Explore The NRA Universe Of Websites

APPEARS IN News

Mission Creep: DEA Contemplated Mass Surveillance of Gun Show Attendees

Friday, January 30, 2015

Mission Creep: DEA Contemplated Mass Surveillance of Gun Show Attendees

Recent revelations about a proposed federal law enforcement program might have some friends and families drawing lots to decide who drives to the next gun show.

Criminals rarely obtain guns from gun shows. A Department of Justice survey of state and federal inmates, found that only 0.7 percent of those polled had acquired a firearm that they possessed at the time of their offense from a gun show. Unfortunately, this didn’t stop at least one federal official from suggesting that the sophisticated tools of the modern surveillance state be turned on unsuspecting gun show attendees.

Documents obtained in a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the American Civil Liberties Union reveal that, in 2009, the Drug Enforcement Administration contemplated using License Plate Readers (LPRs) to track vehicle traffic from gun shows. A highly redacted email from an unknown DEA official suggests the program was past infancy, and stated, “DEA Phoenix Division Office is working closely with ATF on attacking the guns going to [redacted] and the guns shows to include programs/operation with LPRs at the gun shows.”

ACLU correctly points out the danger of such technology in an article on their website, explaining, “An automatic license plate reader cannot distinguish between people transporting illegal guns and those transporting legal guns, or no guns at all; it only documents the presence of any car driving to the event. Mere attendance at a gun show, it appeared, would have been enough to have one's presence noted in a DEA database.”

The proposed program is even more disturbing when placed into the larger context of the Justice Department’s ongoing general license plate tracking program. A January 26 article from the Wall Street Journal explains the broad contours of DOJ LPR surveillance. The piece states, “The Justice Department has been building a national database to track in real time the movement of vehicles around the U.S., a secret domestic intelligence-gathering program that scans and stores hundreds of millions of records about motorists.” The authors go on to explain the wide availability of the collected data, writing, “Many state and local law-enforcement agencies are accessing the database for a variety of investigations… putting a wealth of information in the hands of local officials who can track vehicles in real time on major roadways.” They further note that this national database “allows any police agency that participates to quickly search records of many states for information about a vehicle.”

According to a January 27 Wall Street Journal article focusing specifically on the gun show surveillance proposal, DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart told the paper, “The proposal in the email was only a suggestion. It was never authorized by DEA, and the idea under discussion in the email was never launched.” Further, the article stated that DOJ officials were quick to deny any BATFE involvement in the LPR scheme. However, as has been made clear by the events of the last two years, public statements by federal officials regarding the scope of federal surveillance activities should be viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism.

DEA’s proposed indiscriminate gun show surveillance places an unacceptable burden on the privacy of law-abiding citizens exercising their Second Amendment rights and even smacks of firearm registration. Further, such tactics infringe upon rights protected by the First Amendment. Gun shows are far more than just shopping opportunities for gun buyers. They are also community gatherings that often serve as venues for political expression and organizing. As such, they are subject to the First Amendment’s rights of freedom of association and to peaceably assemble and should be free from government activity that could chill free and open participation.

In recent years, the unfettered growth of the surveillance state has become an increasing threat to the privacy of gun owners, and NRA recognizes this challenge. That’s why in early 2014 NRA filed a friend of the court brief in a case challenging the National Security Agency’s mass surveillance of phone and internet data. The brief contended that the data collection program is unconstitutional on First Amendment freedom of association grounds, and that it violates statutory prohibitions against compiling gun ownership records. Likewise, NRA is investigating the recent DEA revelations and will continue to work in this area to ensure the privacy of all gun owners.

TRENDING NOW
Biden Administration Bans Importation of Russian Ammunition

News  

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Biden Administration Bans Importation of Russian Ammunition

The Biden Administration’s Department of State announced that it will soon prohibit the importation of Russian ammunition into the United States. According to a release on the Department of State’s website, “[n]ew and pending permit applications ...

University President, Activist Scolds, Try to Take “Come and Take It” Battle Cry

News  

Monday, September 20, 2021

University President, Activist Scolds, Try to Take “Come and Take It” Battle Cry

Long a slogan of defiance and independence, it is little wonder that the phrase “Come and take it” now finds itself falling into disfavor with a new generation of busybodies and penny-ante authoritarians. The latest ...

Harvard Researcher: About Half of New Gun Owners are Women

News  

Monday, September 20, 2021

Harvard Researcher: About Half of New Gun Owners are Women

In a blow to the tired stereotypes perpetuated by gun control supporters, a recent academic survey found broad diversity among recent first time gun buyers.

The State of Surveillance: California Cops and Social Media Monitoring

News  

Monday, September 20, 2021

The State of Surveillance: California Cops and Social Media Monitoring

Last year, the Brennan Center for Justice requested under California’s freedom of information law, that the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) provide records relating to the Department’s “social media monitoring” activities.

Guide To The Interstate Transportation Of Firearms

Gun Laws  

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Guide To The Interstate Transportation Of Firearms

CAUTION: Federal and state firearms laws are subject to frequent change. This summary is not to be considered as legal advice or a restatement of law.

Biden Reiterates Call to Ban 9mm Handguns

News  

Monday, July 26, 2021

Biden Reiterates Call to Ban 9mm Handguns

During a July 21 CNN “presidential town hall,” Joe Biden expressed his support for a ban on commonly-owned handguns. Responding to a question about the recent increase in violent crime, the career politician stated,

DOJ Releases Biden Gun Confiscation Order Legislation

News  

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

DOJ Releases Biden Gun Confiscation Order Legislation

DOJ has made clear that Garland’s selective definition of “civil rights” has no room for the Second Amendment...

Virginia Attorney General Finds More Roving Gun-Free Zones

News  

Monday, September 20, 2021

Virginia Attorney General Finds More Roving Gun-Free Zones

The Virginia state government’s attacks on law-abiding gun owners continue apace. On September 1, Attorney General Mark R. Herring (D) used his position to offer an expansive interpretation of statute that will create a confusing patchwork of ...

Virginia Shocker: Crime to Get Public Health Response, Not Police

News  

Monday, September 20, 2021

Virginia Shocker: Crime to Get Public Health Response, Not Police

The Mayor of Richmond rejected a plan to reduce violence by focusing on gangs, instead prioritizing a costly “public health” approach that conflicts with the reality on the ground.

Guide To The Interstate Transportation Of Firearms

Gun Laws  

Monday, June 30, 2014

Guide To The Interstate Transportation Of Firearms

CAUTION: Federal and state firearms laws are subject to frequent change. This summary is not to be considered as legal advice or a restatement of law.

MORE TRENDING +
LESS TRENDING -

More Like This From Around The NRA

NRA ILA

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.