How will the National Instant Checking System operate
under Part Two
of the Brady law when it comes on line this year in November?
A study undertaken by the author of Gun Laws of America
1. GUN REGISTRATION LIST TO BEGIN ON NOV. 30, 1998
The system design calls for several long-term records of gun buyers'
names and identifying information, coupled with information about their
purchases. The federal plan is to insist that this isn't registration of
gun owners or gun sales, which would be strictly prohibited by law [18
USC 926]. One justification that may be offered is that BATF or the FBI
may, in the future, destroy the registry a little at a time.
2. BRADY PART 2 AFFECTS HANDGUNS AND LONG GUNS
Under Brady Part 1 only handguns were affected. As you may recall, in
1993 Congress passed The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act. But now,
under Brady Part 2, all firearms buyers will be checked, and cataloged,
by the authorities. Many other changes apply. [18 USC 922(t)]
3. NICS CREATES AN UNAUTHORIZED TAX OF $1 MILLION PER WEEK
Congress has appropriated virtually unlimited funds to build the National
Police Computer known as NCIC. The citizen-checking portion passed under
the Brady law has its own allotment of $200 million. Despite this, the
"authorities" plan to tax the public for each use, but only if
local police aren't cooperating¥states with FBI-approved police departments
will pay no tax. The tax is imposed by the FBI, although issued as a BATF
regulation, a concept that raises its own disturbing concerns. There is
no authority for the tax in Brady Part 1 or Part 2. A push to lower or
eliminate the tax is likely, which may make certain groups or individuals
look good, and ease acceptance of the scheme.
4. ATF OUT, FBI IN, IN BLOODLESS COUP
You have to wonder what BATF really thinks about all this. BATF has
yearned for years to run a gun-buyer registry, and now the FBI has it,
and it's better than anything ATF dreamed of. It runs in real time! ATF
has a long scar-filled history of being controlled by legal prohibitions
in this area. The FBI does not. All sorts of questions are raised. Is the
FBI becoming the National Police Force, prohibited under the Tenth Amendment?
Now that FBI dominates the gun sales arena, what exactly does ATF do? Do
they become simply the AT? If tobacco is zealously regulated as planned
under health care laws, maybe they're just the A, uh, what? The A Team?
Will ATF be disbanded and its staff rolled into the FBI? That plan has
been floated before more efficient government, less duplication.
5. FEDS OBTAIN "SHALL ISSUE" CONTROL OF GUN SALES
This point was a rallying cry not too long ago, when it applied to concealed-weapon
permits: officials had gravitated toward permits that they "may issue,"
which they didn"t, and the public fixed the abuse by changing laws
and ousting politicians. But why bother with control of permits, when you
can control gun sales themselves. Under the current plan, if the FBI says
no to you, or tells you to wait, it becomes a crime to make a firearm purchase.
That"s a lot of power. No method for redress of grievances has been
offered it's still in the works. This is a new wrinkle civil rights subjected
to clerical drafting delays.
6. NO CONTROL SYSTEM EXISTS DESPITE PRIOR ABUSES
The mindset, and some might say arrogance, of the people developing
the system may be glimpsed from the fact that no safeguards, audits or
compliance mechanisms are included in the plan. Surprisingly, the nation's
largest gun lobby hasn't even complained, or informed its members. It's
public knowledge that serious abuse exists with regard to government management
of records (see sidebar "Indiana Experiment"). The FBI itself
has released files, in apparent violation of law, merely to political interests.
7. ONLY FEDERALLY APPROVED ID CARDS CAN BE USED
One of the biggest surprises created under Brady Part 2 is the role
of the upcoming National ID Card. The federal government was blown backwards
when they attempted to introduce a national person card as a medical tool.
Under the new approach, passed in 1996 (P.L. 104-208, Sec. 656), the feds
will refuse to recognize any ID (basically driver's licenses, but all other
forms too) that doesn't meet their standards. A concealed-carry permit
issued with a non-federally approved driver's license as a form of ID,
would no longer be valid for buying firearms and bypassing the Brady process
(though a new permit that meets the standards might still qualify).
Being Implemented Under Dept. Of Transportation
To help deflect the sizzling rebuke this idea has met with in the past,
it will appear to be implemented at a state level (but under federal control),
through your local motor vehicles office. No state's driver's licenses
(or other state ID cards for non-drivers) will be recognized by the feds
for obtaining welfare benefits, or for any other federal purpose, including
compliance with Part 2 of Brady.
