Thursday, April 26, 2007

HR 297

This is McCarthy and Dingell's bill concerning improving state reporting of information that might disqualify someone from purchasing a gun because of misdemeanor domestic violence or mental illness problems. Gun Owners of America is sending around an email warning that this is a horrible, dangerous bill:
HR 297 would require the states to turn over mountains of personal
data (on people like you) to the FBI -- any information which according to the Attorney General, in his or her unilateral discretion, would be useful in ascertaining who is or is not a "prohibited person."

Liberal support for this bill points out an interesting hypocrisy in their loyalties: For six years, congressional Democrats have complained about the Bush administration's efforts to obtain personal information on suspected terrorists WITHOUT A COURT ORDER.

And yet, this bill would allow the FBI to obtain massive amounts of information -- information which dwarfs any records obtained from warrantless searches (or wiretaps) that have been conducted by the Bush Administration on known or suspected terrorists operating in the country.

In fact, HR 297 would allow the FBI to get this information on honest Americans (like you) even though the required data is much more private and personal than any information obtained thus far by the Bush administration on terrorists.
As I said on a radio broadcast this morning, I support the concept of improving state reporting of disqualifying mental illness problems, but the devil is in the details. So I have been reading over HR 297, and I am having trouble finding where "this bill would allow the FBI to obtain massive amounts of information" about individuals. The bill doesn't even require states to provide information--it only sets standards for how much money the state can receive for improving its reporting to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System based on its level of data that it reports.

Now, there might be something that I am missing hidden in the current regulations, but "State records of persons adjudicated mentally defective or committed to a mental institution" and reporting of misdemeanor domestic violence convictions doesn't immediately seem to be a fishing expedition.

UPDATE: A reader who is concerned about this bill points out that the bill requires states that are receiving federal funds to improve their ability to feed firearms disability information to the NICBCS to provide records. If you don't want to provide those records, you won't get any money to improve your systems for feeding NICBCS. And why is this is a problem? If you don't want to provide data to NICBCS, then you don't need federal funding to improve your ability to feed data to NICBCS.

The other objection is that one provision requires states to provide information that would allow determination of whether an alien is legally present in the country. Supposedly, this is a truck sized hole--one that allows the FBI to request vast quantities of information:
Bank records, marriage license, birth certificate, property tax records, credit card records... every single one of them could in some way be used to determine whether someone is an illegal alien or not, right?
Well, no. Birth certificate is about the only item that might be useful for determining whether someone is a citizen--and if they have a U.S. birth certificate, that makes them by law a citizen (with a few very weird exceptions involving diplomatic personnel). The rest of this stuff? I wish that it was different, but illegal aliens have credit card, bank accounts, pay property taxes, and marriage licenses.

True, there are abuse potentials with information gathering, but I am hard pressed to see that this bill opens any more doors on this than the PATRIOT Act has already opened. Net effect on the powers of the snooping federal government: zero.

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