I crossed today from vietnam to Laos with our bikes. We crossed at the Na Meo border and, as below, all went smooth. But it wasnt as expensive as we though. USD arent as common here as i first though. We have Vietnam registered bikes and we have our blue cards, but they didnt ask to see these, they didnt ask to see our licences and they didnt ask about import Visas.
It was just stamp, stamp, stamp, done. Remember to PUSH your bikes through the gate though. They really didnt appreciate me trying to drive through. Hi there, 3 of us crossed from vietnam to Laos last week with our bikes.
We crossed at the Na Meo border. All went smooth. We talked to 2 bikers who were turned away at the 2 borders south of Na Meo and not allowed to bring their bikes in and had to come up to Na Meo to cross. In Laos no one asked me about this export form. Just crossed from Vietnam to Laos on my vietnamese bike. It seems like remote truck crossing, no tourists or other cars, just a lot of big trucks. Nobody spoke English, officers were polite, used google translate, sent to customs window that just waved me away.
They warned me about Laos side not letting me through with bike. Road after the boarder is very sketchy, melting asphalt, gravel, pits and dirt, take is slow and extra careful. Just gave passports to stamp no questions about the bike, no additional documents to show, smooth and gentle.
Just parked our bike in the shadow before stamping on Vietnamese side, but showed our bikes to Laos side. No questioned, just smile and small talk about where we are from. Hey Arseny, thanks for the info. I plan to cross in Lao Bao. I went already one time there for a Visa run in December and come back in Vietnam, and all the paper-work about Vietnam Exit and Laos Enter was on the Lao side. We crossed border from Cambodia to Thailand today with two Vietnamese plated motorbikes. So we decided to try some other smaller border because Poipets border is the largest cambo-thai crossing place, we tought lots of triers like us.
We drove to the south a little bit more than kilometres, to the village named Daung Daung-Ban Laem border. We just drove through the border and parked our bikes to the Thailand side. Then we walked back to the Cambodia side, did that official passport and visa stuff, walked back to our bikes and hit the road.
Thank you for these previous informations. It sounds possible to cross Border between Cambodia to Thailand with a vietnamese motorbike registered on a different name. But did you had any problem once in Thailand, with police for instance? We asked other officers seperatly but they all said the same. So avoid this border crossing. Thanks for the update Jannes. Let us know if you find another option. Ride safe! Sharing our experience here since we found pretty useful info.
We did not try the island — Stung Treng border point as it has bad reputation, and we wanted to avoid the option of getting the bike illegally to Cambodia through Mekong. We rode Attapeu Laos to Kontum Vietnam in 1 day, no fee, nobody asked for anything regarding the bike, not even the blue card. Then the next day to Ban Lung Cambodia , same thing. We did not mention the bike, just went to make the visa and took it back to cross the border.
Nobody asked anything. The road condition for the whole detour is really OK, asphalt everywhere. The part in Laos from Attapeu to the Vietnam border was the most difficult with steep parts and no garage for more than 20km. It was also one of the most beautiful road we rode so far. I have a Vietnamese motorcycle not registered in my name. In the past 3 months have traveled from Vietnam into Cambodia, no problems with bike they do not even ask about it, have done that crossing several times in the past 5 years. Then cross into Laos from north Cambodia, no problems, just pay a small fee, at Laos side for a one month permit for the bike.
Return 3 weeks latter, no problem on Laos side just hand in the permit. The Cambodia side was a nightmare, telling me could not take the bike in. They let me wait 3 hours with not much communication simply saying I could not take the bike in. It was getting later in the afternoon when the boss came to me and said I looked like an OK person so he would let me cross. But only if I allowed one of his men to ride my bike 2km into Cambodia and he would take me in his you beaut air con car to the bike????
I reluctantly agreed, that is what happened, no money changed hands and I rode to Stung Treng. Hi all! I have a VN-plated bike 21 with a blue card. I paid 30K kips on the Lao side and absolutely nothing on the VN side. The first man I met on the VN side asked me if I had money. I told him I had barely nothing. Then the passport guy stamped me without question. He was looking at my blue card and my Cambodia visa!
