P R O C E E D I N G S
MR. BUSEY: Good morning, my name is Tom Busey. I'm chief of the NFA branch, National Firearms Act Branch.
A lot of the information that Larry gave you relative to chain of command organization, that applies to us too. What I thought I'd get into this morning is the probably three major things that the branch does.
Our first and main responsibility is to make accurate entries and to maintain accuracy of the NFRTR, the National Firearms Registry and Transfer Record.
Our second main responsibility is to do look ups for agents in the field who need to find out if an individual has Title 2 weapon.
Our third major responsibility, and not quite co-equal, because the sensitivity and criticalness of it is not there, but we also do record inventories for inspectors who are inspecting various firearms dealers. We verify the inventory that we have. We send it to them, they double check it, and we try to get it straight.
I thought I'd start off by showing you some figures because, like imports branch, we also process multitudes of paper. My staffing is very similar to Larry's, although you can double the examiners. I have 12 examiners, imports has 6, and that's basically because of the volume.
The first chart you see up there is the amount of Title 2 weapons that are registered right now. There's approximately 728,000 Title 2 weapons. This first graph shows it by state. As you can see, the largest state for Title 2 weapons is California, and then you move right on down to, I believe that's Vermont, isn't it? Yes.
VOICE: Virgin Islands.
MR. BUSEY: Virgin Islands. I'm sorry. Virgin Islands, 29.
Of that 728,000, we estimate, because we don't have the time nor the inclination to do it on a monthly basis, anywhere between 150 to 155,000 is the flash grenades. They come in and out of the inventory so quickly, and probably the accuracy of those is not very good, basically because when police departments and other law enforcement agencies use these flash grenades, they're supposed to report to us. We remove them from the inventory. But it's such a continual turnover. The Kansas City Police Department may report to us accurately, but the Sheriff's Department up in Utah, we may not hear from them.
Some day when we have the manpower and we have the time, we need to go through and separate these out.
In fact, we've discussed within the branch setting up possibly two different registries, just so the system doesn't become overburdened to separate these out into an equal category but a separate category.
The second graph shows the amount of processing that we do on a fiscal year basis for both '94 and '95. '95, there was a slight decrease between the Form 1s, Form 2s, all the way up to the Form 10s that we process. We processed 214,000 pieces of paper in fiscal year '95 on the registration of manufactured weapons and transferred weapons.
The second graph breaks this down into the type of weapon that we have in the registry for both '94 and '95.
Destructive devices, the second category, is the largest. Machine guns, silencers, any other weapon, short-barrel shotguns, sawed-off shotguns and short-barrel rifles.
I hope that page isn't for a critical lookup.
The next graph is the record searches that were completed in 1995. As you can see, our total record searches by our specialists, of which there are six, was 5,368. Of that, 78.5 percent were record searches for special agents in the field who needed either urgent informacion or routine, and I'll get into that.
We did 880 court certifications for trial that came after the work cases, and we did 586 inventories for our inspectors in the field and verifying dealers inventories.
The next graph, it probably wouldn't interest you too much. It gets into the special occupational tax and the population of special occupational taxpayers, the number of manufacturers, importers, and Class III dealers that are out there because we also are, obviously, concerned about this data base also.
What I thought I'd move into right away is, like I say, probably either first or second, because they're both probably co-equal, is the search that our specialists do, our look-up specialists do, of the NFRTR for special agents when they're working a case, when they're trying to find out if an individual they had information on has a Title 2 weapon, do we have that Title 2 weapon registered in our data base.
These procedures are in effect right now. There's some changes in here that you probably already have heard about relative to the involvement of management and overseeing the results that specialists come up with when they do a record search.
The record search can be made either by a call in by special agents with a dedicated number. We just recently have constructed in our work area a separate four-walled office that has the two look-up specialists in it. They're isolated from the other activity of the branch and the division, and their only responsibilities are to take these phone calls from special agents who are doing either weapons searches or individual searches.
They can either do that by the telephone number by telephone or by fax machine, which we've recently had installed a separate fax machine, separate from the rest of the division, in that room by itself. That takes nothing but look ups. The search can be requested by name, by the firearms serial number, or both.
The specialist that's sitting in there that takes the request enters the information on the NFA record search form, and there's a lot of information that we put on there relative to the name of the agent, the badge number, the address/telephone number, and of course all of the information that we can possibly get from the agent.
The more information that we receive, relative to the individual that they're doing the search on, the better. If we have a birth date, current address, anything. And of course, a lot of times we don't. All we get is just a first and last name. Middle initials even help us.
Because as we go through the search, the further we have to go to make sure it's right, all the way back to the actual microfilm records and the actual hard copy of the transfer registration document, even middle initials can help us eliminate erroneous individuals.
For a name search, the specialist will search the data base, using the first three letters of the last name. The example given here is Smith, S-M-I. What happens is, they run the S-M-I. They'll get, let's say, 10,000 hits on S-M-I. Then they'll run the state and the S-M-I, and maybe they'll get 400. In this case, they probably would. With some more uncommon names, you may only get 3 or 15 or 20 names.
