Lawrence Keane, Forgive the firearm industry if we seem jaded. We’re just not buying the calls for unity and healing.
Not when our industry has been called “the enemy” and not when far-left firebrands are calling to create “lists” of Americans who dare to disagree.
It’s like Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) is the Grinch Who Stole Freedom. She’s making a list and checking it twice. She’s going to tell America if you didn’t vote nice.
Forgive us. We’re not buying it. The firearm industry, and gun owners in general, are leery of being put on “enemies” lists. Or terror watch lists. Or gun registries. We know these things are ripe for abuse for radical ideas like rehabilitation, re-education, indoctrination, or confiscation.
It’s un-American. Period. It’s also telling that while Joe Biden is calling for the keys to the White House and telling Americans he’ll heal and unite the nation, he’s not disavowing the overt threat by a member of Congress that those who disagree with a radical agenda will be listed. He’s also not walked back his accusation in 2019 that the firearm industry is “the enemy,” and his threat to come after us.
Listed for what, exactly? To be exposed? Most certainly. To be vilified? Absolutely. To be deemed as a threat and have their rights stripped from them without due process? That’s a bridge we don’t want to cross and one that gun control zealots can’t wait to skip across.
Safeguards had to be put into law to keep this from happening to gun owners. The 1986 Firearm Owners Protection Act forbids the federal government from creating a national firearm registry. That’s not stopping Biden. His gun control plan proposes creating lists of gun owners. He intends to pressure all 50 states to adopt a state-by-state licensing program every gun owner would need to comply with in order to exercise their Second Amendment rights. That will incur an administrative cost, which of course would be passed to the gun owners who obtain a license to exercise their Second Amendment rights.
Not a poll tax, they’ll say. It’s called administration fees. Illinois’ Firearms Owners Identification Cards carry a $10 fee. That generated $30 million that was inexplicably swept into the state’s general fund in 2019. New Jersey’s Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy annually proposes hiking handgun permit fees 2,400 percent. Even New Jersey can’t stomach that cash grab. Tax revenue is to the government what crack cocaine is to an addict – they can never get enough of it and always soon need more.
They won’t call it a list, but a repository of everyone who owns a gun, where that gun is stored and how to get a hold of that person, all for a nominal administration fee and the expected bureaucratic delays it will take to exercise those rights. Illinois’ FOID cards are already more than 100 days delayed, despite the state’s 30-day state-mandated limit.
However, we know some lists already exist. Anyone who purchased a short-barrel rifle, a firearm suppressor, or is one of the limited few to actually own an automatic firearm produced and sold before 1986, knows this. Those individuals had to submit photos, fingerprints, phone numbers, addresses and verification of chief law enforcement notification to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). Those lists live in perpetuity.
Anyone who purchased a firearm at a licensed retailer knows they had to submit to a background check, including filling out a federal background check form and verified by the FBI. The FBI purges those successful checks as required by law, but retailers are required to maintain that background check form for 20 years, according to federal law. Biden and his anti-gun allies want to keep those checks. Putting together a national list wouldn’t be difficult.
Flaws, Fraud & Failure
Government-compiled lists are prone to flaws, corruption, and failure. Look at the federal government’s “No Fly” terror watch list. That is riddled with errors. At the end of 2008, more than 1 million names were entered in the database of terror suspects banned from boarding a flight. FBI agents could add names simply by nominating an identity for inclusion even if it wasn’t tied to a terror investigation. That happened over 62,000 times with little oversight. It was reported that 73 Department of Homeland Security employees were added and even the late U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) was listed and the late-U.S. Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) was stopped by TSA.
Gun control zealots, including Rep. Ocasio-Cortez and Joe Biden, want to increase the use of so-called “red flag” laws that would deny law-abiding gun owners their Due Process and Second Amendment rights through ex parte judicial orders. That’s when a judge orders guns seized based on mere allegations and doesn’t wait for the accused individual to defend against wrongful allegations or afford them a timely hearing to challenge the government’s deprivation of the fundamental constitutional rights.
Canada gave America the example of how “lists” of gun owners is not just ripe for abuse, but a black hole in which government dumps truckloads of money with little to show for it. Canada tried. Initial costs were pegged at $2 million to register the 15 million firearms owned by 34 million Canadians in 1998. By 2002, that cost ballooned to over $1 billion and was plagued with duplicate and incomplete records. Canadians finally scrapped the national registry as a failure in 2011.
Governments don’t list people to heal or unify. Leave the list-making to those cooking up recipes or admit that’s what on the menu. We’re not buying that lists cook up unity.
Lawrence G. Keane is the Senior Vice President and General Counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearm industry trade association.