Explore The NRA Universe Of Websites

APPEARS IN News

Snoopers’ Charter Reveals Extent of UK Gun Owner Surveillance; Provides Warning for Americans

Friday, March 25, 2016

Snoopers’ Charter Reveals Extent of UK Gun Owner Surveillance; Provides Warning for Americans

It is often pointed out that UK government officials treat George Orwell’s “1984” less like the dire warning it was intended to be, and more as an instruction manual. Further evidence of this was provided this week when an astute member of the UK shooting community brought attention to an admission that UK intelligence agencies are using centralized records of UK firearm owners in their efforts to target “terrorists.”

An article featured on the blog UK Shooting News points to the initial draft of the Investigatory Powers Bill, a controversial and wide-ranging piece of government surveillance legislation derisively known in the UK as the Snoopers’ Charter. The legislation was given a second reading in Parliament on March 15.

Among the many provisions UK privacy advocates have taken issue with, the draft legislation gives the government authorization to force telecommunications companies to retain and make available an individual’s communications records for 12 months, engage in the bulk interception of private communications data, and provides loose legal thresholds for conducting surveillance. This is of significant interest to Americans, as the ACLU has pointed out that the UK’s growing surveillance state is a threat to our civil liberties as well.

Part of the legislation involves the acquisition and use of Bulk Personal Datasets, or BPDs. As described by the draft legislation document, BPDs are “sets of personal information about a large number of individuals, the majority of whom will not be of any interest to the security and intelligence agencies. The datasets are held on electronic systems for the purposes of analysis in the security and intelligence agencies.” 

To justify the use of BPD’s, the document shared the following case study:

BPD Case Study: Preventing Access to Firearms

The terrorist attacks in Mumbai in 2008 and the more recent shootings in Copenhagen and Paris in 2015, highlight the risk posed from terrorists gaining access to firearms. To help manage the risk of UK based subjects of interest accessing firearms, the intelligence agencies match data about individuals assessed to have access to firearms with records of known terrorists. To achieve this, the security and intelligence agencies acquired the details of all these individuals, even though the majority will not be involved in terrorism and therefore will not be of direct intelligence interest. This allowed the matching to be undertaken at scale and pace, and more comprehensively than individual requests could ever achieve. Completing such activities enabled the intelligence agencies to manage the associated risks to the public.

While this document does not make clear the specific means by which the UK government “assessed” that an individual has access to firearms, certain avenues are available to the government given the UK’s stringent gun control regime. A separate government fact sheet on the Investigatory Powers Bill notes, “Lists of people who have a passport or a licensed firearm are good examples of a BPD – they includes a large amount of personal information, the majority of which will relate to people who are not of security or intelligence interest.” In the UK, a firearms certificate, obtained through an onerous application process, is required to own any rifle. In order to own a shotgun a prospective owner must acquire a moderately-easier-to-obtain shotgun certificate.

However, the author of the UK Shooting News piece suggests that the government’s BPD’s on those with access to firearms could go beyond certificate holders. The author notes:

All new members of Home Office approved rifle clubs have their personal details – name, address, telephone number, and so on – transmitted to the police by the club. This data transmission is a condition of clubs securing Home Office approval, which is a legal status that allows non-firearm certificate holders to handle firearms and shoot at club events.

The Home Office requires that the personal information of members of rifle clubs, even those that do not personally own firearms, are filed with the police. This is made clear in a government guidance leaflet titled, “Approval of rifle and muzzle-loading pistol clubs,” which states, “the club will inform the police of any application for membership, giving the applicant’s name and address, and of the outcome of any application.”

It’s unlikely that centralized databases for use by the intelligence services for ceaseless surveillance and unfettered data analytics experiments were what UK gun owners or most lawmakers were contemplating when the UK’s firearm licensing scheme was enacted in 1968. However, this creeping Orwellian violation of firearm owner privacy should stand as yet another example of why NRA and American gun owners guard our privacy so jealously.

NRA has continuously worked with our allies in Congress to enact statutory protections making clear that the federal government may not maintain centralized records of guns or gun owners. For instance, the landmark Firearms Owners’ Protection Act of 1986 made clear that the government may not promulgate a rule or regulation under the Gun Control Act of 1968 that would bring about “any system of registration of firearms, firearms owners, or firearms transactions or dispositions.” Similar statutory protections prohibit the federal government from using the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System to compile data on guns or gun owners. When the National Security Administration’s mass surveillance regime threatened to circumvent these protections, NRA supported a lawsuit challenging the agency’s methods.

