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 firearm tracing is the routine tracing of every crime gun recovered within a geographic area or specific law enforcement jurisdiction.

Firearms are traced in order 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.

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National Tracing Center (NTC)

ATF’s 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.

Firearms trace requests may be submitted to 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.

A key component of ATF’s enforcement mission is the tracing of firearms on behalf of thousands of federal, state, local and foreign law enforcement agencies. Firearm trace data is critically important information developed by ATF. ATF has prepared the following state-by-state reports utilizing trace data which is intended to provide the public with insight into firearms recoveries.

Click here to view state-level trace reports.