Got back to my motorbike and drove to the fence. Seems to me that this border is loosening up. Safe travels all Cheers Jason. Hello can anyone tell me if nomad travel insurance will cover me for collision with a motorbike if I do not have an international drivers license? Hi Gerrid. You need a valid licence that is recognised in the country you are riding in. Some countries will accept your licence from back home, others require an International Drivers Permit. Just arrivied to laos via Tay Trang Motorbike cost — vnd But the motorbike was registered in Dien Bien province maybe thats why they let me thru.
He arranged everything, I kept my keys the whole time and he sorted out my ferry and bus through the border. Mo speaks excellent english and is a really nice guy. He also owns the restaurant at the small bus station in Stung Treng and my bike was waiting for me in the barn. If you walk up the main street of Don Det you come to a fork in the road, go left and his reaturant is the really beautiful one about 10m on your left. FYI: It works out cheaper to bike across the bottom of Laos across the Bolaven Plains totally worth the trip to the most southern border which takes you into Vietnam then you can travel down or so kms to the Cambodian border.
Me and my 2 friends used the service of Mo in January for entering Cambodia from Laos with our motorbikes. We decided to save time and to to go and try and waste a day on border. Bikes were waiting for us in Stung Treng busstation. It was fun adventure but money-wise expensive. If you have time and you have done your homework by reading blogs about this bordercrossing then I would recommend to get multiple-entry visa for Vietnam and avoid this bordercrossing by taking roundtrip to Cambodia through Vietnam.
You probably can save money and not waste your energy on hassling with smuglers or borderguard. I started to walk but they said I can go by moto to Lao side. They stamped my passport and I went away. After 70 km I recalled, I need to come back to Vietnamese customs to make export papers but it was too late.
I was stopped once by Lao police near Vientiane about 20km from the city, there are something like a mobile post on main roads around, they are checking everybody. Great blog, congratulations! Thank you! Alternatively we could get another visa and drive back to north Vietnam, but it is an extra cost, that could be avoided we have 3 months single entry vietnam visa, that is sufficent enough to go through most of vietnam before.
Meaning we could take bus or airplane from Cambodia to Vietnam…? Hello guys , Just want to give you an update about the road conditions to the na meo border. We my girlfriend and i Just Drove this road yesterday , and its in perfect conditions, they Just finished the constructions , at the Laos side its still teriblle and it take s you about three to four hours to reach the first City with hotels and guesthouse Xam Nua. Ps Dien bien border tuy trang is still not possible with bike we found it out the hard way instead of reading some blogs before trying ; , Love your blog grtz Rianne and Martin.
Hi Great info thank you for your effort put up for us to read Is it possible to buy motorcycle for cheep price and ride one country and just leave it at border or sale it for cheep and go to next country and buy another on and keep repeating it. Just got bounced at the Huay Kon border between Thailand and Laos. Apparently it has something to do with the China. So, I was told to try crossing directly into VT. A Thai office said it was possible on a bike bigger than cc.
Trying this morning…. So, they suggested I try another border. Is there any problem with selling bikes with Cambodian plates in Vietnam? Hi guys, First of all thanks for that inspiring article. Do you think it might be a problem with a Motorbike from Thailand?
We did find however that the facility at the crossing was empty but wide open when we reached it at lunchtime. Just a heads up. I tried bribery and all, and even after 2 hours of that and helpful Vietnamese immigration officers, I had my exit stamp voided and had to head back to Vietnam. Does anyone have experience doing that?
Hey guys. Can you tell me if Vietnam Dong is allright at the border, from Vietnam to Laos? I read it at one post, but only one. Should i get dollars, to be safe? And then do i need any passport Photo, for the visa? Me and my friends are planning to spend two to three weeks motopacking from Vietnam to Thailand I think the information in this blog is the best I have found so far for crossing the borders.
Regarding timing do you think two to three weeks would be enough time to travel safe and make a few stops in between? Hey there, thank you for all the useful information, actually a friend and I wanted to buy a bike in Hanoi go all the way south enter Camboya continuing by Laos to finish our 6 month trip in Thailand my doubt was; what about the control on the Laos frontier to go to thailand?
Hey guys, great info! Just wondering if anyone knows anything about the Pa Hang border crossing between Vietnam and Laos? My boyfriend and I have a Vietnam plated honda win with blue card. Here, at the Vietnamese side the officer pointed to a bundle of money but we pretended not to understand what he wanted and after about 2 minutes he gave it up and gave us our passports.
