August 11, 2014

Protecting Our Privacy

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

Concerns with how far the federal government will go in collecting and storing private, personal information are more than understandable.  These concerns are validated when we see examples of federal agencies overstepping into our personal lives, such as a federal agency collecting and monitoring massive amounts of data on individuals' personal financial accounts.  We must continue to watch the watchdogs and not allow the federal government to further encroach on our personal privacy.  Helping to ensure the protection of our Second Amendment rights includes making certain that federal funding cannot be used for the establishment of firearms registries.

Although current law prohibits the federal government from storing information acquired during the firearms background check process, there is nothing in place to keep federal funding from being used by non-federal entities to collect and store personally identifiable information related to the sale, purchase or ownership of a firearm.  The release of personal information of gun owners for inappropriate purposes is cause for concern.  Storage of such information in so-called gun registries is simply an invasion of privacy for citizens lawfully practicing their constitutional right.  It is essential that the federal government does not play a role in such activities and that taxpayer resources are used in a manner that is consistent with federal policy.

That is why I joined 14 fellow Senators, including Senator Jim Risch (R-Idaho), in co-sponsoring S. 2105, the Gun-owner Registration Information Protection (GRIP) Act.  This legislation would reaffirm existing law that bars the federal government from storing information acquired during the firearms background check process.  The GRIP Act would also explicitly prohibit the use of any federal funding from being used to contribute to non-federal gun registries.  The legislation does not include any limitations related to state recordkeeping for permitting, law enforcement-issued firearms or lost or stolen firearms.  This one-sentence legislation would provide straightforward protection of our constitutional right: 

"No department or agency of the United States shall support, by funding or other means, the establishment or maintenance, by a State or political subdivision of a State, of any comprehensive or partial listing of firearms lawfully possessed or lawfully owned by private persons, or of persons who lawfully possess or own firearms, except in the case of firearms that have been reported to the State or political subdivision as lost or stolen."

The National Instant Check System (NICS) was established in 1998 as a reasonable measure to keep guns out of the hands of those who have a history of criminal behavior.  Congress did not intend for it to become a method of developing a national gun registry or allowing the federal government to compile or assist in compiling files on law-abiding citizens. 

Congress has consistently pushed back against efforts to retain information gathered through the background checks or levy fees for the checks.  Federal law requires the destruction of records on approved firearms sales within 24 hours.  I will continue to support the protection offered citizens in the Constitution and minimize federal involvement in the lives of citizens.

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