INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Brandon Hole’s mother called police in March of 2020 and surrendered a shotgun her son had bought.
Within a few months Hole bought two more firearms, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has tracked down the stores that sold them to him.
Late in the summer of 2020, Hole was able to buy two AR -15 rifles from two different gun retailers in central Indiana. Suzanne Dabkowski of the ATF says that all licensed gun retailers are required to keep records of all firearms they buy, sell or trade.
“You want to figure out how the firearm got into the hand of the person that used it. Were they the original purchaser or was there somebody that purchased a firearm for them?” Dabkowski said.
In order to find the retailer that sold the guns to Hole, the ATF put out what they call an urgent trace with the gun’s serial numbers.
“It is sort of a drawn-out process. It is not quite what you think when you see on CSI or something like that. The information is entered into what we call the e-trace system,” Dabkowski said.
The ATF then contacts the manufacturer and traces the sale of the gun to wholesalers, distributors and retailers, eventually to the last person that bought the gun from a licensed firearms dealer. Garrison Burge is a manager at Beech Grove firearms, they did not sell any guns to Hole.
“An urgent one we get to immediately. As soon as they give us the information that they provide to us, we go back into our books looking at the dates on when we received that firearm, whether it was directly from a manufacturer or one of our distributors and that will give us all the information inside of our books and then right over here, it’ll tell us who it went to,” Burge said.
ATF has traced Hole’s guns to two retailers in central Indiana. They can’t tell us which ones, since the information is part of an ongoing investigation. This a slow and cumbersome process and important to note that only federal agents can request access to these records without a court order.
There is not a national gun registry, though some states do require the registration of firearms. Indiana does not. The ATF prefers that gun retailers keep sale records on paper forms provided by the agency and those records must be kept for at least 20 years.