He road conditions are pretty bad on the Laos side though. Several parts are unpaved and under construction, we saw some trees and power poles laying on the road. We did about km on it and it never let us down.
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We got a green ownership card for each bike and nothing more. What about this blue card everybody is talking about? Hello there! We only had dong and we got to pay How about the police? Do we need to somehow change plates? I cant find any information about this anywhere. The blue card is the registration of the motorcycle, you should have got one when you bought the motorbike, in Thailand they call it green card.
When we crossed from Cambodia-Laos border they gave to us a customs import paper, green paper that cost 5USD, maybe they gonna ask for that if want to leave the country or maybe not… Check it out. Yesterday i crossed from Cambodia to Laos with a Vietnamese plated motorbike and i didnt have any problems. Easy peassy japanese.
In Cambodia: 10 USD for motorbike custom paper. They required blue card. I felt that it doesnt depend of the mood of the people, seems to be regulated. I dont recommend to exchange money there. The rates in islands area are better. Good luck, good routes. Hi everyone, first of all thanks for all the useful info. We arrived to NaMeo at noon so we had to wait until After that it all went smoothly. First we had our passports checked on vietnamese side and then we payed vnd for bike to customs guide. Another form was filled but noone looked on the bike again. And that was it.
Road is great on the vietnamese side, not so much on the lao side. But the scenery is beautiful. Petrol stations are on the bost sides of the border,but gas seems to be cheaper on vnm side. There is accomodation available in NaMeo on vnm side. No ATM. Hope this helps. There is a seventh land border crossing between Vietnam and Laos, road 12 runs east from Thakhek straight to the border in km!
Loas side the roads are OK quality with negligible gradient variances, easy ride really, some slightly dodgy patches of road, but mostly sealed. Last fuel station 20km before border. Border gate took 1 minute to stamp out, can obtain VOA! Vietnam side roads really good condition, slightly steeper gradients, but noting too extreme! First fuel station 30km from border. Guard when crossing threshold wanted to check contents of my bag… Annoying due to bungees etc, but not invasive and no issues! Scenery Vietnam side was stunning, yet I dare say I have barely scratched the surface! Today we tried to cross the border at houesei Laos to Thailand, but they refused.
So no way to cross, we came back to Laos! Hi, Found the information on here really useful and so thought I would post my own experiences. We had a blue card not in our name and a vietnamese plated bike. Could you maybe tell us how long that detour took approximately? Hello, sorry I forgot to mention above what valuable source of information this blog is during my motorcycle adventure. Thank you to everyone contributing!!! As mentioned by so many people, very straightforward and very helpful people at the border. The QL is in very good condition these days until the border.
Did the vietnam to Laos border at Na Meo two days ago with a motorbike. It was very straight forward. Apparently you should buy Laos motorbike insurance near the border. Supposedly this is often in a building nearby. I did not know. Anyone have suggestions on how to buy it in laos? Roads on the Vietnam side are pretty good now except for a couple short gravel sections. Laos side is more exciting in terms of road quality but passable.
Gas is available on either side of the border. Did they say you had to purchase insurance?? Thanks for the update!! I arrived at they had closed early for lunch but unlocked the door and stamped me out no questions no money.
I also handed my bikes blue card with my passport. Only registered it on the Laos side. To document for exporting. May now be a gypsy bike. I have a question regarding Laos to Thailand. Did they leave with their bikes? Can you get out without them? If I can make it to Thailand with my bike I will just dump it before my flight. Could someone tell me the best way to get liability insurance on a purchased motorcyle in Southeast Asia? Successfully crossed the border from Cambodia to Laos today!
Brought in 2 cc bikes. After getting our exit and entry stamps had to pay 3 extra usd per passport we were asked to go back to Cambodia to get an import permit. The custom official first asked us to go back to the capital to get it arguing that it was illegal for us to drive a bike in Cambodia. Happy to hear of a happy traveller! No one said a thing about out bikes even though they for sure saw us ride up on them.
The Cambodian visa guys were very relaxed and friendly and told us what to do etc. What I would like to know is where to get our bike permits for crossing to Loas as we are planning to attempt it in about 3 weeks. Crossed the Cambodia to Laos border 2 days ago on a Cambodian registered bike Kawasaki D Tracker not in my name but with the reg card all done legally including issue of green import papers.
