This weekend saw the March for Our Lives take over social media and cities around the world. While Guns Found Here does not have the visceral punch of the one ORWAV spotlighted the week after the Parkland shooting, this nine-minute look inside the United States’ painfully inefficient gun tracking system – has a matter-of-fact tone which is equally chilling.
In 1968, in response to high profile assassinations, the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms established a Firearms Tracing Division in rural West Virginia. However, due to legislation heavily advocated by the NRA in 1986, this agency is unable to create a national gun registry or track any firearm unless it is involved in a criminal investigation. Therefore, to meet these legislative requirements, a digitally searchable record is out of the question. Employees at the division must page through paper files or PDFs/JPGs on a computer line by line until they find a gun that matches the description.
When viewers are told that each page in these mountainous stacks of yellow – some stored in shipping containers out the back of the building – represents at least one firearm, the enormity of the search becomes almost too large and lengthy to comprehend in the Google era. Search success rates are around 72%, mainly failing due to poor or missing crime scene descriptions of the weapons used. Assurances that success rates skyrockets to over 90% if an accurate description is given thus feel hollow.
Director David Freid and his team cut together a straightforward, seemingly agenda-free look at the centre’s operations; the absurdity, inefficiency, and over-complication of US gun laws therefore take centre stage. Contrast the documentary’s opening moments (an employee endlessly paging down a PDF search) and its closing moments (the division director’s silent sip of coffee after he expresses confidence that his work saves lives) with news clips of shootings, and the enormity of the system the weekends’ marchers are up against hits home.
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A MEL Films Production
DIRECTOR: David Freid
PRODUCER: Mor Albalak
CINEMATOGRAPHY: David Freid
EDITOR: Randall Maxwell
PRODUCTION COORDINATOR: Alisa Houghton
ADDITIONAL CAMERA AND EDITING: Andrew Pfeifer
RE-RECORDING MIXER: William Tabanou
SYNOPSIS: Thanks to 1986 legislation, no US guns can be traced digitally. When criminal investigations are underway, employees must page through physical documents or digital images without the Ctrl-F.