Senator Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) gun control bill, which includes provisions to perform required universal background checks, has piqued the American Civil Liberties Union. The bill, which includes language from earlier bills introduced by Senators Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), has been the subject of criticism from pro-gun advocates, but is also drawing fire from civil liberties groups who recognize the potential for privacy and civil liberties violations.
In an exclusive interview with the Daily Caller, the ACLU’s Chris Calabrese stated that the call for universal background checks “raises two significant concerns."
“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.”
“Contrast this with what the existing [Reid] legislation says, which is simply that a record has to be kept of a private transfer,” Calabrese continues, “and it doesn’t have any of the protections that we have in current law for existing licensees.”
Such provisions could lead to the creation of a new government database, observes Calabrese, databases which may potentially exist in violation of existing Privacy Act provisions.
“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.... So you just worry that you’re going to see searches of the databases and an expansion for purposes that were not intended when the information was collected.”
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Photo of Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.): AP Images