ACLU: Unhappy with Background Checks in Potential Reid Gun Control Bill

The ACLU talks some sense about gun control, civil liberties, and privacy, as reported by Daily Caller:

As Senate Democrats struggle to build support for new gun control legislation, the American Civil Liberties Union now says it’s among those who have “serious concerns” about the bill....

In an exclusive interview with The Daily Caller, a top lobbyist for the ACLU announced that the group thinks Reid’s current gun bill could threaten both privacy rights and civil liberties.

The inclusion of universal background checks — the poll-tested lynchpin of most Democratic proposals — “raises two significant concerns,” the ACLU’s Chris Calabrese told TheDC Wednesday.

While not against background checks in all cases, Calabrese says:

“However, we also believe those checks have to be conducted in a way that protects privacy and civil liberties. So, in that regard, we think the current legislation, the current proposal on universal background checks raises two significant concerns,” he went on.

“The first is that it treats the records for private purchases very differently than purchases made through licensed sellers. Under existing law, most information regarding an approved purchase is destroyed within 24 hours when a licensed seller does a [National Instant Criminal Background Check System] check now,” Calabrese said, “and almost all of it is destroyed within 90 days.”

Calabrese wouldn’t characterize the current legislation’s record-keeping provision as a “national gun registry” — which the White House has denied pursuing — but he did say that such a registry could be “a second step.”

He notes that government databases sometimes stretch in use beyond their original intent.

Calabrese says that [Nevada Democratic Senate leader Harry] Reid’s legislation fails to include...“privacy best practices.”

“Contrast this with what the existing [Reid] legislation says, which is simply that a record has to be kept of a private transfer,” Calabrese highlighted, “and it doesn’t have any of the protections that we have in current law for existing licensees.”

“We think that that kind of record-keeping requirement could result in keeping long-term detailed records of purchases and creation of a new government database.”

“And they come to use databases for all sorts of different purposes,” Calabrese said. “For example, the National Counterterrorism Center recently gave itself the authority to collect all kinds of existing federal databases and performed terrorism related searches regarding those databases. They essentially exempted themselves from a lot of existing Privacy Act protections.”....

Reid’s legislation is hauntingly vague about who would physically keep information about American gun purchases, but it’s crystal clear that records will be kept.

While I'd rather the ACLU consistently take on gun laws head-on as restrictions on an explicit constitutional civil liberty, it's nice to see they care.

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  • Sevo||

    "Calabrese wouldn’t characterize the current legislation’s record-keeping provision as a “national gun registry” —"

    Pure sophistry; it's exactly that.

  • LTC(ret) John||

    "...almost all of it is destroyed within 90 days."

    Almost?!

    Oh, and the ACLU doesn't seem to have any 2nd Amendment problems with this, just a bit of "concern" that 'privacy best practices' aren't in the legislation. Way to stand strong for our rights, sheesh.

  • Tonio||

    The ACLU are very weak on the Second. Sure, that's a failing from a libertarian POV, but it is what it is and I'd rather have a weak-on-the-Second ACLU than no ACLU at all.

  • Zeb||

    I agree. I think they do some good and little or no harm.

  • David Emami||

    I agree. I think they do some good and little or no harm.

    Putting aside their 2nd Amendment positions, I agree that they do some good, but they do cause harm based on two unlibertarian positions.

    First, they conflate government power with private power, attempting to apply Constitutional restrictions on the government onto private parties. Essentially, they seem to think "Congress shall make no law doing X" implies "Private parties shall make no contract doing X."

    Second, and related, they muddle the disinction between private ownership and government ownership by fighting restrictions placed by private owners of publically-accessible areas.

    If all they did was fight the government, the ACLU would be purely a force for good. It's when they enter into disputes between private parties that they start going astray. Their positions definitely reek of the idea that when money enters the picture, you check your rights at the door.

  • KPres||

    That's because you're not thinking about it through the prism of politics. If the ACLU only defends the civil liberties that the socialists approve of, it advances their cause while providing justification to their claim that socialists are civil libertarians in general. If in the end, the outcome of their activities is less liberty, why should anybody applaud them?

  • ||

    If they are pushing civil liberties that socialists abandon their statism and agree on, more power to them in my opinion. Hell, when I was a Green back in high school, I felt very supportive of the mission of both the ACLU and Amnesty International, and those groups got me turned on the path towards libertarianism.

    Convincing utopian statists that government power is abusive will either push them towards more unrealistic, high-minded utopianism (which is preferable to brute force if we are forced to live under statism) or away from statism altogether.

  • ||

    Also, the ACLU are advocates of the core libertarian mentality that just because we don't like something or approve of it doesn't mean it should be banned. This is an important message to send to the Left, and I won't shoot the messenger for being imperfect.

  • Tonio||

    Thanks, Proppy.

  • Tonio||

    I'll take help wherever I can get it KPres. If that means I have to split my donations among multiple organizations to achieve my goals, so be it.

    Just because I despise the Phelps clan (Westboro Baptist) doesn't mean they don't deserve free speech rights or that I won't support those rights.

  • Boisfeuras||

    While I'd rather the ACLU consistently take on gun laws head-on as restrictions on an explicit constitutional civil liberty, it's nice to see they care.

    But the right to privacy is right there explicitly in the penumbras, Brian!

  • Tonio||

    I think you mean implicitly.

  • ||

    Does their kinda concern make them a new subsidiary of the kochtapus?

  • Number 2||

    Of course not!

    It just means that the blood of the Newtown children is on their hands! Shame on them! Shame on them!

  • ||

    Damn, cause we are always looking for new Kochtapus affiliates.

  • Kyfho Myoba||

    No, the $20,000,000 the Kochs gave them makes them a new subsidiary of the kochtapus. NTTAWWT.

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