All they wanted was 1 dollar for this stamp 1 dollar for next and so on…. Successfully crossed the lao bao border from vietnam into laos today. Only paid 35 for my visa, nothing else. They did not even ask for the blue paper of my bike. Before that I unsuccessfully tried the two borders cha lo and cao treo.
Maybe you could update your information based on the different experiences here. At the first thank a lot for this helpful thread and people who update information! My question is, that do anyone have recent information about crossing border from Vientiane to Thailand with vietnamese plated bike? I have a blue card and this green paper from laos border but bike is not registered in my name, so could it still be possible to cross border?
Friend of mine crossed this border one week ago. Same situation as you. This is what he sent to me on the facebook:.
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I made it today! Directly in Vientiane, they said they dont do it but it looks like they had a good mood. Thanks Dan for so fast reply! Wohoo so i have still hope. I update information after trying! Yeehaa border friendship bridge no. Everything went better than expected. Not any kind of hustling or necotiating. Just show passport, blue card and this green paper at couple of desk at Lao border and them let me go, no bad eye or anything like that. Officers wished me good luck and nice trip!
Took about hour from arriving Lao Border crossing center to departure from Thai border with stamped passport. So hoy think its possible to cross from Vientiane to Thailand with the bike? I am in the dame situation! Vietnamise plate, blue caes but not with my name on it. Hi Juan, Same situation than you. I want to cross my vietnamese plated motorbike with blue card not with my name on it into Thailand.
Could you do it? No problem whatsoever but maybe because we crossed around lunch time. Then we just pushed the bikes to Cambodia, no one was in the custom stall to stop us. And we lost our blue cards so it was kinda good that no one was there to stop us indeed! Safe travels! Even if you leave Laos as I did, passport stamp , and cross the bridge by yourself as I did , then you reach Thailand side of the bridge as I did and pass the Thai immigration control as I did, with the bike , then m down the line the customs will inform you that you are not allowed to proceed.
This means, you are stuck in Thailand, with a motorbike you cannot clear for customs. This is because one needs the blue card on his name or a proper notarized pack of documentation to inform customs that the bike is yours. Just saying. Your post is unclear to me. Hi there.
It did not give us much courage but we did not give up and gave it a try. The story: — Huay Xay border crossing from Laos to Thailand — Honda Win with vietnamese papers — Blue card with the name of the first owner definitely not me — No thai insurance so far. We reached Lao side and got an exit stamp on our Visa. For this we had to pay something like Then we were asked for It definitely does not help anything as the police car leave you before you even reach thai side.
So we got to thai side and went to immigration, we then were forwarded to some photocopy office, where they made us a copy of blue card with my passport, then we were forwarded to office number 17 I have no idea what is this office for and lady behind the counter give us some form to fill up. We then went to immigration to get a entry stamp and we had to pay something like 80 THB which we did not have so we gave them all KIPs we had left.
We then proceeded to customs. Fortunately the guy behind the counter was probably more nervous than we were. He obviously saw the blue card for the first time. Oh one more thing.. We had a big envelope with:. Thank you for all the helpful information! From where did you get the Laos insurance? I bought it in Phonsavan where is probably only one insurance office. I think easiest way is to get to some big city and look for Allianz, Axa or another big insurance company then get there and explain them what you need.
No police control so far. I hope, we will not need any mechanic assistance except changing oil and chain maintenance. But we have some km ahead though.. Nice one! I love it!
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Next month I will be in Hanoi and I will try to change the blue card on my name. Should help too to cross the border. I hope that you have a police and mechanic free travel! The ONLY way you can change the blue card into your name is if you take the original owner whose name is on the card with you. Hi Dan, have you guys made your way to Cambodia yet??
I will have blue card and will just be a standard cc scooter? Tried the other day an all they wanted to do was buy my bike at both ends. Everyone said no one ever gets in. Apparently it use to e ok 2 years ago so it might change.
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But for now a no go. Had to sell my bike in Don Det. Crossed Lao Bao — Dansavan with Viet motorbike, no problems at all, i got the Laos visa at the border. Just need blue paper. Will it be possible to enter the country with the motorbike and then leave without it, or will the Laos immigration keep track that I had a bike and fine me if I leave without it?