These protections have become increasingly important in recent years, as unfortunately, the notion of targeting gun owners for additional government scrutiny isn’t relegated to the British Isles. A 2009 U.S. Department of Homeland Security “Reference Aid,” titled, “Domestic Extremism Lexicon,” warned government officials of “A rightwing extremist movement” whose “Members oppose most federal and state laws, regulations, and authority (particularly firearms laws and regulations).” Another DHS document from 2009, titled, “Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment,” noted “heightened interest in legislation for tighter firearms restrictions and returning military veterans… may be invigorating rightwing extremist activity.”

This administration’s suspicious posture towards gun owners and the federal government’s ever-increasing surveillance capabilities mean that working to ensure gun owner privacy is an important task requiring the engagement of all law-abiding gun owners. NRA will continue to work to preserve gun owner privacy, lest Americans be subjected to the demeaning and repressive tactics with which our UK counterparts are all too familiar.

TRENDING NOW
California Leaks Personal Data of Carry Permit Holders

News  

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

California Leaks Personal Data of Carry Permit Holders

On Monday June 27, California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced the launch of the California Department of Justice (DOJ)’s Firearms Dashboard Portal. The data tool was designed to give granular firearm transaction and Concealed Carry Weapons (CCW) permit ...

The Dominoes Begin to Fall: NJ Amends Permit Rules After Bruen

News  

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

The Dominoes Begin to Fall: NJ Amends Permit Rules After Bruen

New Jersey’s acting Attorney General, Matthew J. Platkin, issued a directive “clarifying requirements for carrying firearms in public” a day after the historic ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in New York State Rifle & Pistol Assoc. v. ...

SCOTUS Reverses and Remands Two NRA-ILA Backed Magazine Cases

News  

Thursday, June 30, 2022

SCOTUS Reverses and Remands Two NRA-ILA Backed Magazine Cases

One week after our landmark victory in NYSRPA v. Bruen, the Supreme Court issued orders in two other NRA-ILA backed cases. Those cases, ANJRPC v. Bruck and Duncan v. Bonta, challenge New Jersey and California laws that ban magazines capable ...

NRA Wins Supreme Court Case, NYSRPA v. Bruen

News  

Second Amendment  

Thursday, June 23, 2022

NRA Wins Supreme Court Case, NYSRPA v. Bruen

The National Rifle Association (NRA) welcomes the Supreme Court’s decision in NYSRPA v. Bruen. The Court affirmed that the right to bear arms does not stop at a person’s front door. This is the most ...

Supreme Court Gets it Right, Congress Gets it Wrong

Friday, June 24, 2022

Supreme Court Gets it Right, Congress Gets it Wrong

On Thursday, SCOTUS released a historic decision in the NYSRPA v. Bruen case when they found the Second Amendment protects the right of law-abiding Americans to carry a firearm outside of the home. Despite the hysteria from ...

California: Legislature Ignores SCOTUS and Continues to Push Gun Control

Monday, June 27, 2022

California: Legislature Ignores SCOTUS and Continues to Push Gun Control

Last week, the United States Supreme Court handed down a huge victory for gun owners, confirming what has been known all along: that the 2nd Amendment is not a second class right and should not be treated ...

Delaware: General Assembly Passes Bills for Age Discrimination & Lawsuits Against Firearm Industry

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Delaware: General Assembly Passes Bills for Age Discrimination & Lawsuits Against Firearm Industry

Yesterday, the House voted 23-18 to pass Senate Bill 302 and the Senate voted 14-7 to pass House Bill 451. HB 451 then went back to the House, which voted 25-15 to concur. These two ...

New Jersey: Legislature to Vote on Gov. Murphy’s Gun Bans Tomorrow

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

New Jersey: Legislature to Vote on Gov. Murphy’s Gun Bans Tomorrow

Anti-gun politicians in Trenton will have their opportunity this week to lash out against New Jersey gun owners, who secured a major victory last week in the United States Supreme Court.

Delaware: Gun & Mag Bans Going to Gov. Carney

Friday, June 17, 2022

Delaware: Gun & Mag Bans Going to Gov. Carney

Last night, the House passed Senate Bill 6, to ban many standard capacity magazines in common use, sending it to Governor John Carney’s desk. The Senate passed House Bill 450, to ban many commonly-owned firearms, and ...

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.

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.