On June 27, 2013 26 United States Senators signed a letter that was sent to Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper demanding information about exactly what types of information and records the National Security Agency (NSA) is keeping on American citizens. Particularly in one part of the letter, the senators ask specifically about the collection of firearms sales records from gun dealers.
While Federal Firearms Licensed (FFL) dealers are to maintain records of all gun sales and are to do background checks (which are not to be stored long term). This also includes ATF form 4473. They are to simply hold onto those forms at their location. However, in the event the store closes they go into the hands of, you guessed it, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF). There have been reports of ATF officials going into gun stores and demanding to see the forms and making photocopies of them on site rather than taking them from the store.
With that in mind the senators began their letter:
“Earlier this month, the executive branch acknowledged for the first time that the “business records” provision of the USA PATRIOT Act has been secretly reinterpreted to allow the government to collect the private records of large numbers of ordinary Americans. We agree that it is regrettable that this fact was first revealed through an unauthorized disclosure rather than an official acknowledgment by the administration, but we appreciate the comments that the President has made welcoming debate on this topic.”
We know that Barack Obama doesn’t welcome debate. He hates being questioned about such matters, but he says the words and people believe him, in a manner similar to those he said about not taking guns and that he “supports the Second Amendment.” It’s all Obama-ese.
While the senators did deal with the issue of privacy with regards to phone records, citing Smith v. Maryland, they also had concerns for other records.
“Furthermore, we are troubled by the possibility of this bulk collection authority being applied to other categories of records,” the senators wrote. “The PATRIOT Act’s business records authority is very broad in its scope. It can be used to collect information on credit card purchases, pharmacy records, library records, firearm sales records, financial information, and a range of other sensitive subjects. And the bulk collection authority could potentially be used to supersede bans on maintaining gun owner databases, or laws protecting the privacy of medical records, financial records, and records of book and movie purchases. These other types of bulk collection could clearly have a significant impact on Americans’ privacy and liberties as well.”
Notice among those other “categories of records” is firearm sales records is mentioned and that bulk collection authority could be used to superced bans on maintaining gun owner databases.
Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) spearheaded the letter with some of his fellow colleagues in the Senate.
“In this country, the government can’t just monitor your constitutionally protected activities—like gun ownership—just because it wants to,” said Brian Phillips, a spokesman for Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), who signed onto the letter. “The justification that, ‘if you’re not doing anything wrong, you don’t have to worry about it,’ turns us into a police state very quickly. That’s why Congress is right to seek broad oversight of the NSA’s data collection programs.”
Well we can rest assured if the Federal government has overstepped its bounds in one area, they’ve done it in others. We know they’ve overstepped them in several areas now, including the category of wiretapping phones, looking at phone records and various other Fourth Amendment violations. Obviously I’m referring to when they do this without a warrant. However, since this administration has had no problem targeting conservatives with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and violating the Fourth Amendment all over the place, I don’t put it past them to not be accessing gun purchase information for the purpose of a national gun registry. After all, this is what they want.
So what can be done about it? According to Dr. Gary North:
“There is nothing Congress can do to stop this, other than to cut the budgets of the NSA, the CIA, and other surveillance organizations. But these budgets are hidden from Congress. Congress in fact does not even know how large these budgets are. So, Congress is utterly impotent. Yes, 26 members can send an inquiry to the temporary head of intelligence, who is a political appointee. But how much authority does he have to pry information out of these secret organizations? He has no meaningful authority. He cannot fire anybody. He cannot cut their budgets. He is simply a temporary appointment, and his term appointment will end in a few years. The agencies can stonewall him, the same way they have stonewalled every other temporary political appointee. As long as their budgets are intact, they cannot be touched, and their budgets are not even known.”
North indicates that they will have information on elected officials and refers to it as “bulk blackmail data.” He also hopes they won’t have the manpower to be able to follow through on all the data.
One thing is for sure, we can forget about these agencies erasing the data they have collected.
Tim Brown is the Editor of Freedom Outpost and a regular contributor to The D.C. Clothesline.