Thanks for the above details. No problems with any other police in Cambodia and I was waved through lots of check points even around Siem Reap where foreigners supposedly are not available to hire bikes…. You were waved through the checkpoints in Siem Reap because you already were on a bike. This was done because they got tired of stupid farangs with little or no motorcycle experience who rented bikes locally and then killed or injured either locals or other farangs or, less regrettably, themselves.
The law says nothing about foreigners who rent or purchase bikes elsewhere, even in Cambodia, and ride to Siem Reap. Hi there! Thanks guys for the very helpful thread and info! Arriving at the Lao fence they let me through and direct me to the immigration booth where I park. Thank you for your detailed report. Very useful to me. I guess not only for me. Have a safe journey! One bike was our property the other one was rented in Phnom Penh. We did this in February and had zero problems.
Bikes were both Honda XL dirt bikes.
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We just made it end of the afternoon, a little after 5PM, to the border on the Lao side. We already got our visa so after checking it he stamped us in and asked us if we had any money to exchange. BUT we were fucked on Nam Phao with a bike. Crossed from Vietnam to Cambodia Bavet and Cambodia to Vietnam Ha Tien without problems, didnt have to pay anything only the visa, that is 30, no 35!! You guys seem not to mention the limitation of cc motorcycle can cross all those borders, for, if above cc motorcycles are not allowed in some of the countries Vietnam you are talking about.
I live in Vietnam and own two cc motorcycles that are Vietnam-licensed. Last year I owned a cc Yamaha that had Cambodian plates and registration when I bought it. To legally ride a bike over cc, you have to have either a Vietnamese A2 license or a motorcycle license from your home country and an IDL. I made it with my bike into Cambodia from Ha Tien without any extra fees or what so ever. They were very friendly! Hello, I am planning to cross the border in the South by the end of this month.
The only documents I have is my passport and blue card but the bike is not registered on my name. Has anyone a recent information of which border will be the best? I was thinking of the Ha Thien. Thank you very much for this great website! So I hope this time it will be the same. Hi people.
I tried to cross the Laos to Cambodia border yesterday. And I get denied. I stayed at at the border about two hours trying to convince the guy to let new in but he was stubborn as hell. I would even paid the bribe but never came up in our conversation. I got my Cambodian visa in Vientiane, Laos. So I tried to call embassy that granted me a visa, but no answer, then I called my embassy and nice lady with nice voice informed me that it is a Sunday: so I waited on one more day near by there border. In the mean time I contacted ministry of tourism in Cambodia, and my embassy.
They both offered to help. But so far no answer. Does any one know if I need this power of attorney document? One more thing. Laos officials let me go without the stamps to Cambodia border to see if I can get a motorcycle into Cambodia. I am pretty sure that the problem is your Vietnamese-plated bike. As I posted here I while ago, it seems to be no problem taking a Vietnamese bike from Cambodia into Lao, but a huge problem going the other way. Parked right in front of the officers, flashed a smile and went in. The Cambodian side was just as easy. I think they thought it was funny a small girl was crossing a remote border by motorbike….
Hey guys, do you have any information on buying and riding a bike from India to Malaysia? We arrive in Goa on the 1st March and hope to travel for 8 months. I think Indian registered motor cycle have certain restrictions in Myanmar border. But I am not sure. Double confirm with it first. Hi, do you have any information from your travels about crossing from India into and through Burma, and into Thailand?
Crossed the Bo Y boarder from Vietnam to Laos today no problem. We parked up the bikes and walked to get the visa just to be extra careful, but zero issues either side. I planned to go on a road trip to Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. I have a motor bike under my name here in malaysia. Pls help. Hi Anuar. Now it seems he has more worries than ever before. Paper Gun is a poignant tale of life, love, and desperation as two young souls learn that, through their own actions, they really do have the power to change their destinies.
See details. Buy It Now. Add to cart. Be the first to write a review About this product. About this product Product Information After suddenly finding themselves on the wrong side of the law, a young couple strives to put their lives back together in an uncertain world. He is broke, a hundred miles from home, and living on the edge of right and wrong. With a paper gun stu ed into the waistband of his pants, he walks into a small-town Dairy Queen and changes the course of his life forever. With forty-six dollars crammed in his pockets, Johnny races to his car, where his new wife, Heather, nervously waits.
