We should be very proud that... the American Conservative Union, the GUN OWNERS OF AMERICA, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Library Association and the American Book Sellers Association have come together [in opposition to H.R. 3199]."
-- Rep. Bernie Sanders, Dec. 14, 2005
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
Twice, the leadership in the U.S. Senate has tried to run H.R. 3199 up "the hill." Twice it has failed.
On Friday, supporters of the bill failed to garner the 60 votes needed to stop the filibuster of the PATRIOT conference report. The final vote was 52-47.
At issue for gun owners is a provision that would allow the FBI to obtain "firearms sales records." The bill extends Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act and allows agents of the federal government to get "firearms sales records" which, in their opinion, are relevant to investigating terrorism.
These records would be obtained from gun dealers, who are required by law to keep the gun purchase records (4473 forms). Thus, an anti-gun administration could then easily compile gun owner registration lists -- an enterprise which has often been a prelude to gun confiscation.
Congressmen on both sides of the fence made reference to GOA's concerns last week when the House considered the latest version of H.R. 3199.
During the debate, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) stated that people "should take note of what is happening here because the expanded police powers of the Federal Government will be used against them. Our Second Amendment friends already understand that...."
And Rep. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) challenged House Republicans to consider whether they are really comfortable with "allowing the FBI to access Americans' reading records, GUN RECORDS, medical records and financial records without judicial approval; [or] allowing the FBI to search someone's home without probable cause and without telling that person about the search."
In the Senate, Larry Craig (R-ID) and Russ Feingold (D-WI) led the opposition to the latest version of the bill. If a compromise is not reached, 16 provisions of the bill will expire on December 31 -- provisions that include the Section 215 "gun registration" language.
Much has been made of the expiration date later this month. People should understand that only 16 provisions of the original PATRIOT Act will expire on New Year's -- and these provisions are some of the most controversial ones in the original act, as they affect the Fourth Amendment protections that American citizens enjoy.
REGISTRATION OF GUN OWNERS
H.R. 3199 would extend provisions which the FBI claims would allow it to seize 4473 forms, without the approval of any judge.
This runs contrary to the protections that were gained in the Firearms Owners Protection Act of 1986, when it prohibited the establishment of any registration system with respect to firearms [18 USC 926(a)(3)]. It is also significant to note that federal code bans inspections of gun dealers records, excluding four, narrowly tailored exceptions [18 USC 923(g)(1)(b)]. Those exceptions are absent with regard to the FBI's current practice of soliciting 4473 forms under the PATRIOT Act.
The protections that were won during the McClure-Volkmer battle took years to achieve, and it would be a shame to see those protections superseded by another enactment of gun control -- all in the vain hope that gun owners' purchase records can somehow help authorities curb terrorism. (Gun registration certainly hasn't worked to curb crime in any of the states or localities that have implemented it.)
For this reason, Gun Owners of America has told Senators that we would like to see serious reforms in this bill, including language which further restricts the ability of a future, anti-gun administration to muster a gun owner registration list.
The status of H.R. 3199 is unclear at this time. But it is more than likely that the Senate will hold another vote later this week.
ACTION: Please contact your two Senators and urge them to vote against the House-Senate conference report on H.R. 3199, unless gun records are removed from the records which can be demanded under Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act.
You can visit the Gun Owners Legislative Action Center at http://www.gunowners.org/activism.htm to send your Senators a pre-written e-mail message such as the one below