Brady Long Guns
Do you remember the enormous burst of handgun sales that the Brady law stimulated? In the days before Brady took effect, factories were working three shifts to meet the demand. President Clinton was hailed, somewhat ironically, for bringing about the greatest sales year in the firearms industry s history.
Well it s about to happen again, this time with long guns.
America is operating under what the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms calls the "temporary" Brady requirements. Waiting periods, white forms, handgun sales, local background checks these are temporary measures under federal law 18 USC 922 (s), while preparations take place behind the scenes. The temporary measures were scheduled to sunset in five years.
How soon those five years have passed.
Beginning on the day that is 60 months after the enactment of the Brady law, the temporary rules expire so the permanent requirements can take effect, under 18 USC 922 (t). That date is Nov. 30, 1998, a mere few months away.
When the permanent Brady rules come on line, all gun sales long guns and handguns will fall under the federal control of "national instant background checks." The centralized federalization of all gun-sale records will be complete.
Technically, the new system cannot kick in until 30 days after the U.S. Attorney General notifies all FFLs that the National Instant Criminal Background Check system is up and running. A turf war over who would run the system has left the FBI in charge and they plan to base the computer operation out of their Clarksburg, West Virginia data facilities.
Whether the FBI will be ready on time is anyone s guess. Speaking at the January SHOT show convention in Las Vegas (the largest firearms-industry show in the world), BATF and other authorities alternately said the system would definitely be ready, or that they weren t sure, or ask the FBI (which states in a brochure that they ll be ready). The anti-rights people at Handgun Control have issued demands that federal authorities step up efforts to implement the system, which they decry as woefully far behind.
In addition, every Federal Firearms Licensee (FFL) in America will now have to "enroll" with the FBI to use the system. Failure to enroll would prevent FFLs from legally selling firearms to anyone, under almost all circumstances.
One thing noted by BATF senior counsel Stephen R. Rubenstein, and clearly stated in the first sentence of the Brady law, is that the temporary requirements do expire 60 months after enactment (on Nov. 30, 1998). If the insta-check system isn t up by that time, as Rubenstein correctly noted, there will be no Brady requirements at all for a period of time. Whether Congress would allow this to happen is a crucial issue, and the ensuing debates to create law where there is none presently would bear watching. The expiration date will provide a leverage point for interested parties to introduce changes.
Once the new system (dubbed NICS by the FBI) is up, an instant national accounting of gun-sale volume will permanently flow through FBI hands. Based on mandatory direct contact from dealers, every single purchase, city by city, will be tabulated. Cleveland has a gun show this weekend, it will show. Nebraska is slow right now, those numbers, like election returns, will be available to law enforcement and others privileged to view the data. Manufacturers who would like to watch retail sales activity could conceivably glean such data on a minute-by-minute basis though who will have access to the information is unclear. It will be like no other sales data collection system in existence in America.
All this commercial data is being collected, of course, in the name of stopping crime. As the sales information comes flooding in, the FBI will move into a new arena as the largest, most sophisticated warehouse of point-of-sale records for any product in the world. The law requires them to obtain complete ID on all buyers, but then to purge this from their files. It is unknown if there are loopholes or other conditions that will allow them to avoid the purge; they have indicated they will destroy "information about an inquiry resulting in an allowed transfer." As a side note, fingerprints submitted to the FBI for concealed-carry-license background checks, despite strict federal bans on registry of gun owners, are cataloged by the FBI until the applicant reaches 99 years of age, the Bureau reports.
As with the current Brady system, no pursuit of persons denied firearms is planned. Statistics on the numbers of denials, by the hour or day or month, will be available of course (though it s not clear if such news will be released). Whether anyone will be dispatched to investigate any felons, fugitives or other misfits, who must provide their names and addresses to get into the system in the first place, is no more likely than under the current regulations. Under that system, somewhere between 44,000 prohibited possessors (the BATF number) 186,000 (the Justice Dept. number) and 250,000 (President Clinton s proclaimed number) were denied handgun sales, with only seven arrests and four prosecutions.
When long guns are added to the handgun totals, an awful lot of dangerous people may be identified and then left to go about their business. This puzzles some observers, especially since Attorney General Janet Reno announced that arrests are down for the second year in a row (despite adding 100,000 new police to departments nationwide). The cost for the new system, which will catalog every honest sale of a firearm in America, has been set by Congress at a staggering $200 million per year.
Alan Korwin is a full-time free-lance writer and author of seven books on gun law, including Gun Laws of America Every Federal Gun Law on the Books with Plain English Summaries. Permission to reprint this article is granted to non-profit organizations, provided credit is given to Alan Korwin, Bloomfield Press, Phoenix, AZ. All others, just call us.
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