATF F 3312.1, National Tracing Center Trace Request) are available online or by contacting the ATF National Tracing Center at 1-800-788-7133.


What is eTrace?

eTrace is a paperless firearm trace submission system that is readily accessible through the Internet that provides the necessary utilities for submitting, retrieving, storing, and querying all firearms trace related information relative to the requestor's agency.

The eTrace application enables participating agencies to electronically submit firearm trace requests, as well as monitor the progress of their traces and efficiently retrieve completed trace results in a real-time environment.

After entering into an Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with ATF, the only infrastructure an agency needs to access eTrace is a secure computer and access to the Internet. Even agencies with limited personnel can comprehensively trace their firearms and analyze on-line data. Simply put, eTrace provides for the secure exchange of firearm trace related information between the user community and the ATF National Tracing Center within a web-based environment.

For more information about eTrace, contact the ATF National Tracing Center at 1-800-788/7133, extension 01540, or visit the eTrace homepage to access your account.