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Firearms Distributors to Track Guns Via RFID

American Tactical Imports and sister company AmChar Wholesale are deploying EPC Gen 2 RFID tags and readers to create a record of when firearms are received, stored and shipped, and to send an alert if a weapon ends up missing.
By Claire Swedberg
Jan 25, 2012Two gun distributors—American Tactical Imports (ATI) and AmChar Wholesale—are installing a radio frequency identification solution from Annapolis, Md., logistics-management software firm AdvanTech Inc. to help them track firearms passing through their facility. The two sister companies operate out of a single large facility located in Rochester, N.Y. AmChar is also marketing AdvanTech's RFID solution to its retailers. The solution involves the attachment of EPC Gen 2 RFID tags to guns, and the use of fixed and handheld RFID readers to determine goods' locations as they are received at ATI's and AmChar's Rochester warehouse, as well as when they are shipped to gun shops or other customers. Retailers could then use the readers themselves to track the firearms' arrival and sale.

Over the course of the past 12 months, AdvanTech has been developing the solution's firearm-tracking software, known as A&D (Acquisition and Disposition) Secure, which manages RFID read data, says Paul Lowe, AdvanTech's director of technology integration services. The firearms industry is traditionally low-tech, he explains, and distributors and retailers usually record weapons sales in paper notebooks. "There have been various computerized systems," he explains, but these require workers to scan a bar code or type information into a system in order to enter data regarding a weapon's receipt or sale.

Into each box of the weapons it distributes, ATI inserts a printed card that describes the RFID tag's function and instructs consumers regarding how to remove the tag.

(Click here to view a larger version of this image.)

Typically, distributors receive firearms directly from manufacturers, and then store the weapons within locked areas until they are sold and shipped to a retailer. Even with the security of locked doors, however, the firearms must be closely managed. A company must be able to account for every item, including when it was received, as well as when and to where it was shipped. Inspectors for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) pay visits to wholesalers and distribution centers, in order to ensure that all weapons are secured and accounted for. Most companies either maintain a written record of each weapon received and then sold, including its serial number and manufacturer, which can be presented to officials, or use a computerized system into which employees enter data by scanning a bar code and inputting other details.

"The ATF monitors compliance with surprise inspections," Lowe says, "and they can find innocent errors." Mistakes related to firearm management, including misplacing or losing a weapon, can be costly for such companies, which can be fined or lose their business license.

With AdvanTech's solution, a weapons manufacturer places an Avery Dennison AD-826 EPC Gen 2 RFID tag containing an Impinj Monza 3 chip on the container of each weapon destined for ATI's warehouse. One manufacturer is currently applying the tags to its products as part of the pilot, Lowe says, though the firm has requested that it not be named.

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