One of the largest fears of firearm owners is the prospect of a database of their names and personal information in the hands of the federal government. The idea of the government in possession of a list of gun owners has been one of the most opposed proposals in the gun control debate. The stiff opposition is linked to the justifiable fear of the government using such a list to confiscate firearms by force.
The idea of registering with the federal government brought such stiff opposition that when the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) was instituted, the law specifically prohibited the collection of data about legal gun owners and the implementation of any kind of registry. The law reads in relevant part:
“The NICS, including the NICS Audit Log, may not be used by any Department, agency, officer, or employee of the United States to establish any system for the registration of firearms, firearm owners, or firearm transactions or dispositions, except with respect to persons prohibited from receiving a firearm by 18 U.S.C. 922(g) or (n) or by state law. The NICS Audit Log will be monitored and reviewed on a regular basis to detect any possible misuse of NICS data.”
In plain English, unless a person is prohibited from owning a firearm, their information cannot be retained. However, a recent Washington Post article parroted the Government Accounting Office’s numbers related to firearms purchases:
“Between 2004 and 2014, suspected terrorists attempted to purchase guns from American dealers at least 2,233 times. And in 2,043 of those cases — 91 percent of the time — they succeeded.”
Upon first reading, many Americans might be glad the authorities are keeping an eye on those potential terrorists in our midst. Of course, the facts are a little different. The term “suspected terrorists” in this case means somebody on the combined terrorist watch-list. These are people that may have never been convicted or even charged with a crime. The list has expanded so much that there are around 700,000 names on the list. They include a number of journalists, former Department of Justice ethics adviser
Even more disturbing is that to make the matches, the government must retain records on everyone, or at least have every purchase in a supposedly confidential system scanned. That data is being shared within the government, contrary to federal law. When the FBI released its figures, it went as far as saying that 2,000 known or suspected terrorists bought a pistol, sports rifle, or assault weapon. This means they are collecting information about the types of purchases as well. Just matching a name to a list would not be enough to come up with accurate data. This means the NICS program, which was promised to be free from other agencies, is sharing personal data such as name, date of birth, address, and social security number.
To be very clear, the NICS system is retaining records of legal purchases, it is sharing that information with other agencies, it is retaining and sharing information containing enough detail to match the purchaser to a government created list, and now the US government is publicizing the fact that it is doing this even though it is a violation of federal law.
This comes at a time when the government is making another power-grab for firearms. If we can’t trust the government to obey its own laws, how can we trust them with more power? This revelation leaves those seeking sensible reform to a shoddy gun control system in the lurch. It has become clear the only way to avoid having your firearms purchases tracked and registered by the federal government is to exploit the “gun show loophole” so many want to close.
A list of news outlets parroted the government’s release of information without questioning where the data came from and the legality of it be recording. Whether you agree with the concept of gun registration or not, the failure to report the dubious origin of the data demonstrates either poor journalism or complicity in pushing a government agenda. Those outlets include: The Washington Post, Newsweek, CNN, the New York Daily News, CBS, and dozens of others.