This week’s edition of “ask the expert” comes from a reader who asked:

“Is it possible to ascertain just what precise records the government may actually have (and keeps somewhere) on any individual (including myself) regarding past purchases of firearms that have taken place since the background check system(s) have been in place?

“Is there a readily available source online where one could check? Or does one have to file an actual ‘Freedom of Information Act’ request to obtain such records on himself or anyone else?”

James Bardwell, in-house attorney for the National Association for Gun Rights, explains the process:

"You can request records pertaining to yourself from whatever agency you think has them. This is pursuant to the federal Privacy Act. The link below outlines how to do this:

"You will need to provide proof of identity. If there is indexing info, such as records that might be under your SSN or something besides your name, you have to provide that, too. Some records may be withheld, such as records related to an active criminal investigation. Names of informants/other persons in the records may be also be censored out.

"Under federal law, information on persons who pass a NICS (National Instant Criminal Background Check System) check to buy a firearm are not supposed to be maintained by the federal government. Information on persons who fail a check can be maintained.

"For a NICS check, the dealer does not provide any information on the firearm being purchased beyond whether it is a long gun, a handgun, or any other firearm (like a receiver, or certain NFA firearms). That information is with the dealer, unless they go out of business. So the only info on specific purchased firearms would be at ATF relative to NFA firearms, if a person has some registered to them, or information as to a multiple handgun purchase that was reported to ATF by the dealer.

"FFL out of business records are provided to ATF also, by dealers when they go out of business. However, they are supposedly not indexed by buyer’s name, so a Privacy Act request for those would have to be via other means, like the make, model, and serial number of the firearm and the dealer’s name and might involve a lot of search time."