Then they'll run the fourth letter, to even break it down further. It's S-M-I, and then it'll be T.
Let me say that when we testify in court, we testify that the data base is 100 percent accurate. That's what we testify to, and we will always testify to that. As you probably well know, that may not be 100 percent true. If our data base was absolutely error free, we could simply run the name of the individual and his first name, and if it didn't come up, we could guarantee everyone that that individual doesn't have a Title 2 weapon registered to him.
But since sometimes in the entry part of this game people invert letters and vowels, you could put the name in, it won't come up that way.
So we run multiple methods of running it. If the last name and first name, if the guy's first name or the lady's first name, looks like a last name, we'll run that first. We'll invert it, just to see what we come up with.
So this way, we try to eliminate the possibility of have somebody in there who has a Title 2 that we come up with a report that says they do not. We are going to a new data base whose capabilities will allow us to do more varied kind of queries and hopefully better queries, phonetics, Sound, Soundex (ph). Soundex will help us.
For a serial number, we'll just search the exact serial number. We have come up with a couple of incidences, and this shows the skill of the specialists that are in there, where a Z has looked like a 2 and a 2 has looked like a Z. If you run the wrong one, you come up with no registration. If you run them both, you find out that it is registered that way. There was a mistake in the printing on the form, or it was a mistake in the call in.
So we do the exact serial numbers, but we do look for idiosyncracies in the serial number that might make it more apt that some kind of inversion could have taken place.
The specialists will analyze the results off the search. Like I say, since the serial number is exact, the only records where the serial number is identified, will be provided.
The specialists will eliminate records based an the type and description of the firearm. For the name search, we do the name, we run the FFL, the licensee data base, and the SOT data base with the name to see if there's any trade names.
If there's any trade names, then we go back to the registry to run the trade name to see if that trade name has any Title 2 weapons registered to it, because in many cases the agents call in with a name. That individual turns out to be a licensee, turns out to be a special occupational taxpayer.
Although there was nothing registered under his name, there were weapons registered under his trade name, his company name. In many cases, they may have two or three different trade names.
Again, as I emphasized a minute ago, to ensure the thoroughness of the search, the requesting agent should supply as much information as he possibly can. A lot of times that information is only first name/last name, and that's all he has, based on an informant or tip or whatever, and that's what we run with, is that.
I mentioned before we'll run the SOT data base and we'll run the FFL data base, licensee data base, to see if we come up with anything there, and then we'll go back to the NFRTR to find out if they have any weapons registered to them.
Depending on what we come up with, when we come up with similar names, and we don't have a date of birth, if we come up with Allison Stevens or Tom Busey, and we come up he's in a different state, we'll get the hard copy or the microfilm copy of the actual transfer record to see if the date of birth is the same as the agent has.
Depending on the volume that we're dealing with, a lot of times what we're doing now is we are sending -- I have been there a year now, and before I got there, we were sending basically either hit or no hit, and we'd send the hit. We would send possibles if they were real close, but due to some difficulties that we've had and to make sure that we don't -- we try not to send the wrong information, we have been sending probably more information than the agent needs.
If we come up with, if there's 22 Tom Smiths in the State of Arkansas that have registered weapons, we send all 22 Tom Smiths, even if the date of birth is different, just to give the agent the opportunity to do the investigative work, rather than just telling, here's the one that we think might be it, the other 19 we don't think are it. We'll let the agent decide whether that other 19 might possibly be the individual they're looking for.
That's why we can go all the way back to the hard copy. We can go all the way back to the microfilm to really pin down if the individual we have is the one you're looking for.
What we've started, since there was a problem in Baltimore with a look up and there was a problem up in Minnesota, I think it was, about six months ago, from now on, before negative information is sent to an agent -- if the agent indicates that it's a routine, he's not in a big rush for it, we used to get it back to him on the same business day. Now if an agent says it's routine, he may not get it back until the next business day. If it's an urgent, he will get it back that day.
We'll call the information back to him and the hard copy of the information will be mailed to him. If he needs it real fast, we FedEx it.
The reason why the routine may not get back the same day anymore is all the negative information -- by negative, I mean, if the specialist does a look up on a name and comes up with zero, can't find that name anywhere, before that information goes back to the field agent, it comes to the branch chief's office. The branch chief sits down and basically doesn't do anymore than what the specialist did in the look up, but goes over all the information on the printouts to see if all the procedures have been followed right to the very end.
Did they look at the FFL data base. Did they look at the SOT data base. Did they have names that were similar to the name that was requested. Did they check out the actual hard copy of the microfilm to see if this was the individual and someone had just misspelled it when it went into the data base.
Once the branch chief reviews this completely, then he'll return the information to the look-up specialist, who will communicate, transmit this information to the field agent.
What we're doing is, we're hoping that by this second level of review, and it really doesn't say anything negative about the look-up specialist at all, because the people we have right now have been doing it for a long time and they're excellent in their searches; but you do these searches and you run these printoffs on the screen and you track down these printoffs hour after hour for a full day.
