Brady Law Gun Tax Would Have Been Profitable to Bureau

Feb. 15, 1998
Contact: Felicity Bower
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By agreeing to take $42 million in taxpayer cash last year, to run the new "NICS" national instant background check for gun buyers, the FBI gave up more than three times that much from its proposed gun sales tax, early figures show. Based on the first week's sales, which were low due to technical snafus in the untried system, the bureau stood to collect $129 million if it had succeeded in levying its tax. Taxpayers will fork up $87 million less than the FBI originally sought.

"Leaders at the FBI must be aware of this, the math is straightforward," said Alan Korwin, author of seven books on gun law, including a plain English federal guide, Gun Laws of America. "It will be a big incentive for them to try to levy the tax later this year, when the budget issue comes up again." Secretive eleventh-hour changes to last year's 4,000-page budget bill, which housed the funding, marked the beginning of the NICS system.

Although the FBI called it a fee, people and groups nationwide assailed it as a sales tax, levied without Congress, with no apparent basis in law. The FBI planned to give the money to themselves, but were stopped at the last minute by the Smith amendment to the omnibus bill. The bureau sought $14 per buyer, early results show they will get about $6.

The efforts to use the NICS system to record every innocent gun buyer in the country, in apparent violation of the McClure Volkmer Act and the Brady law, is being challenged in court. It appears that NICS will record 9.2 million gun buyers in its first year of operation. The crime-fighting value of an expensive FBI list of honest people remains unclear.


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