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What is firearms tracing?

There are many legal issues that arise when an individual is accused of a federal firearms offense. Amongst these, the actual possession or sale of a firearm may be key for a prosecutorial conviction. Therefore, the federal government and their prosecutors often address this matter in an aggressive manner. One way they do so is by firearms tracing.

Firearms tracing, overseen by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, is a system whereby the federal government can track the movement of guns. The system is claimed to be helpful to law enforcement, as the system can let them know who possessed a given firearm all the way through a retail purchaser. Since selling a gun without a license to do so is against the law, investigators can go to the last known owner in the tracking system and question that individual about the gun's whereabouts.

The use of firearms tracing can be damaging to a criminal defendant's case. However, if the matter is handled appropriately, the damage might be minimized or even eliminated. There may be issues with the weapon's chain of possession, the weapon may have been stolen from the defendant prior to a crime, or a guns serial number may have been removed, thus making it difficult to identify. Any of these issues could raise doubt as to a defendant's guilt, potentially giving the person leverage in the case.

Though it is certainly important to consider gun tracing efforts by law enforcement, there are many others that must be addressed when facing a federal firearms offense or other weapons charge. To determine how best to deal with these issues, an accused individual might find it beneficial to speak with a California-based attorney who is experienced at handling federal firearms offense accusations.

Source: ATF, "National Tracing Center," accessed on Jan. 8, 2014

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