I remember during the Oklahoma City bombing we were running it 24 hours a day. I think we ran for about two weeks straight. Sometimes things are missed because there's only so many minutes in an hour and so many hours in a day. So this gives the branch chief time to just sit there and say, geez, I wonder if this Ivan Smith might be the Evan Smith that the agent wants. It's the same state. Then we check to see maybe if it's in the same city that the agent's looking for this guy at.
So it gives a little more opportunity to scope out different possibilities. The specialists are, like I say, they're turning these things out all day long for eight hours.
So we're hoping that eliminates the possibility that anything goes out erroneous because we know you're basing your warrants on it, you're basing your entries on it, and you certainly don't want a Form 4 waved in your face when you go in there to show that the guy does have a legally-registered Title 2 weapon. I've heard that's happened. I'm not sure.
Like I say, we'll give the information back by telephone and then we'll send hard copies back to you.
At that point, the log entry is closed out, and we maintain these files for future reference in case one or the other of us has to CYA for one reason or another.
The important factors, again, are: If it's communicated to the field agents, and I believe that my boss, Terry Cates, who's down -- well, he's back now, but he was down at the conference in South Florida with the district directors and SACs -- one of the topics he was talking about, again, is look up, the look ups that we do for agents.
The more information that we can get over the phone on the individual that you're looking for, the better it is for us and the better the information comes back.
I mean, if you have a middle initial, give it to us. If he has a "junior" or a "senior" on the end, give it to us.
The second part of the information, the routine and urgent, we've already gone over.
So, again, I kind of consider this probably is the most important support function that we have. Equal to it, of course, is maintaining the accuracy of the data base to begin with.
If the information that's in the data base is not accurate, it doesn't make any difference how good of a search we do, it'll come out wrong.
So the information on the 728,000 weapons that are in the data base has to be 100 percent accurate. Like I told you before, we testify in court and, of course, our certifications testify to that, too, when we're not physically there to testify, that we are 100 percent accurate.
But we have found instances in our records where names have been misspelled, they've been inverted; vowels i-e have been changed; and, of course, computer programs only pull up what you put in.
We've made monumental strides in correcting this. A major correction event took place in 1986. About a year ago, we instituted a quality review team in the division. That's three individuals who review every transfer record that goes through an examiner to register a Title 2 weapon, or to transfer a Title 2 weapon.
Before it actually gets entered into the data base and stays there permanently, it goes from that examiner to a specialist, who reviews it and the screen to see if the name was spelled correctly when it was put in, because obviously that's the most important thing, is the name and the spelling and the order that it's put in. And, of course, the serial number of the weapon, type of weapons and the description of the weapon.
This quality review team, when I first came in a year ago, our error rate was between 49 and 50 percent, so you can imagine what the accuracy of the NFRTR could be, if your error rate's 49 to 50 percent. The error rate now is down to below 8 percent, and that's total. That's common errors and critical errors.
We do a little finagling upstairs on what -- you know, we consider a common error is an error in the data base entry, but it doesn't affect a look up. It wouldn't hurt an agent who doesn't really have any damage.
A critical error is one where the gentleman's name is spelled wrong. Those error rates are probably below 3 percent. The total error rate's about 8 percent.
We hope the QRT team has made sure that, since a year ago, all the entries that go in are absolutely 100 percent accurate.
The only way we can go back, we have a project -- we established a project, we established a task force. We haven't begun yet because we haven't converted to the new data base. As soon as the new data base comes into effect, we'll begin the task force assignment.
What we're going to do is we're going to go back, starting with the latest entry and working back to the oldest entry and review every hard copy of every document with its entry into the data base to see if it's correct. I think originally we figured this would take 781 man days to do this with five people sitting at a computer eight hours a day.
But it's the only way that we can feel that we can ever get it completely accurate. It was fine to begin putting everything in accurate a year ago or at least be guaranteed a year ago it was accurate, but what are you going to do with the entries that go back to the early '80s and the '70s and the '60s?
This is the only way we feel we could correct it. No one in ISD or no one that I've known has come up with a program that we can use. This new data base will help us. And the reason why we're waiting is because the new data base will put fields and menus in there. I believe it comes from Ed Owens' shop, or maybe it's Jerry out at Tracing Center, has ownership of the data base dealing with the weapons data base.
Once that goes in, if we have an MP5 in there that's listed as an MPS, this will correct that to bring it to correct it as an MP5. But you can't do anything -- there's no data base, that I know of, or no program, to correct misspellings of names.
We will have an address. We were supposed to have an address correction, zip code in the data base, but we'll see when it finally gets converted over. I'm not sure.
And the third thing we do is for field inspectors who do regulatory compliance inspections. They call into us to get an inventory from us of Title 2 weapons. We send the inventory out. They do the physical inventory, and we make adjustments to settle any problems between the physical inventory and the written inventory.
That's really the end of my presentation. I wanted to concentrate on those three areas. I wanted to leave time for Q and As, because I figured there might be some Q and As on the look up.
No questions. Okay. Thank you very much.
(End of requested excerpt.)