Benefits to Using RFID in the Firearms Industry

Benefits to Using RFID in the Firearms Industry

Author: Terry Smith

The use of RFID technology incorporating tags / barcoding has a proven track record of assisting inventory and asset management for decades in many industries. Proper set-up and use can save time and money, while also helping to improve the accuracy of records. These are compelling reasons to apply this technology to the firearms industry, as well as the possibilities of improving safety, and more easily complying with ATF-imposed recordkeeping requirements. And there are also considerations for the protection of the individual’s private information.

Why RFID Works. RFID technology was introduced in 1973, and has been increasingly used in most industries to track inventory, both within a warehouse and through an item’s journey from manufacture to retail sale. The advantages are clear: a passive (non-battery) tag can store up to 4 million characters of information, tags have decreased in size to be as small as a grain of rice, and scanners can communicate with multiple tags at same time without need to be in line-of-sight. The cost of tags and readers may not make as much sense in the long run for, say, actual grains of rice. But for assets of value, like firearms, it is a superior method for tracking inventory, protecting those assets, and helping with the time-consuming task of recordkeeping.

For example, some arms may be placed in a secured vault, like at a trade show. Movement of RFID-tagged items can be monitored as they enter and leave the secured area, even sending an automated email or text if an item leaves the vault and does not arrive at the appropriate location in a predetermined time frame. It’s beneficial to not only prevent items from being stolen, but to eliminate some cases of “missing arms” that otherwise may require the ATF Form 3310.11 for FFL Firearms Inventory Theft/Loss Report.

Meeting ATF Requirements… ATF Ruling 2013-5 outlines the ATF’s stand on the increasing use of technology to make the inventory and recordkeeping processes easier while still following the letter of the law. Although it’s been slow in coming, the ruling states, in part:

ATF understands that using computers to record and maintain firearms acquisition and disposition records saves time and money in bookkeeping and auditing expenses. Most businesses computerize inventory, sales, customer lists, and other business records. This allows companies to automate inventories, using technology such as bar codes or radio frequency identification (RFID) chips. Furthermore, this technology may facilitate better accountability of inventory, and reduce the potential for accounting errors. Computerized records also facilitate tracing and tracking of firearms through licensee inventories, thus reducing time spent by ATF officials examining records during the inspection process. Additionally, the search capability of electronically stored records makes it easier and faster for licensees to locate specific records and respond to ATF trace requests. Therefore, ATF finds that there is good cause to authorize a variance from the firearms acquisition and disposition recordkeeping requirements of the Federal firearms regulations.

The ruling further advises that such technology may be used as long as all outlined conditions are met, and RFID begins to be introduced into the firearms industry. But there is a caveat – protection of the individual’s rights and information. While RFID tags may indeed store up to 4 million characters, the information is only meant to be tracked from manufacture to the retail sale, not afterward.

…While Preserving Privacy. The idea of purchasing an item that can be tracked can be disconcerting, if the tag were to remain on the item. The National Shooting Sports Federation (NSSF) wrote an excellent piece covering these issues in their Fast Facts – Radio Frequency Identification. They too mention the many benefits of RFID technology, while raising privacy concerns for consumers. In the document, the NSSF summarizes the firearm industry’s position on RFID by “Turn It Off, Take It Off at the Checkout Counter.” As RFID tags are intended for the inventory process before the consumer purchases their firearm at the retail store, RFID tags are removed at the point of purchase, thus not tracking the firearm beyond that final sale.

See It in Action. It’s much easier to see the RFID advantages in the firearms industry in action: watch American Tactical Imports’ and AdvanTech’s video. But continuous improvement should be part of every technology, and although RFID has been around for over 40 years, it makes sense for industries and individuals to keep asking questions. We need to ensure the technology does – and does not do – exactly what is intended for each business.

Contact our technical experts or call us at 410.266.8000 (toll-free at 888.266.2841) with questions about the use of RFID technology in managing firearms inventory, to give your comments on this blog post, or to review your firm’s current needs.

ATi – AdvanTech

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