Unfortunately, Johnny does not feel the relief he had anticipated. With the police and the media hot in pursuit, the two young criminals have no choice but to face their reality. He's a trim guy, 51, full lips and a thin goatee, and he likes to wear three-piece suits. They fit loose, so the overall effect is awkward innocence, like an eighth grader headed to his first formal.
They think it's like a VIN number on a car. Even police. Police from everywhere. So here's a news flash, from Charlie: "We ain't got a registration system. Ain't nobody registering no damn guns. There is no national database of guns. We have no centralized record of who owns all the firearms we so vigorously debate, no hard data regarding how many people own them, how many of them are bought or sold, or how many even exist.
Anytime a cop in any jurisdiction in America wants to connect a gun to its owner, the request for help ends up here, at the National Tracing Center, in a low, flat, boring building that belies its past as an IRS facility, just off state highway 9 in Martinsburg, West Virginia, in the eastern panhandle of the state, a town of some 17, people, a Walmart, a JCPenney, and various dollar stores sucking the life out of a quaint redbrick downtown.
On any given day, agents here are running about 1, traces; they do about , a year. In its massive reference library, the ATF houses examples of every gun imaginable—including a gold-plated number once owned by Saddam Hussein. Matthew Monteith. It's a bunch of friggin' boxes. All half-ass records. We have about 50 ATF employees. And all the rest are basically the ladies. The ladies that live in West Virginia—and they got a job. There's a huge amount of labor being put into looking through microfilm. I want to ask about the microfilm— microfilm? He's already gone three rounds on the whiteboard, scribbling, erasing, illustrating some of the finer points of gun tracing, of which there are many, in large part due to the limitations imposed upon this place.
For example, no computer. The National Tracing Center is not allowed to have centralized computer data. That's been a federal law, thanks to the NRA, since No searchable database of America's gun owners. So people here have to use paper, sort through enormous stacks of forms and record books that gun stores are required to keep and to eventually turn over to the feds when requested.
It's kind of like a library in the old days—but without the card catalog. They can use pictures of paper, like microfilm they recently got the go-ahead to convert the microfilm to PDFs , as long as the pictures of paper are not searchable. You have to flip through and read. No searching by gun owner. No searching by name. His smile is impish, like he's daring you to say what needs to be said: This is a fucking nightmare. Every corridor in the whole place is lined with boxes, boxes up to the eyeballs. In the loading dock, there's a forklift beeping, bringing in more boxes. Yeah, but a million a month?
Almost 2 million slips of paper that record the sale of a gun—who bought it and where—like a glorified receipt. If you take pictures of the gun records, you can save space. You know, it's 2 million photo shots. I've got to have at least seven machines running 16 hours a day, or otherwise, right? I fall behind. And to fall behind means that instead of 5, boxes in process, there's maybe 5, tomorrow, you know?
Matthew Monteith "These were Hurricane Katrina," he says, leaning against a stack. They came in wet. And then we dried them in the parking lot. When they got dry enough, the ladies ran them into the imager. I'll show you. Imaging is like running a copy machine. So, like, if there's staples? So what these ladies along here do, from this wall to this wall, from six in the morning until midnight…staples.
When we go over 10,, the General Services Administration dudes are walking around going, 'We'll collapse the floor. Denise says, 'Let's get some shipping containers! They're like 70 bucks a month to rent. Um…" He yanks the latch on the orange one, bends his knees as he heaves open the door. Inside it's the same as the corridors: boxes. So, 50 times today somebody will be out here hand-searching boxes because we don't have them imaged yet.
But why shouldn't a gun be like a car—or food? If you need to know the history, you call a number and somebody's got the information. If we have an E. The last time Congress seriously addressed the notion of creating a way to keep track of America's guns was Back then, assassination was the thing. The outcry was nearly identical to the one we have now: too many guns, too few regulations, too many crazy people shooting with abandon. The Gun Control Act of was an attempt to impose order. It set up the Federal Firearms License FFL system; gun stores would have to become licensed and they would have to follow certain rules.
Felons, illegal immigrants, and crazy people would be prohibited from buying guns. People would have to sign a document, Federal Form , also called the Firearms Transaction Record, swearing that they were none of these things. Background checks to prove you weren't didn't come until President Lyndon Johnson, who signed the act into law, was at once jubilant and depressed.
