eTrace: Internet-based Firearms Tracing and Analysis

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Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs
Fact Sheet
April 6, 2009

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives National Tracing Center Division

ATF’s National Tracing Center assists Federal, State, local and foreign law enforcement agencies by tracing the origin of U.S source firearms that have been recovered in criminal investigations. Firearms tracing is the systematic tracking of the movement of a firearm recovered by law enforcement officials from its creation by the manufacturer or its introduction into U.S. commerce by the importer through the distribution chain to the first retail purchase. Law enforcement traces a firearm recovered at a crime scene to develop investigative leads that may link a suspect to a firearm in a criminal investigation; identify potential traffickers; and detect in-state, interstate and international patterns in the sources and kinds of crime guns.

eTrace is a web-based firearm trace request submission system that provides for the electronic exchange of crime gun data in a secure web-based environment. Participating law enforcement agencies with access to the internet can acquire 24/7 real-time capabilities to electronically submit firearm trace requests, monitor the progress of traces, retrieve completed trace results, and to query firearm trace related data in ATF’s database. Through eTrace, registered users have the capability to initiate a search for traces in various ways. For example, users can search by a firearm’s serial number, individual name, type of crime, date of recovery, and numerous other identifiers. Registered users can also generate various statistical reports regarding the number of traces submitted over time, the top firearms traced, the average time-to-crime rates, and more. This will allow any law enforcement agency to develop investigative strategies to reduce firearms-related crime and violence. eTrace access is free of charge.

The benefits of eTrace include the ability to interactively develop investigative leads relative to your trace request; a significant decrease in the turnaround time required to process a trace request; improved data quality of trace related information by providing real time data validation; the ability to monitor the status of traces in a real-time environment; the ability to view/print/download completed trace results; and the ability to generate various statistical reports and perform on-line analytical research relative to your jurisdiction. There are nearly 30 foreign countries now participating in the eTrace program as well as thousands of police agencies throughout the United States. Each participating law enforcement agency must sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with ATF and designate each authorized user by name.

To request more information on eTrace contact the National Tracing Center Division at (800) 788-7133 or (304) 260-1500 or


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