Must Use Social Security Number
Any pretense of privacy for social security numbers is finally crushed
under these requirements. The feds will recognize a license that has no
"soshe" on it, as long as the state's DMV keeps your number on
file (without printing it on the license itself). For people who refuse
to give their soshe, they'll give an alternative number to use, forever.
Every gun sale will then include your, call it what it is, Federal ID Number.
Federal "Biometric" Coding Under Development
This is authorized and well under way, but may not be ready for the
Oct. 1, 2000, implementation of the National ID Cards. The magnetic strip
(or equivalent computer storage medium), to be required on all citizen
ID cards, will contain a digitized fingerprint, retina scan, voice print
or other biometric identifier. You won't be able to get a driver's license
without giving up your fingerprint. Most Americans have never been fingerprinted.
It appears to be the ultimate connector between an ID card and the person
holding it it would guarantee that your identity is established, and link
in lock step with national files on you. Looking to the long term, when
thumbprint readers are inexpensive and widely dispersed, you may not even
need a card (or a PIN number for your bank account). Think of the cost
savings. The process for correcting mistakes, if any, is unclear at this
Creates A National Citizen Card
There's no need to debate the point any longer. National ID Cards (we
could call them NICS for short) are law, will be implemented soon, and
will help compile data on every American. Not the least of which is a complete
record of all commercial gun sales. The existing supply of guns could swap
around some, outside the federal view (and they realize that of course,
and are working on the "private" sales issue), but nothing new
will enter the supply chain without immediate government contact and control.
They don't appear to intend to use that control in any nefarious way, at
the present time.
8. BREAKS NEW GROUND IN FEDERAL CONTROL OF COMMERCE
For the first time in history, sales of a consumer product will be federally
tracked, on a non-stop comprehensive national basis, permanently, in real
time. Sales activity will be flooding into the FBI office at a mind boggling
rate, and minute by minute tallies could literally be posted on an electronic
tote board. Sort of like election returns only much more efficient. Wouldn't
industry love to see that tote board! Sales volumes could be managed geographically
by manipulating response times, and a given area could theoretically be
blacked out entirely.
The experience gained by the federal government in its full-scale firearm
tracking program will have enormous value in tracking and controlling other
products, from cigarettes to red meat. Who would have thought the FBI would
end up with job opportunities for people qualified to work in the Dept.
9. THERE IS NO PLAN TO APPREHEND CRIMINALS WHO APPLY
The Brady law, Parts 1 and 2, were publicly presented as crime stopping
measures. That was the whole purported need for their existence. It then
seems odd to reflect that this report goes on at such length yet fails
to mention the crime stopping abilities of this expensive and sophisticated
project. Surely there must be some.
The one truly positive effect of the new infrastructure may be to prevent
retail gun sales to known criminals. That's good. Unfortunately, no resources
or plans exist to do much about the criminals who are identified. It seems
like an awful lot of expense to find these people, who commit a serious
crime just by applying at retail, collect their names and addresses, and
then let them all go away, eager to get a gun, cash in hand. Maybe this
affects the U.S. Attorney General's announcements that arrests are down.
10. LOSS OF FUNDING
The NICS plan has a small crime-control component, at the expense of
obvious and severe threats to fundamental liberties. The purpose of the
program, if current proposals are any measure, appears to have more to
do with citizen control than crime control. Penalties for the serious crime
of applying publicly for a gun if you are a known criminal will not be
enforced, in exchange for a huge taxpayer and civil-rights burden. This
does not seem like much of a plan. Subsequent gun acquisition by the known
criminals who are Brady-impaired is unaffected.
Although Brady Part 2 does create a substantial number of federal jobs
(at least 500 employees are planned for the data center in Clarksburg,
W. Va.), specifics about support, ancillary needs and total cost are not
readily available, but likely to be substantial.
It would appear that if the funding and personnel of this project were
turned instead toward apprehending, prosecuting and incarcerating known
criminals, the benefit to the public would be greater.
Some 250,000 known criminals may have already been identified, if the
numbers are correct, under Brady Part 1. (Even the lowest estimate, 44,000
published by BATF, is a substantial number of bad guys.) Their names and
addresses are already on file, thanks to the paperwork process from Brady
1, in operation now for five years.
Let's get to work, go after them, and stop writing down the names
of every honest person who decides to purchase a firearm.
Alan Korwin is a full-time free-lance writer and author of seven books
on gun law, including Gun Laws of America Every Federal Gun Law on the
Books with Plain English Summaries. Permission to reprint this article
is granted to non-profit organizations, provided credit is given to Alan
Korwin, Bloomfield Press, Phoenix, AZ. All others, just call us.