He had wanted the law to establish a national gun registry, too, but Congress wouldn't agree to that part. They were the voices of a powerful lobby, a gun lobby, that has prevailed for the moment in an election year. It was the same conversation we're still having—except now mass shootings are the thing. We average at least one a month. Since , more Americans have died from gunfire than have died in all our wars put together. In 33, Who's doing all the shooting and where are they getting all those guns and how many do they have and can't we get control over this clusterfuck?
Wouldn't a national gun registry give us a tool to stop some of the killing? No, says the gun lobby. It would give the government a tool to confiscate our guns. The idea of a gun registry is the great fever dream that lies at the heart of gun-control conspiracy theories: Government evildoers are going to attack us any day now. We have to be ready. And you don't give the enemy an inventory of all your weapons! Each day, some 1, requests tumble in from cops all over the country who need help solving a gun crime. The Gun Control Act was an abomination, from the gun-lobby point of view.
Especially Form , which they considered all but radioactive. Even though there wasn't a registry, there was suddenly a document that existed, a piece of paper linking a gun to the name of its owner. Surely the Second Amendment was thus doomed. In , Form even showed up in a movie, Red Dawn. Soviet paratroopers invaded Colorado, and they went on a search for gun owners by getting their hands on a bunch of s. It would be reasonable to assume, as many people do, that since is a federal form, the feds have them all locked up somewhere safe, but they don't.
They are kept at the store that sold the gun; only when the retailer goes out of business do the gun records come here to the tracing center, which accounts for Charlie's box problem. Those are just the out-of-business records he's dealing with in the corridors and the shipping containers in the parking lot. The vast majority of the gun records linking a gun to its owner are kept back at the various licensed dealers, the Walmarts, Bob's Gun Shops, and Guns R Us stores dotting America's landscape.
We have more gun retailers in America than we do supermarkets, more than 55, of them. We're talking nearly four times the number of McDonald's. Nobody knows how many guns that equals, but in , U. The numbers were equally astounding the year before, and the year before that, and the year before that.
Matching a firearm to a person—tracing a gun—is therefore a needle-in-a-haystack proposition that depends on Form To the people at the tracing center, locating that document is the whole object of the game. It's the holy grail. The form has the gun purchaser's signature on it, his or her address, place and date of birth, height, weight, gender, ethnicity, race, and, sometimes, Social Security number "Optional, but will help prevent misidentification," says box 8. It's a jackpot of information that could help solve a murder case, or exonerate an innocent guy on death row, or, as happens frequently, open unexpected investigative leads.
Last December two gunmen opened fire at a holiday office party in San Bernardino, California, killing 14 people.
Remember: Nobody knew who these maniacs were or why they were doing this. At the National Tracing Center, they figured out where the guns came from, as well as who bought them—the slain assailants. Farook and Malik were discovered to have posted an oath of allegiance to the Islamic State on Facebook just before the attack began. But what about the assault rifles—they were still a mystery. Turned out a former neighbor, Enrique Marquez, bought those during the same time period.
The FBI picked up Marquez, who is alleged to have been plotting attacks with Farook at Riverside City College and on state highway 91 as early as Remember: We didn't know too much about radicalized homegrown jihadists until then. It was a trace just like any other trace that happens here in Martinsburg. The ATF completed it within a few hours, despite a system that, according to federal law, must remain intricate, thorny, and all but impenetrable.
So, take that murder we began with. Blood all over the place, cops looking for clues, the booties. They find the gun! What happens next does not involve the wizardry of some supercomputer somewhere. It hinges on a phone call. That cop with the gun dangling from his pinkie. He dials the tracing center and describes the gun. This is Step One. Let's say, for example, he reports that he's got a 9-mm semi-automatic Beretta This would seem to be a straightforward matter. It's not. Cops are bad at describing guns. This is because many guns look alike and the nuances can be fantastically minute and critical to a successful trace.
He's a slim guy with a ruddy complexion in a black ATF polo shirt. He's been tracing guns for a decade. We're in his cubicle, and I can't help but marvel at all the horrible newspaper clippings he's got hanging everywhere, including one on the San Bernardino case, for which he and his team won an award.
Pick a shooting. Pick a gun crime," he tells me. That's just the nature of what we do. Triple homicide here. Six killed here. Triple homicide there. Murder here.
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