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Chris W. Cox's Political Report: Ignoring S. 397

Thursday, July 27, 2006

POLITICAL REPORT

CHRIS COX, NRA-ILA Executive Director

Freedom’s enemies want to eliminate gun owner privacy. Their intentions are clear—conduct massive fishing expeditions into the BATFE tracing database, examine the chain-of-custody of every gun BATFE traces, and then assign blame, file more baseless lawsuits and seek damages from everyone in their path, including you.

he ink has been dry on the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act for only a few short months. Passed by both the House and Senate last year, and signed into law by President Bush last October, the law blocks baseless lawsuits intended to hold gun makers responsible for the acts of criminals. It protects our rights from a rogue judge or jury who could use such lawsuits to destroy the Second Amendment without so much as a single vote in Congress. And it became the law only through the concerted grassroots support of millions of NRA members like you.

That’s the way the system is supposed to work. Case closed, as they say.

It’s time to shut down the fishing expeditions for good, and a bill has been introduced in Congress to do just that.

But the enemies of the Second Amendment clearly don’t get it. In order to protect lawsuits still pending, gun-ban lawyers are claiming the law doesn’t apply to them. Their hand-picked anti-gun judges are bending over backward to deny the intent of the law and allow lawsuits under their jurisdiction to continue.

And now, the enemies of freedom have focused their sinister attentions on overturning a law that protects gun owner privacy. Their intentions are clear—to conduct massive fishing expeditions into the BATFE tracing database, examine the chain-of-custody of every gun that BATFE traces, and then assign blame, file more baseless lawsuits and seek damages from everyone in their path, including you.

New lawsuits are now on the drawing board, targeting retailers and their customers—gun buyers like you and me—for another round of lawsuit abuse in our nation’s courts. Watch for one coming soon to a courthouse near you.

Even the briefest recap of this development must begin in the Clinton administration. Under edict from the Clinton-Gore White House, tracing data was routinely manipulated, pushed and pulled like taffy to justify the latest Clinton gun control crusade. The data was also given freely to big-city mayors, who added their own ludicrous interpretations and used them to fuel their baseless lawsuits.

Several elections later, even with pro-gun majorities in place in Congress, BATFE trace data continued to flow freely into municipal lawsuits, like water through a valve the Clinton administration intentionally left flowing.

The Congress addressed this pressing matter, and precluded BATFE from using its resources to share the trace data with anyone except its intended audience—law enforcement agencies conducting bona fide criminal investigations. The Congress noted its reasoning in an annual report, saying, “It is of great concern that releases have occurred, and if repeated, may result in the widespread disclosure of this information to the public at large. This holds the potential of endangering law enforcement officers and witnesses, jeopardizing ongoing criminal investigations and homeland security. … In addition, such information, once released, might easily be disseminated through the Internet. This would endanger law enforcement and homeland security, and violate the privacy of innocent citizens and businesses.” (U.S. House Report 108-576)

BATFE did not object to the restrictions placed by the Congress; in fact the agency welcomed them. In a news release countering allegations made by the gun-ban lobby, BATFE repeated its long-held position that trace data was useless for justifying the baseless lawsuits. “Gun traces, for example, indicate only that a gun has come to the attention of law enforcement. They do not automatically implicate a dealer or purchaser in any wrongdoing.” (BATFE news release, July 16, 2003.)

But the risk to law enforcement officers and investigations, not to mention gun purchaser privacy, is merely an inconvenient obstacle to the anti-gun zealots who are hellbent on finding a new way to hold lawful gun owners and retailers responsible for third-party criminal misconduct.

Now, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has appointed himself the national champion of the campaign to lift the restrictions on BATFE trace data. Ironically, it was his own police chief, Ray Kelly, who wrote a letter to BATFE, saying, “The prospect that information obtained through these traces might be available for release by request to BATFE under the Freedom of Information Act is therefore quite disturbing. … I wholeheartedly support BATFE’s efforts to protect and preserve the confidentiality of firearms trace records and information.”

But the risk to law enforcement officers and investigations, not to mention gun purchaser privacy, is merely an inconvenient obstacle to the anti-gun zealots who are hellbent on finding a new way to hold lawful gun owners and retailers responsible for third-party criminal misconduct.

The implications of this debate are global in scope. Gun-ban zealots at the United Nations are pressing for similar provisions to be included in a proposed global gun-ban treaty—a proposal that will be considered this very month at a conference being staged at the U.N. One of the most prominent advocates for global gun control revealed the ultimate goal of the gun-ban crusaders, saying, “In order to hold governments, companies, and even individuals responsible when small arms and light weapons are used illegally, it is critical to have weapons biographies.”

This new coinage of “weapons biographies” does not mean a nostalgic memoir of days afield or targets broken. It means registration, but on steroids—an exhaustive registry of every firearm in your gun safe, tracked in minute detail from the moment its serial number was affixed to the day you brought it home. And if that firearm should be sold or stolen, and later used in a crime—or even just found and turned into local police for safekeeping—a routine BATFE trace will point the finger of blame squarely at you.

It’s time to shut down the fishing expeditions for good, and a bill has been introduced in Congress to do just that. H.R. 5005, introduced by one of our most stalwart friends in the House of Representatives, Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, will permanently restrict the release of trace data. I urge you to contact your congressman today to express your support for this important bill. Visit NRAILA.org for contact info and more details.

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