Why does our government collect the race and ethnicity of Americans who buy guns? Because that’s what our government does — racial bean-counting. There’s a box for race on library card applications, so it’s no surprise that the government wants to know the skin color and ethnic backgrounds of people exercising their Second Amendment right.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) already collected racial data. Now it requires gun sellers to collect both race and ethnicity on firearms transaction forms, or they’re breaking the law and could be shut down. Legal experts say this information has “little law enforcement value,” and it amounts to government overreach. An excerpt:
The amendment is causing a headache for gun retailers, as each box needs to be checked off or else it’s an ATF violation — severe enough for the government to shut a business down. Many times people skip over the Hispanic/Latino box and only check their race, or vice versa — both of which are federal errors that can be held against the dealer.
For ATF to ask for a purchaser’s race and ethnicity is not specifically authorized under federal statute, and since a government-issued photo ID — like a driver’s license — and a background check are already required by law to purchase a gun, the ethnicity/race boxes aren’t there for identification reasons, Mr. Nappen said.
The strongest rationale for the government’s need to know the race and ethnicity of a gun buyer would be to aid in criminal investigations; for example, tracking the sales of guns that end up with Mexican cartels. Compare this to airport security after 9/11. Islamic terrorists crashed airplanes into buildings, and now everybody must submit to body scans or groping in airports, regardless of age, sex, or race. Because Mexican gangs end up with guns, every gun buyer must provide specific information.
To gun rights advocates, the requirement smells like a national registration database.
The 4473 form is supposed to be kept in a gun retailer’s possession at all times — allowing ATF agents to inspect the form only during the course of a criminal investigation or during a random audit of the dealer. The form is to be kept out of the hands of the government, hence the distinction between “sales/transaction form” and “registration form.” But that isn’t always the case, gun rights advocates say.
“We’ve been contacted by several dealers saying ATF is or has been making wholesale copies of their 4473 forms, and it’s just not legal,” said Erich Pratt, spokesman for Gun Owners of America, a gun advocacy group. “If this is what they’re doing somewhat out in the open, what’s going on behind closed doors? Are these names and demographic information getting phoned [in and] punched into a government computer? Do they ever come out?”
Photo credit: MMR Dad (Creative Commons)