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FBI Makes Progress On Gun Buyer Privacy

Friday, July 23, 2004

One of the top priorities of gun owners at the end of the Clinton Administration was to end the unlawful retention (for up to 180 days) of records on lawful gun buyers, kept by the FBI`s National Instant Background Check System (NICS). Though the law establishing NICS has always been clear that all records of a sale should be destroyed when the sale was completed, the Clinton Administration claimed the records were needed for "system audits."

In July 2001, the Department of Justice published a proposed regulation that would require record destruction by the beginning of the next business day. NRA, along with hundreds of concerned citizens, filed comments on the proposed rule.

More recently, the Tiahrt Amendment to the Fiscal 2004 Omnibus appropriations bill required destruction of these records within 24 hours--not perfect, but a huge improvement over the original Clinton-Reno plan. With that legislative language going into effect this week, the FBI also published a final rule implementing the same 24-hour requirement. The FBI`s explanation of the rule carefully rebuts many of the arguments anti-gun groups had leveled against this critical privacy safeguard.

The new rule also makes other important changes to NICS operations. Perhaps the most significant change for the average gun buyer is the creation of a "Voluntary Appeal File." Under the new rule, a person who is wrongly rejected for a gun transfer (in a case of mistaken identity, for example) and successfully appeals the rejection to the FBI, can have the information from the appeal stored in the system, thereby avoiding the need for unnecessary appeals in the future.

You can read the new rule in the Federal Register, available at http://www.archives.gov/federal_register/publications/hot_off_the_press.html.

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Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.