The House of Representatives, with unusual backing from both the NRA and anti-gun activists in the Democrat party, just passed HR 2640 on an unrecorded voice vote. The "NICS Improvement Act" will greatly expand the list of people banned from buying or having firearms, and now goes to the Senate where it will likely be fast-tracked for approval.
Using "gun control" and murdered young students as a rallying cry, the federal government has moved another step closer to a national computerized system capable of screening the entire population.
If tied in to a national ID card being developed through linked state driver's licenses (the so-called "Real ID Act" passed in 2005), all significant activity in the nation could be monitored under the guise of crime control.
In typical fashion, the bill coerces states into cooperation with promises of grants and threats of withheld funding, depending on their degree of compliance. It is unlikely that states will be able to afford to resist, compromising any remaining sovereignty they have. The net effect will be to hasten centralized computerization of all relevant local court records in the nation. Many officials see this as a good thing.
"The Brady law was the first major step, and it was wildly successful," says Alan Korwin, a nationally recognized gun-law expert and author of seven books on the subject (http://www.gunlaws.com/books.htm). "Using 'gun control' for political cover, Congress funded and began the process of building a computer capable of identifying and checking every American citizen instantaneously. The main problem for years has been getting all the data."
The initial cost to launch the NICS system and its sprawling support complex was $250 million, followed by ongoing allocations to keep it running. The new bill provides $250 million per year for the next three years, for prepping and importing more records into the FBI-managed system, based in Clarksburg, West Virginia. Indian tribes are singled out for up to 5% of the total funding, to gain their input. An extra $125 million per year is also authorized during the period to give to states that cooperate, as added incentive.
Our nation and much of the developed world, thanks to digital technologies, is moving quickly toward a universal background database. Eventually, experts say you'll need your thumbprint (or similar) to ride an elevator, board transit, buy groceries (or anything), open accounts, get fuel or use your computer online. The most free places on earth will be the most primitive, like Africa, where human activity will remain largely untrackable.
(I wrote a song about this called Your Neck Chip -- "It's a cell phone and a tracker, it can tell if you're a slacker, it's a law enforcement tool, and on you hey it looks cool." Why would an honest person object? It won't matter. Failure to ID will be a crime. It already is, it just still relies on olden laminated cards).
News reports, in typical "pack" mode, have all included a line that says, in effect, "It is the first significant gun-control legislation in a decade." No independent reporting or news gathering is involved in the rote reprinting of that standardized one-liner. The source is unknown but suspected to originate with either the Associated Press or the Los Angeles Times, whose record on gun-news accuracy is abysmal.
In fact, federal gun-control laws have passed in 1998, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2005 and 2006. They include numerous anti-terrorism gun bans and controls, illegal alien gun bans, three "arm the pilots" laws, homeland security gun laws, national concealed carry for active and retired police, protections for the domestic firearms industry against frivolous legal attack, gun-lock laws, and a Katrina-style gun-confiscation ban.
If federal gun laws don't broadly deny rights to all citizens, however, they are not characterized by reporters as "gun-control" laws, a term now synonymous with "gun-ban" laws.
The new law is expected to add at least 21 million records to the NICS database, and presumably, deny firearms rights to those people. While keeping guns out of the hands of true mental cases and hardened criminals is widely considered a reasonable goal, the sheer size of the new denied class has critics wondering how accurate or fair the listings might be. When those people learn they are "guilty" after the data is loaded, and can no longer obtain or possess firearms, a special appeals process is provided, at the insistence of the NRA. Proponents assure skeptics this is not "guilty unless proven innocent," but it sure does look that way.
No news is available on what future classes of people might be added to the national rights-denial database, or how far the current bill might reach. A denial category for anyone who has ever been issued a prescription of any mental-health drug, from sleep aids to pain relievers to relaxants or stimulants, has been proposed in the past. That might include children or others even voluntarily placed on controversial behavior-modification medications such as Ritalin or Prozac. It is not in the current definition of mental incapacity.
Even a temporary diagnosis of traumatic stress disorder might raise a flag, according to some pundits. Under the Clinton administration, more than 80,000 servicemen and women's names from the Veterans Administration were sent to and included in the NICS database on that and related grounds.
Although current law already allows an appeal of the denial status, it has been ignored frequently by authorities. A special book helps people with gun-rights problems, entitled "Brady Denial," available from Bloomfield Press.
The new law includes a new "guarantee" that those wrongly found guilty without due process (by having one computer load their names into another computer) can fight to prove their innocence and regain their lost rights. This is intended to cover veterans, among others, where a medical diagnosis without a specific finding that the person is dangerous or mentally incompetent, has led to their rights being denied. The NRA gets credit for that. The NRA also fought to have other protections in the NICS expansion bill:
Mental health findings that have expired or been removed, or commitments from which a person has been completely released with no further supervision required, will no longer prohibit the legal purchase of a firearm -- after the state and NICS correct the records.
All participating federal or state agencies are supposed to establish "relief from disability" programs to allow people to get a mental health prohibition removed, either administratively or in court. The NRA points out that this type of relief has not been available at the federal level for 15 years. The law has many such protective requirements, but provides no punishment of government agents who fail to comply or to keep records accurately.
It's not clear if other remedies this law provides, for relief from disabilities, will be as meaningless as ones already on the books, blocked by Congress since 1992 by simply refusing to fund them. The bill makes it clear that no amount of elapsed time from a disqualifying event works to help restore lost rights. States cannot refuse to include relevant records no matter how old they are.
Although the Smith Amendment (1999) stopped the FBI from taxing gun sales through the NICS system, the NRA has added another provision to prevent the FBI from charging "a user fee" for using NICS. Appropriations bills repeatedly attempt to circumvent that taxation ban, and have needed constant attention. Additional audit requirements have also been added by the NRA to try to help control NICS and the people who run it.
In perhaps the most glaring omission from news reports, the Dept. of Homeland Security will be required to add and update its relevant records to the NICS database at least quarterly. DHS has sought, and has had some success in seeking, relatively autonomous control in identifying enemy combatants (a category that would presumably prohibit firearm possession). Prior to this bill, DHS records were not, in and of themselves, included as grounds to deny firearms rights.
With support from both pro- and anti-gun factions, and a hue-and-cry still ringing from a recent psychopathic madman's atrocities, the chances for passage of the 5,000-word bill are considered good. The bill and this analysis will be posted here later today: http://www.gunlaws.com/newstuff.htm
Illegal Aliens Exempt If Amnesty Bill Passes; Rights Restoration Clause Died In 1992;
Attorney General Would Get Arbitrary Control; Any Database Manager Can Issue "Procedures";
Undefined "Determination" Can Add You To The Ban List; Still time to fix it
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